#USDebate: “Expectations and standards are now so low that not imploding is an achievement.”

Last night I stayed up to watch the second Clinton Trump debate. I really wish I hadn’t. It was truly awful. It did not merit the word debate. There was no engagement or exchange of ideas or views. Even as a blood and gore spectacle it failed as it delivered neither.

Instead, there was a tired and turgid trading of insults, charges and counter charges. The “Town Hall” audience went largely ignored, though Clinton did at least make some attempt to engage with them.

As some illustration of this, in the space of the first 30 minutes only one audience member got a chance to ask a question.

Indeed, when the moderators finally moved to bring in a question from a second audience member, Donald Trump exploded, protesting how he had not been given a chance to explain himself fully, going so far as to accuse the moderators of ganging up with Hillary against him.

Though Clinton won the debate on points, Trump did succeed in his baseline objective and has probably halted the decline in his campaign, the question though is for how long?

The furore over the Hot Mic recording of Trump’s vulgar comments about women had even moved his loyal VP running mate, Mike Pence, to cancel some campaign appearances and say that Trump’s remarks could not be condoned or defended.

Only a few hours before the debate started it seemed as if the GOP leadership was set to abandon him and focus on the tight House and Senate race.

Their nerves were not soothed two hours before the debate start by Trump’s surprise press conference where he appeared with four women, including three who have accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting them.

It was the classic Trump response. Accused of saying or doing something wrong, double down on that something. His reducing core base will love it, but it will not help him move a single vote out of the undecided into his column.

Hillary’s response, both before and during the debate, was to follow the advice offered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention, when they go low, you go high. And when Trump goes low, he goes really low.

Not content with comparing Hillary to Satan he went on to threaten that he would move to have her prosecuted and thrown in jail if he was elected.

It was a low point, not just in last night’s debate, but in the history of US Presidential debates. But it is something that will likely come back to bite him in the coming days. And it’s not the only thing.

Not content with claiming powers that no constitutional president could or should have, he also threw his running mate under the bus on the topic of military intervention in Syria.

At the VP debate, Pence had spoken of the possibility of safe, even no-fly zones for Syrian civilians – Trump flatly contradicted Pence, dismissing any humanitarian intervention. This despite Trump himself having previously spoken of the possibility.

And, as if policy making on the hoof was not enough, Trump also seemed to openly admit that he had used a $900m loss to avoid paying income for decades, putting his “that’s smart” tax strategy front and centre in the final weeks.

So perverse and depressing is this campaign that you can say that a guy who made those three debating errors still had a good night. Expectations and standards are now so low that not imploding is an achievement.

The Hillary Clinton on show last night did not seem as sharp and edgy as the one who showed up in Debate one.

Perhaps it was the “we go high when they go low” thing, but she seemed less interested in baiting him, indeed she even allowed him land a few punches, particularly in areas where he is especially weak, like trade deals and her email servers.

This was not due to a lack of stamina however. It seemed almost to be a deliberate strategy as if the prospect of Trump crashing out of the race now was not an outcome she relished.

So, my verdict? Clinton shaded a win on points. Neither candidate won anyone new over to their cause. Trump, at best, may have stopped others abandoning him for a day or so.

In the meantime, we wait to see if there are any more Trump hot mic recording out there, Geraldo Rivera suggested yesterday that he knew of some and I resolve to give Debate III in ten days time a miss.

  • hgreen

    Clinton should simply refuse to engage in any more debates with this idiot. He drags everyone into the gutter.

  • Obelisk

    It would take Donald Trump all of three seconds to coin the nickname ‘Chicken/Coward Hillary’, suggest he had gotten under her skin and that she had something to hide AND allow people, some with a sexist skein, to suggest she just couldn’t hack it with Trump and if not with him, how could she handle Putin.

    Not really going to happen.

  • chrisjones2

    So bad they make Arlene and Marty look good

    God Save America …noone else will

  • Anglo-Irish

    The fact that there is still a possibility, after everything that has happened, of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States of America is an indictment on the intelligence and moral standards of many Americans.

    He is plainly unfit to hold office, and yet there he is still in the ring.

    I’m not a prude and actually think that the French take a far more sensible attitude to their politicians sexual history.

    It’s no one’s business other than the people involved what people get up to in their private lives, providing it’s legal and doesn’t involve security breaches.

    Trumps behaviour is way beyond that stage, it looks as if it is illegal for a start and he’s a blustering braggart who’s an embarrassment to his country.

    And that’s only the PR side of things, his grasp on reality as far as what his powers as POTUS would be is basically non existent.

