I just watched the debate on replay. Trump won bigly. This one wasn’t close. And keep in mind that I called Clinton the winner of the first debate, and I now endorse Gary Johnson, primarily to avoid being called an alleged enabler of alleged sex abusers and their alleged enablers. That basket of deplorables includes both Bill and Hillary Clinton (the alleged doer and the alleged cleaner-upper) plus Trump and his alleged misdeeds.
Some quick reactions…
1. When the Access Hollywood tape came up, Trump dismissed it as locker room banter that he regrets. You expected that part. The persuasion move was that he quickly contrasted that “small” issue with images of ISIS beheadings, and cage-drownings. It was a high ground maneuver, a powerful visual anchor (like the Rosie O’Donnell move from his first primary debate), and a contrast play. In this framing, Trump cares about saving your life while Clinton cares about your choice of words. I realize the issue is Trump’s alleged deeds, not his words. But in terms of debate persuasion, Trump nailed it hard.
2. Clinton’s body language was defensive. Trump is physically larger and prowled the stage. He won the optics. It only got worse when a fly landed on Clinton’s face mid-answer. Both candidates looked perfect in terms of wardrobe and hair, given what they have to work with.
3. Trump threw in enough random details about Syria to persuade viewers that he knows more than they thought he knew. And he did a great job selling the idea that he knows more than the generals (as ridiculous as that sounds), at least in terms of not announcing where we plan to attack. I agree with the moderator who said there might be good reasons for announcing attacks – such as giving time for civilians to leave – but it wasn’t quite a counter-argument. Trump succeeded in looking informed on Syria, and at the same time reinforced the “can’t keep a secret” theme for Clinton.
4. Trump’s pre-debate show with Bill’s alleged victims dismantled Clinton’s pro-woman high ground before the debate even started. I didn’t see the pre-debate show, but I assume it was impactful. It had to be. Clinton looked shaken from the start.
5. The best quotable moments from the debate are pro-Trump. His comment about putting Clinton in jail has that marvelous visual persuasion quality about it, and it was the laugh of the night, which means it will be repeated endlessly. He also looked like he meant it.
Clinton’s Abe Lincoln defense for two-faced politicking failed as hard as anything can fail. Mrs. Clinton, I knew Abe Lincoln, and you’re no Abe Lincoln. You know that was in your head. Or it will be.
6. Most of the rest was policy stuff that no one understands or cares about. We don’t know how to fix Obamacare or what to do with TPP. But by acting competent on these and other policy issues, Trump gains more than Clinton in persuasion.
7. Trump attacked Clinton on emails, and did a good job. His base needed that.
8. Clinton had to defend her “deplorables” comment. She said she regretted it. Regret isn’t what the public wanted to hear. That’s about her. They wanted to hear that she doesn’t think that way. She failed to address the emotional part of that topic, and that’s a persuasion fail.
9. Trump defended his “extreme” vetting fairly well, but he did miss a huge opportunity for reframing. Trump mentioned the need for Muslims to help the country by informing on known terrorists in their ranks. He could have gone a step farther and said that he takes responsibility for some Islamophobia by his tough talk, but the solution to Islamaphobia is not what Trump says or does going forward. The solution is for the community itself to self-police the bad elements in its ranks. You can think that is unfair – because it is – but it might be the only solution in the long run.
I talked to a Swiss local yesterday about American politics. He says everyone in Switzerland is following the race closely. He favors Trump because he thinks Trump would be better for the global economy. I asked if anyone he knows in Switzerland is worried about Trump’s “temperament” and having his finger on the nukes. The Swiss man literally laughed. I had trouble explaining why that was even a topic in the United States. Apparently their news sources filter out some of that stuff. He wasn’t worried and didn’t know anyone who is. (But this is a data point of one. Don’t assume too much.)
I also asked the Swiss man what kind of problems they have in Switzerland. He laughed again. The answer is “none.” Literally.
Plenty of jobs.
No racial strife.
Low crime rate.
Highest standard of living.
No real pollution.
No homeless that I could see.
He also told me that it is illegal to build a mosque in Switzerland because they don’t want to change their national character, which is 95% Christian he estimated.
[Correction: Switzerland only bans minarets, presumably for architectural reasons. Mosques are allowed.]
He said (and I did not fact-check) that the Swiss allow no immigration at all unless the person has special skills or marries a citizen.
And the gun ownership in Switzerland is 100% for adult males. That’s their militia. Yet crime is low.
[Correction: The government issues guns to males between the age of 18-34. Ammo is strictly controlled.]
Make of that what you will. It’s simplistic to think that a total ban on immigration plus a high level of male gun-ownership helps Switzerland have no real problems. But you can’t rule it out, either.
Trump is trying to make America a bit more like Switzerland. Clinton is trying to make America less like Switzerland. Spend a day in Switzerland and tell me who has the better plan. This country is amazing.
You might like my book because I woke up early this morning.