An Exciting Debate? Maybe Next Time

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. The first of four debates for the 2016 Election, three Presidential and one Vice Presidential, is moderated by NBC's Lester Holt. (Photo by
Rick Wilking - Pool/Getty Images

Lester Holt needs to be fact checked.

He introduced the first presidential debate by saying it was sponsored by the “non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates.

The Commission is bipartisan.

The Commission is composed entirely of establishment Republican and Democratic former party officers. No one on the commission represents the plurality of American voters — and the majority of new voters — who are independents, let alone the other parties.

It was a mediocre debate, with Hillary Clinton giving a non-stop smug, toothy, smile, the kind of thing that lost a debate for an eye-rolling Al Gore, and Donald Trump held in check as he went into the weeds, defending himself on boring points about his personal business life, and probably angering Ann Coulter by failing to mention his signature issue of illegal immigration and unvetted immigrants. It would have been much more interesting with Governor Gary Johnson — or anyone else — to challenge them both.

Trump left a lot of money on the table, frittering away his time trying to explain why he hadn’t released his tax returns, and allowing Clinton to place him in the unique position of being lectured by the queen of mendacity on how he must be hiding something.

Clinton meanwhile produced the kind of bumperstickers and sound bites like “Trumped Up Trickle Down” that motivate her base of low information voters, who won’t be prodded by a pro-Hillary media to wonder how Reagan’s “trickle down” economics from the 1980s could cause an economic crisis in 2008, after the Clintons were in the White House for eight years in the 1990s.

Too much of the debate consisted of Hillary telling people to go read her website.

For example, Hillary insisted that unlike Trump, she has a plan to defeat ISIS — which we can read on her website. Not having read her website, this debate told me nothing.

Perhaps her plan to defeat ISIS consists of sending classified emails from her unsecured private server listing ISIS leaders and naming them as CIA assets or double agents so they kill each other. Trump often failed to mention Hillary’s criminal recklessness with classified documents.

As University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato observed in post debate analysis: “During a discussion on cybersecurity, Trump failed to bring up Clinton’s use of private emails as a potential cybersecurity issue.” That was the equivalent of “missing the biggest, easiest softball lobbed right down the heart of the plate,” as our Twitter pal @EsotericCD put it.”

For the past few days everywhere I’ve gone in the DC metropolitan area, Hillary supporters have been depressed.

Last Saturday, at the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Association picnic in Crystal City, Virginia, the one policy wonk in the group, a tax policy journalist, decided to eat the delicious BBQ provided (from the local Rocklands franchise) sitting across from me, because I was wearing a Johnson-Weld shirt. He pitched me every Clinton talking point (“the economy is doing so great – stocks are up and people have jobs!”) He also expressed fear that Trump would be elected.

The morning before the debate, at the gay-owned gym Vida, a local TV reporter told me “Trump is doing really well. Hillary is doing well with millennials — but millennials who are actually registered to vote lean more to Trump.”

When I pointed out to him that in a recent Nate Silver/538 post about DC Trump was up to 23 percent (Republican registration is only 7 percent of DC voters, and Romney only got 6 percent of the vote in DC) so that must include African Americans (DC being 49 percent black) he responded: “A lot of blacks like Trump, because they hate illegal immigrants and think he will be good for the economy.” I said “maybe they just don’t like the Clintons,” and he expressed a somewhat “illiberal” thought that, “They are mad because of (Bill) Clinton’s welfare reform.”

I visited two leftist debate parties, and watched the debate at one co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the Latino Victory Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Congressman Mark Tanaka and Veep wannabe Julian Castro tried to warm up the crowd on a bad sound system. A light sprinkling of press including the gay paper The Washington Blade and an Argentinian reporter interviewed the 150 half Latin, half white (very few blacks or Asians) crowd. They were largely cheered by Hillary’s performance, as were the presenters on MSNBC.

Earlier in the evening I attended another debate party whose guest of honor was Obama ghost writer and unconvicted terrorist Bill Ayers, who was launching a new book at DC’s socialist bookstore Busboys and Poets.

His first question, after his book talk and before the debate began, was from a septuagenarian communist who asked why Ayers had given up on revolutionary violence (Ayers’ website features a red star logo). After an evasive answer Ayers returned to the topic later when answering a question from a Venezuelan immigrant with Ayers telling the audience that leftist factions here need to follow their Venezuelan brothers by learning how to get together to take power.

This debate may not much effect which faction will be taking power here this November.

The results of Lee Carter of Maslansky & Partners “dial” polling of group of voters fits with what I think is true of voters generally – this debate mainly provided confirmation bias, where Hillary and Trump supporters each saw what they wanted and were confirmed in what they already believed.

A small number may have been driven to Jill Stein or Gary Johnson by Hillary’s smugness or Trump’s lack of debate preparation. As Larry Sabato summed it up in his release in the wee hours of the morning: “This debate might not ultimately make much difference, but if it re-energizes Democrats after weeks of sagging enthusiasm, that will be a victory for her campaign. If it does not, she might be in quite a bit of trouble.”