She had all the spontaneity of an animatronic figure at Disney World, delivering platitudes agreeable to the corporate powers that back her. He tried to hide his half truths and outright lies behind bullying bluster yet had the nerve to brag about his temperament. Were these two prevaricators – one an outright liar, the other simply not telling the truth – really the best the system could find to lead it?
Who “won”? Strictly by the internal logic created by the television debate structure, I would say that Clinton “won”. She stuck to her script, got in her jabs and allowed her wooden delivery to exaggerate Trump’s shoot from the hip style.
And so it did. He came off as a sexist bully, substituting volume for reason, barks of denial instead of rebuttal. He allowed Clinton to set the terms of the debate and was on the defensive at almost every stage. He know he lost it too. In the aftermath he tried to claim he was given a “defective” mike; maybe he was, if by defective he meant one which broadcast what he actually said. Rudy Giulliani, one of his closest advisors, suggested his boy should pull out of upcoming debates.
The fact checkers were working overtime to expose Trump’s lies, so I won’t reiterate most of them here. But his biggest gaffes of the night weren’t lies, they were moments of brazen, arrogant truthfulness. As Clinton hammered on his refusal to release his recent tax records, Trump gloated that he paid almost no taxes because he is “smart.” Similarly when she attacked him for publicly crowing in 2006 that the housing crisis (in which millions lost their homes) would just give him golden investment opportunities, the best he could do was sneer: “That’s called business, by the way.”
Those were the gifts Trump presented to Clinton, that allowed her to “win” the debate. And in doing so Clinton may just have lost the election.
There was nothing in Clinton’s robotically competent performance to pull Trump’s legions of supporters in her direction. Her glowing claims about job creation don’t stand up to his populist lament for the loss of good manufacturing jobs. Working class America knows that no amount of “gig economy” jobs – part time, underpaid, bereft of security and benefits – will replace what they had, what their children will never have.
Trump scored by tying Hillary and the whole Clinton brand to the free trade deals which working and middle class America blame for the destruction of their jobs and lives. Clinton tried to duck Trump’s claim that she has for years been a cheerleader for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it the “gold standard” of trade deals. But those were the exact words she used to describe the TPP on a 2012 visit to Australia. It was only during the current campaign, in an effort to deflect attacks from Bernie Sanders, that she changed her tune and tried to disavow the deal she spent much of her tenure as Secretary of State negotiating. Trump exposed the convenience of that conversion, and you can be sure his followers didn’t miss the point.
While the media pounces on Trump’s lies, and he gives them every opportunity, they are not so diligent in exposing Clinton’s avoidance of the truth. Trump gets tangled in knots trying to deny his support for the invasion of Iraq; nowhere is she held accountable for her steadfast support for war. Trump continues to make noise about pulling back from wars and imperialist adventures, even if he cites high costs as his reason.
Trump is attacked for harbouring racists among his supporters. And his role in propelling the “birther” movement is repugnant. But there is nothing in Clinton’s history to suggest she is a friend to a movement like Black Lives Matter. She had the nerve to suggest during the debate that police may overreact because they are “outgunned”. The militarization of US police forces began on Bill Clinton’s watch, and picked up speed during her service to the Obama administration.
While Trump was getting fact checked for his record of climate change denial, no one has held Clinton to account for her support for pipelines and the complete lack of action on the climate file.
One of the most annoying arguments used by Clinton supporters is that Trump must not be allowed access to the country’s nuclear codes, to have his finger on the button as it were. Yet it was Trump who declared that he would never use nuclear first strike as an option. It is the Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton, that back away from adopting a no first strike pledge. The reduction of the US stockpile of nuclear weapons was less under Obama/Clinton than under any other post cold war presidency. In fact Obama committed to over $1 trillion over 30 years to “modernize” the nuclear arsenal.
In short, Hillary Clinton is trying to win this election as the candidate of the status quo, endorsed by past president from both parties. That means being the candidate of war, corporate greed and oppression. Donald Trump’s opposition to the status quo is just another lie. Neither deserves a vote.
Millions of Americans are sick of that status quo - it has stolen their jobs, foreclosed on their homes and taken the lives of their children in useless imperial war. “Winning” the debate Hillary Clinton gave them not a single reason to support her.
I hope the former Bernie Sanders supporters rise above the moral hectoring that is sure to come their way if Trump and Clinton remain deadlocked. Were I among them I would certainly cast my vote for Jill Stein’s Green Party, to finally break the lesser evilism inbred in the two party model. Not only was she not invited to debate, security forces removed her from the campus where it took place. She really must have something good to say.