    ” Why can’t we Nuke em ? ” is not the attitude you want to hear from a man who may wind up with the ‘football’ in his possession!

  • Paul

    Agree with the post, I was in the US a few months ago and I was shocked at the level of support Trump has although I would like to think with each revelation that comes out any undecideds will be now voting Hilary. People seemed to think because he was a good business man he’d make a good president and that he didn’t actually mean the awful things he said, the fact that he has no policies whatsoever doesn’t seem to bother his support either (on his healthcare plans when pressed for details he stated “they’re going to be so good!”).
    The GOP needs to get its house in order, because frankly this election campaign, these debates are nothing short of a disgrace and Trump’s conduct has been shameful.
    Save for a massive implosion by Hilary, Trump will most likely lose but it will be a lot closer than people might think, there are a lot of disenfranchised voters out there who feel Washington and the elite have let normal people down.
    That Trump is the nominee must be so frustrating for the ordinary GOP members because if they had a more capable candidate they could really push her on her links to Goldman Sachs, her record as Secretary of State, Benghazi, her private email and the ones she deleted, but then maybe they are reaping the rewards of years of scaremongering and Tea Party politics.
    This election really can’t end quick enough its been a depressing spectacle and while Hilary is not squeaky clean she is at least conducting herself like a President should and speaking like a president should, the thought of Donald Trump in the Oval office would be hilarious if it wasn’t so frightening.

  • Zorin001

    I think Clinton took the only option she could when faced with Trump, the man refuses to engage with anything remotely approaching civilised debate and is content to throw out the first thing that comes into his head.

    How do you debate rationally with someone who simply says what he feels like and to hell with the truth of it or not?

  • Anglo-Irish

    One of the things that gets me about this Trump phenomena is that he is regarded as a successful businessman.

    The fact is that if he’d taken the money he inherited and invested it in Fortune 500 companies he’d be richer than he is now and done less damage to peoples lives.

    Instead of which he has had four companies bearing his name go bankrupt causing loss of employment and cost to other companies of unpaid bills.

    He’s now apparently bragging that a $900 Million loss was advantageous in tax efficiency terms with no thought for those who suffered as a result.

    He’s not businessman in my view, he’s a gambler, and not always a successful one.

    Can’t say that I’m enthralled with the idea of Hillary, but there is no comparison between them, at least she has a grasp on the reality of the situation and the restrictions involved.

    Trump appears under the impression that if he gets the job he’ll turn into some kind of superhero character with limitless power.

  • ted hagan

    Good assessment by Derek Mooney. Trump just needed to slug out a scrappy draw to remain a contender, and that he did. Hillary had an open goal but fluffed it.
    What a letdown as a spectacle (I confess I listened to it on the radio)

  • Paul

    Yeah I should have said that in my original post although he says he’s a good businessman when you look at it in any detail he’s actually terrible!
    I sometimes think he started his campaign for some publicity and now just can’t believe he’s got as far as he has, and is trying to see what he can get away with.
    I mean he goes crazy if someone tweets him something he doesn’t like can you imagine him with his finger on the button?

  • ted hagan

    A section of the American people are so desperate for a champion they are able to negate the bad and only see the heroic side of the maverick Trump, the ‘champion of the little guy’. It is disturbing but the phenomenon is ignored at the United States’ peril.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I’d rather not!!

    One of his original campaign managers resigned because she’d backed him purely as a protest against the political establishment, as many did here with Ukip.

    She said that he was only looking to raise his profile for business purposes and didn’t really want to win the nomination.

    When he did it went to his head and she realised that the whole thing had gone too far so she resigned.

    A theory that I have is that he’s realised that he’s in over his head and he’s trying to throw the contest.

    Let’s face it, it would explain some of the unmitigated crap he comes out with.

  • Roger

    A “no fly zone” is a “humanitarian intervention”: is that what they call it in Libya?

    Clinton has more or less promised this military (not humanitarian) intervention. Another Libya please.

  • anon

    Clinton pulled her punches. She knows at this stage she just needs to run out the clock without making any gaffes. She’s letting the Republicans beat themselves up while appealing to the centre ground and soft-right votes.

    Trump was typically deranged, ignorant and incoherent.

  • chrisjones2

    I fear (and I mean fear) that you are too complacent. Her lead is small and worse in some critical swing states. Trump may well win

  • chrisjones2

    Both are unfit for office and the fact that hes there an indictment of both major parties

    Saunders might easily have destroyed him …..but big business supported Hilary

  • chrisjones2

    Look at the Vox Pops afterwards ….many people still jkust dont trust Hilary and see positive things in the issues Trump raises

  • anon

    There’s still a small chance, but the post-p**sygate polls are yet to come out and the RNC has put a hold to planned support for the Presidential race in anticipation of giving up on it and focussing on the Congressional and Senate ballots. The initial post-debate polls also show Hillary winning.

