In “Trump’s Debate Flameout” Mr. Blow says Clinton ran rings around him as he didn’t even seem prepared to answer the most obvious questions and attacks. Mr. Kristof, in “That Seventh Grade Bully Is Running for President,” says if his agenda doesn’t stop Donald Trump, maybe his behavior toward women will. Ms. Collins has a question: “Who’s Really Older, Trump or Clinton?” She says it’s a new age for age on the campaign trail. Here’s Mr. Blow:
No one with an open mind and sound reason who witnessed the sniffing, sipping, scowling, raging, interrupting display of petulance and agitation that was Donald Trump’s debate performance on Monday could possibly argue that he won that debate or that he is the kind of person to whom we should entrust the presidency.
It appears that Trump thought it wise to wing it.
Katie Pavlich wrote Monday on the conservative site Townhall, “Trump didn’t take the conventional road of preparing for the debate and skipped mock debate practice altogether.”
Pavlich quoted the senior Trump campaign adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders as saying:
“Donald Trump does what works best for him, and I think that is discussing the issues, studying the issues and frankly being himself. He’s not a poll-tested, scripted robot like Hillary Clinton. That’s a great contrast to have and one I think we are certainly excited to see tonight.”
Well, the robot won. And she did so because she had the discipline and forethought to properly prepare.
At one point during the debate, Trump said of Clinton:
“And I will tell you, you look at the inner cities — and I just left Detroit, and I just left Philadelphia, and I just — you know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home, and that’s O.K.”
But Clinton shot back:
“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”
The crowd applauded.
It takes a tremendous ego and a healthy dose of hubris to believe that you can simply bluster your way through a presidential debate, but if anyone thinks that way, it’s no surprise it’s the uniquely underqualified and overblown king of bragging and whining: Donald J. Trump.
In the end, Clinton ran rings around him as he didn’t even seem prepared to answer the most obvious questions and attacks.
Clinton brought up a well-known issue in Trump’s life:
“Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans, and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that was the policy.”
Trump’s response was not that they hadn’t discriminated, but rather that “many, many other companies throughout the country” were also sued, that the suit was settled “with no admission of guilt” and that “it’s just one of those things.”
No, Donald, racial discrimination isn’t “just one of those things.”
When the moderator, Lester Holt, asked the candidates how they would heal the racial divide in America, Trump’s response was so tone deaf as to defy belief.
Whereas Clinton spoke of the restoration of trust between the police and communities, better police training, mutual respect, criminal justice reform and systemic racism, Trump took a different route. He invoked his euphemistic lament that the country needs more “law and order,” which is simply code for flooding poor and minority communities with more officers and giving them a nod of approval to crack down on these communities more harshly.
He gushed over the morally abhorrent and thoroughly unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practice used in New York City and he praised Rudy Giuliani’s use of it when Giuliani was mayor of New York. That doesn’t heal racial wounds; it rubs salt in them.
What the public should know is just how racially divisive Giuliani’s own law and order policies were. In 2000, toward the end of his mayoral tenure and when he was still in the race for United States senator for New York against Clinton, three undercover New York City police officers approached Patrick M. Dorismond, an unarmed, 26-year-old black father of two and asked to buy drugs. This made Dorismond angry, just as it would have made me angry. The incident escalated into a scuffle and one of the officers shot and killed Dorismond.
The New York Times reported at the time, “Deputy Chief Thomas Fahey, a police spokesman, acknowledged that the police ‘have no indication’ that Mr. Dorismond knew” that they were police officers.
The maleficent Giuliani took the extraordinary step of releasing Dorismond’s sealed juvenile records to show that the dead man who became upset over being propositioned for drugs was “no altar boy.” In truth it was just another attempt to blame and defame the victim.
But, as The Nation pointed out, the great irony was that “Dorismond had actually been an altar boy. He had even attended the same elite Catholic high school as the Mayor — Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn.”
As The New York Daily News reported in 2000 about a poll released that year:
“The Quinnipiac College survey showed the mayor’s popularity has fallen since the March 16 shooting of unarmed Patrick Dorismond in an NYPD drug operation gone awry. In a stinging rebuke, only 16 percent of New Yorkers approve of Giuliani’s handling of the shooting.”
