The final debate — (Beware of shooting spree toddlers — the real argument for post-birth abortions?)
"So maybe we've discovered Clinton's approach to abortion and gun violence - kill the babies before they find a gun and shoot you."
Welcome back to the travelling Vaudeville show meets celebrity roast hour which we Americans call a 'political debate'. In this, round III, the latest and last installment, viewers were entertained by these two presidential aspirant pugilists.
But it was considerably less entertaining than the 2nd debate, where Trump's one-liners like 'you'd be in jail', left Clinton stumped, and precipitated Trump's turn-around surge in the polls. Instead we saw a considerably more restrained Trump - presidential - but restrained. And this is no doubt the effect of former NYC mayor Giuliani's 'coaching'. Now after the debate, Giuliani was very happy with Trump's performance, and of course he would be. Problematically from an entertainment value perspective, we got a lot less bang for the buck.
Now in looking past the entertainment dimension, I want to look at this from the perspective of the defining vectors that will really tell us how viewers saw and interpreted the debate. And we have to also understand the audience of this debate, and who watched it.
I'm sorry that I'm going to leave my final verdict until the end, so thanks in advance for reading.
Giuliani was a horrible coach, I never found the man personally compelling or a good debater, and I'm frankly perplexed why Trump would take on this voluntary form of self sabotage.
From the point of view of practice and training, and honing in on the points and the differences, Clinton landed many more punches, and Trump certainly was less on point than Clinton. The difference is in the objective material to work with, however, - there is just so much on Clinton, that it would take the whole debate just to rehash every point of criminality and corruption that connects to Clinton - be it the Clinton Foundation which has been a money laundering operation and a vehicle for the pay for play practices of the Clintons, and also a direct funds misappropriation racket, where donations earmarked for stopping the spread of HIV or rebuilding Haiti, directly lined the Clintons' pockets. Then there is the State Department under Clinton's watch losing six billion dollars with a 'B', as was published by the Office of the Inspector General. Link here - -https://oig.state.gov/system/files/219671.pdf .. Then there's the corruption of the FBI, and Clinton's collusion with James Comey and others. And this is all just during this campaign season or the last few years. The Clinton crime family's crimes go back to Arkanas in the 80's, where they were part of Iran-Contra drug smuggling, real estate scandal murders, rape and sexual assault cover ups, and more.
Now, it's hard to connect the dots, without connecting these things together in the sense of a grand conspiracy - pay for play, Benghazi, emails, the attack on the US embassy, weapons falling in the hands of ISIS/Al Nusra, 6 billion missing mostly from Iraq contracts.
Really, these are likely to be one whopping story about treason and high crimes, where Obama and Clinton bleached emails, where weapons illegally sold by Clinton to Al Qaeda in Libya wound up in the hands of Al Qaeda in the Middle-East, used in an attack on US forces who got their hands on a shell that traced back to the batch sold in Libya. Then Clinton sent Al Qaeda/mercenary forces to attack the US embassy, to seize those computers and destroy the hard drive evidence, making sure the guards there were unarmed despite calls for assistance.
Then Obama and the Clintons colluded with the FBI to grant immunity not to witnesses alone, but to all the actual suspects, in a Quid Pro Quo arrangement, and never before heard of restrictions on the investigation upon the FBI mandated by Comey to arrive at a de facto immunity for Clinton. Imagine receiving orders defining parameters to an investigation which ruled out finding evidence that would otherwise compel a prosecution for the most legally responsible suspect?
This is the whole story that Trump's alternative media campaign has gotten close to putting together, in some ways really has, and most of Trump's (and many many of Jill Stein's, and some of Bernie's) supporters are aware of. These are facts which connect paleo-conservatives to the anti-imperialist left who both understand very well that the US State Department of Clinton under Obama has and is directly arming the very same Al Qaeda and ISIS it claims falsely to be fighting. The real goals were to destroy Libya and Iraq.
But the audience of undecided's and 'anti-war' types who still may vote for Stein or Johnson, aren't plugged into the Trump internet campaign, nor do they listen to his speeches at mass rallies. So while Trump's references to these in debates are superficial and disconnected, and while they remind Trump supporters of these broader narratives and stories, Trump failed to connect these to what was really a fresh audience of undecideds.
Trump mentioned facts surrounding these scandals, perhaps it's one real big scandal with eight monstrous heads, but failed to give the real closing remarks to connect these dots for the audience of undecideds.
