Archive

October 2nd, 2016

Trump takes Clinton's bait and hooks himself

    The entire 90-minute debate on Monday night was a demonstration that Donald Trump doesn't have the temperament to be president.

    Hillary Clinton was prepared -- she always is -- and she baited Trump early and often. And Trump got caught each time. He also hooked himself, including in at least two exchanges with moderator Lester Holt (who did an excellent job, allowing both candidates to talk). Here are some examples.

    In Clinton's very first response to Trump, about trade, she managed to work in that the reality-television star "started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father." Trump could have let that go. Trade is a pretty good issue for him, and one on which he scored one of his few debating points of the night. But he just couldn't pass up the challenge to his claim to be a self-made man, and he got diverted into defending himself against her jab.

    This one didn't cost him much momentum. But it established a pattern that continued for the rest of the night. She would bait him about something, and he would defend himself.

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Trump lost the battle against himself

    Like countless other viewers, I wondered which Donald Trump would show up to debate Hillary Clinton: hyper Donald or sedate Donald.

    Hyper Donald is the one we usually see on the campaign trail screaming himself hoarse or delighting crowds with his ad-libbed speeches like a stand-up comedian. Hyper Donald is the one we usually read in snarky Twitter tweets that he sends out almost daily.

    Sedate Donald is the one whose impulses constantly pose a challenge to his advisers as they urge him to stick to his Teleprompter.

    After boasting that he wasn't going to spend a lot of time preparing himself for his first debate with his Democratic opponent, the Republican nominee's lack of preparation and impulse control showed themselves, as Trump might say, "big league."

    He apparently had prepared himself enough to stick to his talking points for about the first 15 minutes of the 90-minute debate. From there on, former Secretary of State Clinton played him like a violin.

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Sympathy for the Donald

    Go ahead and laugh at Donald Trump’s claims that he was foiled by a finicky microphone on Monday night, but I can relate. When I write a bad column, it’s all my keyboard’s fault.

    The other columnists have reliable keyboards. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but they do. Reach your own conclusions. When one of them taps out a beautiful sentence, a beautiful sentence appears on the computer screen, just the way it’s supposed to.

    When I try to tap out an even more beautiful sentence — and my sentences are amazing sentences; you can’t believe these sentences — I have to press and bang and hunch closer to the desk and bang even harder and still you never know.

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President Obama's fierce urgency of forever

    Barack Obama began his quest for the presidency speaking of the "fierce urgency of now." After more than seven years in office, Obama's urgency hasn't departed. But it has been tempered, and his vision has stretched in both directions, past and future.

    His remarks last weekend celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture were a product of the long views he has acquired in the White House. The speech is a companion to one he delivered in March 2015 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery.

    Like the Selma speech, it picked up black history in all its sprawling, messy complexity and moved it from the margins to the center of the American story. Citing a stone on display in the museum, Obama said:

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October 1st

These are the people Donald Trump wants to keep out of America

    The coyote looked over the motley huddle of migrants assembled on the banks of the Rio Grande. It was nighttime, and the group was about to attempt a crossing on flimsy rafts.

    "If any of you are Christians," he announced, "now's the time to pray."

    Perhaps the comment was intended as sardonic, but to Mariela, an evangelical Christian among the group, it was an invitation. A 29-year-old Honduran, the survivor of a brutal rape at the hands of a drug trafficker and years of abuse by a vicious husband, Mariela had made the harrowing journey northward with her two sons, ages 4 and 7. She asked the group to join hands in a prayer circle. As she prayed, she looked up and noticed a gorgeous moon overhead. A week later, on the other side of the border, exhausted, traumatized, but alive, Mariela told me about the moon. When she saw it, she knew that God was protecting her and her boys.

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In Texas, even Trump supporters hate the wall

    "Nobody likes the wall," says Tony Martinez, mayor of Brownsville, a city in the southeastern corner of Texas across the Rio Grande from Matamoros, Mexico. He's the son of Mexican immigrants and a Democrat, but he's not exaggerating: Even Donald Trump supporters in the town hate the border fence that has been here since 2008.