The paper reported further:
“Race relations, highlighted by the Dorismond shooting, remain a dominant factor in city politics. The poll found 45 percent of voters, including 37 percent of white voters, believe race relations in the city are deteriorating. But the Quinnipiac survey suggested a deeper unrest with the mayor, going beyond the Dorismond controversy.”
The paper continued:
“More than 70 percent think he has flubbed race relations. And most blacks and Hispanics frown on his anti-crime policies.”
And this is a man Trump is praising for racial healing and law and order?
Then Clinton slammed Trump’s treatment of a beauty pageant contestant; his claims sounded not only like misogynist fat shaming, but also blatant bigotry. Clinton said:
“And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.”
Clinton continued, “Her name is Alicia Machado.”
Trump’s response was not to deny the charge or to decry the language, but to resurrect his old hostility with Rosie O’Donnell. Rosie O’Donnell? That’s when you know the man is grasping at straws.
Trump completely bombed in that debate and it’s his own fault. His staggering arrogance and breathtaking incompetence were laid bare, as he had no prepared remarks from which to read and no gaggle of other candidates behind whom he could hide.
He stood there, combative but hardly cogent, revealing to the whole country and the world that the man who promises to lift America from the ashes is himself going down in flames.
From your lips to God’s ear, Mr. Blow. Now here’s Mr. Kristof:
Donald Trump displayed an excellent version of the stern squint in the presidential debate. Many of us men are familiar with this expression, because we practice it at age 13 in the hope that it will impress girls. It doesn’t, and we grow out of it — most of us, anyway.
Hillary Clinton wears a patient smile, the expression of every woman who has calmly suppressed irritation while being harangued by a boor on topics he knows nothing about. Sadly, women never have the opportunity to retire this expression because it is constantly needed, or so my wife tells me.
What is thrilling is that Trump’s boorishness may be catching up to him.
Trump has advocated policies that are confused or senseless — deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants en masse, banning Muslims from entering the country, undermining NATO, slashing taxes on billionaires while raising them on single parents, capitulating to Russia on Crimea — yet these don’t get him into deep political trouble. Instead, his vulnerability seems to be something more elemental: He’s a jerk.
In particular, he’s a jerk toward women — a tendency he displayed prominently during Monday’s debate. Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, by Vox’s count (she interrupted him 17 times).
Trump seems oblivious to his own loutishness. When Clinton called him out for labeling women pigs, slobs and dogs, he defended himself by saying that Rosie O’Donnell “deserves it.” When Clinton reproached Trump for having degraded a Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, over her weight, Trump obligingly went on Fox News to demonize Machado again for gaining “a massive amount of weight.”
This crassness is nothing new from Trump, of course. Few comments could be more demeaning than one Trump offered in 2005 when Howard Stern asked him if he would stand by his wife, Melania, if she were in a horrible car accident and left with 100 stitches on her face, an oozing sore on her left eye, and a mangled foot. Trump’s first, automatic response? “How do the breasts look?” (Afterward, he did say that he would stick with her.)
Something about Trump is paradigmatic of the most atrocious kind of seventh-grade boy: The boasts about not doing homework, the habit of blaming others when things go wrong, the penchant for exaggerating everything into the best ever, the braggadocio to mask insecurity about size of hands or genitals, the biting put-downs of others, the laziness, the self-absorption, the narcissism, the lack of empathy — and the immaturity that reduces a woman to her breasts.
O.K., now I’ve just insulted 13-year-old boys by comparing them to the man who may become our next president. Sorry, kids, most of you are far better than that!
Trump is puerile not only where gender is concerned. He also seems to boast about what he can get away with, such as not paying taxes.
When Clinton noted in the debate that for at least a couple of years he paid no federal income tax at all, Trump responded, “That makes me smart!” He seems to think that people who pay taxes are chumps — which is irritating for all of us who do pay taxes and would love to glimpse his returns.
One of the most effective commercials against Trump highlights his callousness, as he makes fun of a disabled journalist. The mother of a disabled child says, “The children at Grace’s school all know never to mock her, and so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking.”
Another powerful commercial depicts girls studying themselves in a mirror as Trump is heard mocking women for their looks. Text on the screen asks: “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”
Of course, even if Trump acts like a middle-school boy, his policies would be those of a dangerous adult — and I wish the debate were more focused on those substantive proposals. Trump’s comments may be brutal, but his policies would be infinitely more so.