To his credit however, Trump did mention the whole affair of the recently exposed scandal, where Clinton's campaign people employed mentally ill people and labor union members to go out and cause the fights and riots that occurred at Trump's rallies and campaign stops. And connecting this loosely to Soros elsewhere in a statement about Tax loopholes, may have resonated with a number of better informed voters - but I suspect the better informed already have their minds made up about this election, and are voting how they are voting based on any number of issues not related to this 'provocateur' scandal.
But all of this suggests he would have been better off being coached by a court room lawyer with experience convincing juries, than by the snore-bore Giuliani, who's own rise to prominence was not the product of campaign brilliance or debate prowess, but by being the shoe-in candidate for the NYC real estate and wall street establishment, opposed to the rights of tenants and labor. Giuliani's rise depended on low turn-out, low interest elections where he was funded overwhelmingly against his nearly non-existent opponents. A populist like Trump did very poorly being advised by a money-interest shoe-in like Giuliani.
The moderators and the mainstream media have tried to turn this election cycle into a referendum on America's wrongs and Trump's moral and ethical failings - what Trump did so well in the second debate, and didn't do here, was turn this debate into a public trial on the real crimes of Hillary Clinton in an effective and clear way.
What Trump needed to do was say 'My fellow Americans ... let's connect these dots. Let's look at the evidence that ought to have convicted crooked secretary Clinton long ago - 6 billion missing, mostly in Iraq contracts - I'd really love to know if those 30 thousand emails talked about where that money went. Why did Clinton not arm the guards at the US embassy? Why did the jihadis, often none too moderate, similar to those that US and allies have been arming, destroy those computers? We know already that the emails which she criminally bleached contain sensitive information about dealings in Libya. Are these connected? I'm really wondering if they are, certainly because Clinton destroyed evidence that would have no doubt in my mind, convicted her of something - that's after all folks the only reason to intentionally destroy evidence AFTER you've received a subpoena for it. And putting this all together, I might be convinced she not only compromised national security, but intentionally traded it away. How did the Clinton's amass over a quarter of a billion dollars since leaving the White House, when Hillary claims they were penniless upon leaving? I guess that's why she tried to steal the White House furniture and silverware- yes, it's true folks, it's true - fact check that - they had to return it. Shameful. Hillary Clinton is a criminal, if the crooked DOJ and the FBI's crooked James Comey fails to prosecute because they are - surprise - under Obama who is campaigning for Clinton instead of working for the public - that doesn't make her any less a criminal in your eyes, does it."
Do undecided voters really understand what these glossed over references to 'pay for play' and 'emails' and 'Benghazi' really mean? I suspect they don't, and this didn't help Trump.
Trump failed to ... slow down and hone in on his real points - and this can be hard, because of the open nature of the debate where interrupting happens. But there were certain parts that were carved out and were not rejoinder permissive segments, and he didn't seem to pay attention to these or use them strategically. He needed to use the power of negative audio space - to pause after saying something so that the audience could really grasp the significance of it. He failed to do this, and he sort of prattled over any number of the above mentioned serious crimes, which ought to disqualify her from running for office (let's pretend here for a moment that the US was until recently a country governed by the rule of law). What he needed was to connect the dots and spell these out.
In American politics, it is these last three weeks, and probably the last debate to the exclusion of the first two, and this is unique because now it's the undecided's that pay attention.
It's also important to make sure you still have your base with you, and Clinton and Trump achieved that, with Trump it was his position on accepting the results of the election. This was brilliance on his part - and voters should be reminded that Bill Clinton was the one who urged Al Gore to challenge the results of the 2000 election in which Bush lost the popular vote, and probably didn't win the swing state of Florida, but was declared the winner by courts.
So it's very strange moralizing and hypocrisy, though not surprising, on the part of the media and the Clinton campaign (this is one and the same), to be 'astonished' that Trump wouldn't forego his procedural rights to challenge the results in certain states where there is evidence of vote rigging, fraud, disenfranchisement, or a suspected miscount based on exit polling data.
And on second thought, I suppose that undecided's don't really have these wedge issues or scandals/conspiracies that move them too much. A lot of these are the 'lights on, no one's home' sort of people - the sort of people that you tell them their house is on fire, and the stare at you blankly for 45 seconds while the train of thought boards the station.
So maybe not honing in on Clinton's crime spree didn't hurt him for voters. But for pundits scoring this debate, and who write about this debate and create buzz about it, this was a serious failing on the part of Trump.
What does move people like undecideds is real real base stuff, black and white stuff, and personal narratives disconnected from intrigues and politics - like getting shot by guns, and killing babies - and here, Clinton did awfully, and Trump succeeded.
