The official scores won’t be in until the next round of public opinion polls come out, but by now all the establishment press and most of the respectable pundits agree that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton got the best of Republican nominee Donald Trump in their first presidential debate on Monday night. Trump reportedly skipped a planned victory party afterwards and instead went home to his nearby bed, then spent much of Tuesday grousing about the refereeing and suggesting that his microphone had been sabotaged and complaining that all the establishment press and most of the respectable pundits are out to get him, which is not how winners usually act after a big game, while his even surlier than usual expression through it all seemed to further confirm the conventional wisdom’s unofficial scoring.
Worse yet, the mere perception of a loss looks to have rattled Trump to a point that he probably wound up losing the day after’s news cycle debate about the debate. There was much merit to the complaints about the refereeing, but the suggestions about the rigged microphone sounded a lot like another one of those crazy conspiracy theories that Trump too often spouts, so of course the establishment press and respectable pundits had no problem deciding which story to highlight. To compound his problems, Trump spent much of Tuesday reviving an old argument with a beauty queen who had gained a few pounds, once again congratulating himself for not bringing up his opponent’s family’s sex scandals and suggesting that next time around he wouldn’t be such a nice guy, and doubling down on some of the easily disprovable claims he’d made in the debate. None of which, we expect, will help much with the next round of public opinion polls.
The beauty queen in question is one-time Miss Venezuela Alicia Machado, who became Miss Universe back when Trump owned the company that ran the pageant that conferred the title, and apparently the two squabbled over some weight she gained after her ascension to the throne. We’ve always suspected that the Miss Universe competition was rigged, as it always seems to be an earthling who wins, but we digress. In any case, Clinton noted during the debate Trump had once called Machado “Miss Piggy” because of the temporary extra poundage and “Miss Housekeeper” because of of her Latin American heritage, citing this as further evidence of Trump’s anti-woman and anti-Latin American bias. Instead of denying that he ever said any such thing, which should have been easy for a nominee who routinely denies having said things that are on audio and video and “tweets” for everyone to see and hear and read, Trump chose instead to talk about how fat that Venezuelan woman had gotten. Machado is now a naturalized American citizen, very much a supporter of Clinton, and looking pretty darned good in the recent photos that the establishment press are gleefully running, so he seems have to picked a losing fight.
Even the recently encouraging public opinion polls show that Trump is still especially unpopular with women, and we can’t imagine that his comments on Tuesday that Machado “gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem” will help with that. We don’t know what it’s like being a philandering self-described billionaire ladies’ man, but our more middle-class experience of women tells us they don’t much care for comments about recent weight gains or any comparisons to beauty pageant standards, nor do the appreciate the frequent interruptions that Trump made during the same debate. So far as we can tell Trump didn’t deny the “Miss Housekeeper” comment, either, and our experience with Latin Americans tells us that also won’t much help with his dismal poll numbers in that demographic.
By congratulating himself on being so very sensitive as to not bring up his opponent’s family’s sex scandals he was, of course, bringing up those sex scandals, and although we feel those sex scandals are indeed a legitimate issue it seems a rather cowardly way of bringing them up. Should he be more forthright in the next debate, as threatened, the thrice-married-to-an-illegal-immigrant-porn-model strip club mogul who has publicly boasted about all the married babes he’s bagged will be hurling his stones from a rather glass house, and we don’t expect that his dismal numbers with the sizable cheated-on female demographic would see any improvement as a result.
Monday’s debate also yielded sound bites full of false claims, a seeming boast about not paying any federal income taxes and another one about profiting from the economic misery of others, and reiterated some foreign policy crazy talk about running the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a protection racket and encouraging a nuclear arms race in east Asia and the Middle East, and Tuesday’s post-debate debate showed no attempt to downplay any of it. The establishment press and the respectable pundits happily played it all up, meanwhile, and we can’t imagine Trump’s numbers among old-school conservatives or any other tiny demographic getting a boost out of it.
Clinton also offered plenty of false claims and crazy talk, of course, but on both Monday and Tuesday Trump passed up countless opportunities to point that out. Trump once again preferred that the attention be focused on him, for better or worse, which does not seem at all wise. After spending August in squabbles with a Muslim family who had a lost a son who went off to fight for America and a natural born American yet somehow “Mexican” judge presiding over a fraud case involving one of Trump’s businesses that he’d have best left unmentioned he fell far behind Clinton in the polls, then moved back into a virtual tie as he stuck to tele-promptered scripts and a more or less polite and presidential persona while Clinton’s own ongoing scandals and thorough awfulness dominated the news in September. He now seems intent on starting October off with all the attention once again on him, and we can’t see how that’s a good idea.
— Bud Norman