    And no-one really believes there aren’t more tapes out there – particularly if you read any of the comments from former Apprentice contestants and producers.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Can’t disagree with you there, but at least as uninspiring as Hilary is she’s the best of two bad options.

    Trump would be dangerous, Hilary less so, she’s a professional politician, which is part of the problem, but at least she knows how to play the game.

    Agree about Saunders, how America wound up with these two to choose between is incredible, like you I suspect the hand of big business pulling the strings.

  • npbinni

    Indeed, what a horrendous choice Americans have; between crude and crass, and crooked and corrupt.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Well the ‘ heroic side ‘ of Trump has completely passed me by.

    To me he comes across as a blustering braggart, a bully and a misogynist clown.

    His past record shows that his’ championing of the little guy’ has resulted in four bankruptcies putting people out of work and a disregard of anyone’s interest other than his own.

    How people can ignore all of this is weird to say the least.

    The only explanation I can think of is that the general public are so sick to the back teeth with the political establishments dishonesty, duplicity and corruption that as a protest they’ll vote for anyone who’s different.

    Similar situation here with Ukip.

    Problem is, there’s no rule that says it can’t turn out even worse!

  • terence patrick hewett

    The USA is a palimpsest: it encapsulates many Americas and this is why the Flag and Consitution are so important for them: they are the only things that they can find communality. And both of those things are seen through the prism of 1776. Once that is understood it all becomes understandable. The level of the debate is rather incidental.

    I think that Mark Twain and the Duke of Bilgewater would have found it all very familiar.

    And of course would Al Swearengan.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    How does someone who’s basically incoherent, such as Donald Trump, actually come close to someone who at least articulates a sensible position in intelligible language? it seems to me that the narrative ‘they exchanged insults’ doesn’t cut it. Could it be the inherent fear among tv companies that the third debate will not even be classed as an event?

  • murdockp

    He seems to have learned from NI politicans in that it does not matter what you do, how incompetent you are, the faithful will follow you blindly.

  • chrisjones2

    “an indictment on the intelligence and moral standards of many Americans.”

    We elected Tony Blair and an acknowledged leader of the IRA. I assume you dont live in a glass house

  • chrisjones2

    I fear that she is a weak ill puppet

  • chrisjones2

    I assume you are not a resident of the rust belt who has seen your work vanish abroad or be taken over by illegal immigrant workers? The problem is that to those who are in that position Trump seems to talk sense or at elast to have recognised that they exist

  • chrisjones2

    Very easy ….they dont believe her. Look at the last month

    1 her $250k ‘secret’ speeches to Bankers were finally leaked where she told them – I have my public position on things (like tax and money laundering) and my real position which supports you guys

    2 her story that in her 20s once tried to join the Marines (because I wanted to serve !) but was told to go away by a roughneck sergeant because she was a woman. That unravels to a polite young recruiter explaining that her eyesight was so bad she would fail the Marines entry standard but she could try the army or other services as standards were different, Strangely despite the desire to serve the USA, she didn’t try any of the alternatives

    3 I am in great health – whoops I just collapsed

    She really does have difficulty separating truth from her carefully crafted image

  • Anglo-Irish

    Blair fooled a lot of people first time around with his ” I’m just an ordinary kind of guy ”

    Additionally, I have no recollection of him boasting about assaulting women, encouraging his supporters to attack opposition supporters, encouraging racism and being incoherent with regard to policy.

    As for electing ‘an acknowledged leader of the IRA ‘ that’s what happens when there are no winners in a dispute and an agreed compromise is reached.

  • Teddybear

    Why can’t centrists or liberals appeal to Joe the Plumber and the like?

    Or is it a case they don’t want to

    Poor white people have been forgotten for so long that they will follow anyone who even gives them half a wink in their direction.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Don’t think it’s quite as bad as that ( although definitely not ideal ) the illness is being overplayed by the Trump side.

    Franklin D Roosevelt served from 1933 to 1945 in a wheelchair.

    The puppet comment on the other hand may have substance but then it won’t be unique will it?

    Dubya was played by Cheney and Rumsfeld like a character in a Punch and Judy show.

    Puppet or Loose Cannon seems to be the choice and as there’s WMD involved I’ll reluctantly go with the puppet.

  • Anglo-Irish

    No I’m not, but in what way do they imagine a blustering boor like Trump is going to help them?