Post debate polls are highly problematic, and CNN admits that it polls democrats disproportionately to republicans. News based polls, generally reflect the views of the audience - so Fox has Trump winning, and CNN has Clinton winning. I don't put much credence in any after debate polls, and what matters is not these polls per se but what people will do in November.
But what I suspect will sink in, and it will take up to a week after this debate to sink in, relates to two things, that I say jokingly, perhaps are connected.
The first was Clinton's bizarre comment "Well, I was upset because, unfortunately, dozens of toddlers injure themselves, even kill people with guns ...".
The second, over abortion, really will alienate the majority of American voters who support legalized abortion, whether Republican or Democrat, on a bandwidth of normality that goes from the more conservative end of first trimester only and reluctantly as a form of post conception 'birth control, and only in cases of rape or serious physical-medical danger to the mother - and on the other end of the spectrum of normality are those who support abortion as a form of birth control through the second trimester. At the extreme end, outside of the norm - and this will alienate many voters and galvanize Trump's base. People who understand that this procedure involves mutilating a living baby, then twisting its neck until it dies, one that could have survived on its own had it been born even two months prematurely without ventilation.
This horrific and barbaric practice is one which the majority of pro-choice voters also oppose - and Clinton pushed the envelope and specifically sought to galvanize a particularly radicalized element of her base at the expense of taking a more inclusive and, I'd say, winning approach with most voters and undecideds.
So maybe we've discovered Clinton's approach to abortion and gun violence - kill the babies before they find a gun and shoot you.
At a particularly significant part of this debate, Trump looks directly at Clinton, on the abortion issue, and says to her:
"Trump: And honestly, nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth, nobody has that."
Just before this, he had said: "I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.
Now, you can say that that's okay, and Hillary can say that that's okay, but it's not okay with me. Because based on what she's saying and based on where she's going and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, only the final day. And that's not acceptable."
At face value, I would have this debate scored as a tie - which gives this series in my book, two ties - the first and last - and a Trump win, in the second. But in the 1st debate review, I was clear that at the end of the day, it was a Trump victory because of the things that came out, that he said, which set him up for his campaign themes between the 1st and 2nd debates.
The strategic problem for Trump is that the media is on Clinton's side, this is evident in coverage, and in the moderators' approach - these are people of limited critical faculties, and dinosaurs in terms of media - and they rely on the legacy media sources, which uniformly gets fact checking wrong and recites Clinton campaign talking points on Trump's alleged misstatements of facts. So it's perhaps less so a matter of corruption that these moderators have been so pro-Clinton, they are just products of a moribund system of information dissemination and consumption. They are not only the representatives, but products of their own echo chamber paradigm.
But as this debate sinks in, what I think will emerge are several factors. Yes, it can take a while to really process, and the significance of what happened, or really, what failed to happen, can be delayed.
What I suspect now is that Clinton failed to crucify Trump on any of the sexual misconduct stuff, and there was really practically no focus on this at all. When we consider that the moderator asked this question, and Trump denied the accusations, and Clinton did not really have an effective follow up here. I'm not sure if she had some cognitive lapse, or forgot her rehearsed lines here, but she certainly didn't use this otherwise effective tool, against Trump. And this may not be accidental, on second thought. Because these did not ultimately hurt Trump, and his figures showed a rebound following the second debate, which were not negatively impacted after later accusations that came after the second debate.
Overall, Clinton has failed to give her candidacy a theme, a purpose. It's really 'Four more Years!' of Obama, and that just doesn't win a lot of support when the incumbent averages 47% approval over the course of his tenure. So with the clumsy and lengthy 'America IS Great because it is GOOD', she has sort of riffed on Trump's 'Make America Great Again!' - incidentally, probably one of the clearest and best campaign slogans in history up there with Obama's Yes We Can, and Hope - Change', which tapped into the American psyche. "Stronger together" was a union organizing slogan from SEIU from 10 years ago, that is intended to resonate with the GOTV volunteer union members who have been walking precincts and will be doing GOTV on election day. But she has not really defined her campaign at all, with one special interest group - feminists - it has been 'because I'm a Woman'. Other than this, it's been 'Because I'm not Trump'.
Think of this debate like the NFL playoffs before the Superbowl. People who don't watch football all year long, finally tune in because friends and neighbors, coworkers, are excited about it and it becomes the focus of social interactions. Undecideds who make their mind up after this debate will be swayed towards Trump on average, for all the reasons spelled out here.