    "Build that wall, build that wall!" I have heard people chant at Trump rallies in the small towns of Iowa and New Hampshire, far from the Mexican border. Trump promises to build a wall that will be "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful."

    The fence in Brownsville is 18 feet tall and made from rusty iron bars. I could climb it in about 15 seconds. "Our record is eight," says Michael Seifert, an organizer for the Equal Voice Network, a coalition of civic groups in the Rio Grande Valley.

    It has cost more than $6 million per mile to build, and it runs through farmers' fields and townspeople's backyards. The local consensus is that it hasn't helped anyone except contractors and drug cartels.

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Donald Trump's dispatches from fantasyland

    "Donald, I know you live in your own reality," Hillary Clinton told Donald Trump during the first debate between the two contenders for the presidency. And rather than deny it, Trump proceeded to give millions of Americans a tour of the rarefied world he inhabits and the decidedly unique attitudes that guide his dealings with people outside that sphere. Trump may have spent much of the debate lapsing into nonsense, but that message, at least, got through loud and clear.

    Early in the debate, Trump dismissed the $14 million he received from his father to start his business as "a very small loan" that was no reflection on his actual business acumen or work ethic. "I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world," he said.

    How did he do it? Trump painted a portrait of his business dealings rooted in contempt for anyone weak enough to let him take advantage of them.

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Donald Trump bombs on the ultimate reality TV show

    What on earth was that? For 90 minutes, we watched one candidate for president display the seriousness the office demands while the other did what was once unthinkable: show up unprepared for a globally televised job interview. The first presidential debate between reality-television star and wealthy builder Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was mind-blowing. Trump brought the vaudeville shtick that worked for him in the primaries to the main stage and bombed.

    Trump's performance was the rhetorical equivalent of hurling garbage on the lawn. A question about x would lead to mentions of y, z and whatever else came to mind. For instance, a response about Hillary Clinton's emails led to a mention about the sorry state of New York's LaGuardia Airport. And then there were the gasp-worthy moments that would sink any other presidential aspirant.

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Clinton shifts the election in her direction

    Donald Trump scowled and fumed and fussed and interrupted. On Monday night, he was forced to defend business practices that involved not paying workers and contractors, a tax plan that offers most of its benefits to the wealthy, the fact that he did not pay any federal taxes in some years (which he called "smart") and the debt incurred by his businesses.

    Hillary Clinton wanted to remind Americans of the Trump they had grown accustomed to disliking, the man who demeaned women, minorities and immigrants. Trump helped her out, even debating the moderator, Lester Holt, about "stop and frisk" police tactics. He grunted "ugh" when Clinton called out his sweeping comments on the allegedly parlous state of African-American communities.

    Trump again tried to put the birther issue behind him and failed. The man who built his base on the right end of the Republican Party by insinuating that President Obama was born abroad tried to slough off a question about what had once been his signature cause, but Clinton bore in and linked his treatment of the nation's first African-American president to what she called "his long record of racist behavior."

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Clinton proves it pays to show up prepared

    On the biggest stage in politics, Hillary Clinton did to Donald Trump what 15 men failed to do in the primaries: She took command from the moment she strode over to shake Trump's hand. In 2000, Representative Rick Lazio lost the New York Senate debate when he invaded her personal space. When she invaded Trump's space, she set herself up for a win.

    Have times finally changed? Not really. Clinton still needs to work twice as hard for half the gains of a man, while obscuring her ambition and being pleasant. How many times has Trump been told he just has to be more likable? Clinton was plenty appealing as she ate his lunch Monday night. It's Trump who should have taken Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus's patronizing advice to smile more.

    She had done her homework, an activity Trump scoffs at. When there was an opening to question his position or his manhood -- beginning with her claim that his vaunted success started with a $14 million loan from his dad -- she was ready. Trump's aides were intent on furthering the line that he didn't prepare for the debate and now we believe them.

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