    He talks bollix, and anyone who takes a minute to think about his sensational and ludicrous statements should be able to see that.

    ” I’ll build a wall on the 2,000 mile Mexican border and get them to pay for it! ”

    ” Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US “.

    ” He’s not a war hero, he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured “.

    About John McCain.

    This from a draft dodger who received four educational deferments and finally one on medical grounds. Which doesn’t prevent him from making a big deal out of Hillary’s minor health problem.

    ” The line of ‘ Make America great again ‘ that was mine, now everybody’s using it, maybe I should copyright it, maybe I’ve already copyrighted it “.

    Ronald Reagan used the slogan over 35 years ago during his campaign.

    How can anyone,however desperate, believe that this clown is the answer?

  • chrisjones2

    So you can apply that tyo the US Race and choose Trump then?

  • chrisjones2

    I agree but in hard times snake oil is seen as attractive. Apart form the Bible they have little else and Hilary offers nothing

  • Anglo-Irish

    Please explain, that makes no sense to me, apply what to whom?

  • Anglo-Irish

    And Donald does?

    He talks complete garbage, and he is a proven liar.

    Let’s face it, politicians are by nature ‘ economical with the actualite ‘ we all – reluctantly – accept that, it goes with the territory.

    But Trumps whole schtick is that he’s different, he’s not a politician, you can rely on him to deliver.

    He’s a bigger liar and bullshitter than any politician you can think of, the competition is world class and yet he’s A number one, King of the hill!


  • Sir Rantsalot

    Derek, you must have watched a different debate. Trump destroyed Hillary, all she had was empty waffle.
    Beat her on letting in unvetted refugees. Her and Obama’s policy that has destroyed stability in the middle east, eg Libya in bits with no leader and leaving Iraq to be overrun by ISIS. Also exposing what the msm won’t cover related to the Clinton Foundation bribery fund. Not to mention the press conference with Rapey Bill’s victims. Didn’t you see the look on Bill’s bake?

  • Hugh Davison

    The word is ‘beak’ (pronounced commonly in NI as ‘bake’). ‘Beak’ as in ‘Gob’ i.e. ‘Mouth’ and by extension, ‘Face’.

  • hotdogx

    Yes, and the most important one: vote for continued union with Britain!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You sure? Google says bake for face. I would use beak for nose, as in keep your beak out of it.. Still, I do like to hear NI slang uses 🙂

  • Hugh Davison

    Was so, in my day. ‘Shut your gob’, ‘shut your beak (pronounced bake)’ meant the same thing. The pronunciation may have something to do with the habit in Hiberno-English of pronouncing the ‘ee’ sound as ‘ay’. See ‘tea’ for example.
    Anyway, that’s enough pedantry for one day 🙂

  • John Collins

    It is truly shocking that in a country with over 400 million people all the two main parties therein can put forward for election for the presidency are two candidates of such poor calibre. Having said that, Trump is just a disaster too far. And those ‘locker room’ remarks were made by a sixty year old man with grown up daughters of his own, and not by some giddy adolescent boy, desperate to impress his young mates.

  • John Collins

    So Bush and Blair’s interventions in the Middle East has nothing with what is going on in the Middle East now.

  • John Collins

    Well they sure do ‘see positive things in the issues Trump rises’. My cousin and I, both in our mid to late sixties, were attending a game in Croke Park during August and in a hotel prior to the game we encountered a lady in her seventies, who was an Irish native, but an American citizen. She has lived in the USA for 50 years and is a qualified nurse. We were absolutely amazed at her absolutely unquestioning support for Trump. Among other almost quaint ideas, she seemed to think he would have no problem getting the Mexicans to build this famous wall. When we asked how she thought he would actually succeed in getting the money off them, she seemed to think that he could close on Mexican money in US banks. It was absolutely insane stuff, but this seemingly intelligent articulate woman seemed to give credence to this nonsense.
    Her admiration for Trump seemed to be only matched by her withering contempt for Hilary Clinton. When she got as far as Bill’s philandering I had enough and passed an observation I now regret. I reminded her that seeing as Trump has had four wives he was hardly a great advertisement for marital fidelity himself.
    Having listened to her, and a few other Americans in recent weeks, who also support Trump, I was struck by the fact that they seem to really believe he can do great things for America. Absurd, but there you go.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I think your point is along the lines of – Bush and Blair started it. That is of course true, but at the end of Bush’s term al Q was pretty much beat, but not gone. Obama decided not to finish the job, but pulled out the troops. Result – al Q regrow. Then he ousted Col G in Libya. Result -chaos and more al Q / ISIS growth. HIllary also invloved in creating that mess. Now we have ISIS world wide.