And people looking at Trump for the first time, in this context, not on the Apprentice, see a man with a cool temper and clear disposition. Is lack of energy and zeal will probably bode well for those just tuning in, as they will retain this first and last real impression when they go to polls in November.
The election will be the Superbowl, and whatever remaining undecideds will perhaps make up their mind while standing there in the voting booth. And if accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia haven't swayed them to vote Hillary by then, then looking at two names on the ballot - one male, and one female, and when we consider the subconscious word association with the word 'President of the United States', I think they will tick 'Trump'.
When I think hard about what Clinton has failed to do, and when I think about this phase of the election where Trump's 'new' audience in this debate were the undecideds, it's now clear to me that Trump actually won this. It wasn't a resounding win like in the second debate, and that was obvious. But viewers didn't come away with a vilified Trump, and that part is huge, monumental - because the entire Clinton strategy is rooted in vilifying Trump - and in this final debate, this failed.
Conclusively, however, this election will not be decided by the undecideds. It will revolve around several factors - the first is the outcome of swing states. Union organizing campaigns were planned and put into operation as covert election campaigns, just as they were for Obama in 2008. Problematically for Clinton, what these finally rely on is the GOTV of union members.
This will not pan out as well for Clinton as it did for Obama, because Clinton has made no major promises to organized labor - nor does her economic policy even talk about jobs and job growth. This was a strategic, and major error, judgment on the part of the Clinton campaign because it as determined that Trump owned the job creation subject. Maternity leave and equal pay gender issues don't really motivate union members, because they have this already in union contracts, and they don't motivate non union members because in reality labor laws are impossible to enforce without a union, since every state is effectively a fire-at-whim state. For those living in reality and not some liberal university talk shop that looks at laws on paper and not how, in fact, workers are not allowed to use those laws, this much is obvious.
This election didn't do what Clinton needed to do, which was a final public message against Trump and important things to mobilize her GOTV base.
I say that this is so important to do, this voter mobilization, because while there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, Democrats have a harder time getting to the polls. And uninspiring candidates like Clinton are yet another reason to sit at home.
What I mean is this, it's one thing to answer the phone and say 'Clinton', it's another thing to make down to the voting booth - and democrats do not have a great track record to get to the voting booth. Obama made history because of his charisma and message and historicity, urgency, the failures of Bush etc., to really mobilize and energize the Democrat Party base, really the foot soldiers in organized labor, to have a successful, memetic, and contagious GOTV effort.
But here's a little insight, and an undeniable truth about the reality of GOTV efforts. Most labor union employees, called internal organizers or field reps, who will be doing the field work of working with their favorite and trusted union members, are far to the left of Clinton - and themselves supported Sanders, and many of them will be voting for Stein. The hate for Clinton among the real left, is stronger than the hatred for Trump. And often these folks are more cued into alternative media, and are anti-imperialists.
And a funny thing happens while doing GOTV - I can tell you from first hand experience - for uninspiring, uninspired, and disliked candidates. They - in the past, 'we' - simply check boxes on these route sheets, and randomly produce contact data on potential voters, rather than hit the concrete and knock on those doors for crooked Hillary Clinton. We look at the sheet, we see they are registered democrats, and we check 'yes' for Clinton, without making contact with voters. This probably happened with Clinton vs. Sanders, and it's why Sanders surprised Clinton with wins in places that GOTV teams came back saying that Clinton was doing well, or winning. And I think we will see this again in November, on a smaller scale, but still making a difference.
And, an important thing to include here, is that strategically for democrats - it is absolutely imperative to make repeated contact with voters. Democrats only win when they make 2-3 confirmed face to face visits with as many voters as possible, and literally drive them to the polls during crunch time. I strongly suspect, in fact I know, that labor union members and field organizers are not doing this for Clinton like they did for Obama.
Obama FIRED UP organized labor, making sweeping (but unfulfilled promises) on a range of issues including EFCA (employee free choice act). Organized labor today is not 'fired up' for Clinton. They simply are not. She has their endorsement, they are making her big promises and showing her great numbers up at the top, the generals are. But the soldiers in the field are not actually firing their bullets, they are not doing the work for Clinton.
Another factor connected to this debate, is that Clinton trends better precisely among those cross-sections that have a harder time, for any number of reasons, many of which I would agree are unfair and reflect endemic problems in US society - but are nevertheless realities that will bode well for Trump. They have to be really fired up against Trump to risk losing their job, or to put down the bong, to make voting a priority.
This debate was therefore crucial in terms of its public focus, and Clinton has very little take away from this. Thus, I have this as a Trump win.