If only his troglodyte views on gender could be a springboard to discuss women’s issues that rarely get explored, such as domestic violence that strikes one woman in four, or human trafficking, channeling some 10,000 underage Americans into the sex trade each year. One advantage of more women in public life should be more scrutiny of pay gaps, and greater attention to the need for high-quality day care.
Yet if Trump’s Achilles’ heel proves to be not his oafish policies but rather his churlish manner, so be it. There are important policy reasons to reel at the thought of Trump in the White House, but voters perhaps flinch even more at his personal conduct: We already run into enough jerks in daily life, so why would we want one as our head of state?
Middle school is the wrenching, jungle stage of life that we all must struggle through. Why would we subject ourselves to a “leader” who is permanently in the seventh grade?
And lastly here’s Ms. Collins:
Strange we haven’t been talking more about age.
Hillary Clinton is 68, and that’s old for a first-term presidential candidate in this country. The one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that we’d hear about it every day were it not for the fact that Donald Trump is 70.
Still, Trump seems to be finding ways to get at it. Asked during the debate about his comment that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look,” Trump rejoined: “She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”
I believe he’s suggesting a question about stamina. Andrew Scharlach, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in aging issues, heard “a code for ‘She’s old! She’s a woman! You know how old women are.’”
Newcomers to the current presidential campaign might have wondered why Trump would consider going in that direction at all, considering he was born first. The answer is that the Republican presidential nominee believes he is always an exception. This is the guy who, at the same debate, both complained about America’s deteriorating infrastructure and bragged that he was too smart to pay taxes.
Experts on the subject seem to believe that age is not something we need to fret about, and given the fact that we’re currently juggling everything from Trump being really mean to a Latina beauty queen to the possibility of his starting a nuclear war, I think we should follow their advice.
“Unless we’re going to worry if they could catch something dropping off the table, I don’t think it’d be a problem,” said Steven Austad, the scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research. “In fact, it might be an advantage.”
Still, this provides an excellent opportunity to look back in history and discuss the campaign of William Henry Harrison. Please. Just for a second. We haven’t given William Henry nearly enough attention this election cycle.
When he ran in 1840, Harrison’s opponents made a big deal about the fact that he was 67. (“A living mass of ruined matter.”) Given that the life expectancy at the time was around 40, you can see how there’d be suggestions that he’d already overstayed his welcome.
Harrison, in response, issued a doctor’s report. It did not include extensive test results, given that there were not yet any tests. But the author still sounded far more reliable than the physician who concluded that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Harrison’s doctor just said, “Bodily vigor is as good as that of most men his age.”
But then Harrison delivered an inaugural address that went on for one hour and 45 minutes in a cold rain, got sick and died. If Donald Trump wins in November, the one thing we won’t have to worry about is his duplicating Harrison’s performance. No, Trump might talk endlessly, but he would do it from a comfy, heated plexiglass bubble while the peons stand shivering in front of him.
Feel free to argue that when it comes to age issues, women have it tougher. In 1964, when Margaret Chase Smith ran at 66 for the Republican nomination, a Los Angeles Times columnist decreed that 45-to-55 was the optimum range for a presidential candidate. Unfortunately, he added, that was the time when “the female of the species undergoes physical changes and emotional distress.” Ah, memories.
As life expectancy is getting a lot longer and people are healthier, researchers are rethinking the whole definition of old. “Seventy is the new 50. That’s not just a cliché. It really is a reasonable statement these days,” said Austad.
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a research organization with the worst name in the world, published a study that pushed the line back, too. “When your life expectancy is 15 years and less, then you get counted as old,” said Warren Sanderson, a professor at Stony Brook University who worked on the project. Using the most recent data available, Sanderson said that Trump, at 70, would have 14.6 years of life expectancy and Clinton, at 68, would have 18.3.
So by that new, expansive definition, there’s only one elderly candidate in this race, and his name is Donald.
It’s not clear that Trump knows how old he is — he told an interviewer that when he looks in the mirror he sees “a person who is 35 years old.”
Clinton doesn’t seem to have that problem. Back in 2008, when she was wrapping up her presidential campaign, we had a conversation in which she told me, suddenly, that her happiest days on the trail were the ones when I was covering her. This sounded stupendously flattering until she added, “It was the only time there was somebody my age on the plane.”