For one person on stage at Hofstra last night, it was a chance to look presidential.
For the other person, it was a chance to be on TV again.
There is no conceivable way any rational, thinking human being could come away from Monday’s presidential debate thinking that Donald Trump has the patience, intelligence, determination, and commitment to be president. And no conceivable way they could think Hillary Clinton doesn’t. If this was a job interview — and for all intents and purposes, it was — Trump probably would have been given a cursory “Thank you” after about fifteen minutes, while Clinton would definitely get called back for a second interview.
Oh, Trump tried to behave himself. Despite dispensing with the traditional “Thank you for having me, privileged to be here” routine that everybody starts off their debate with as a sign of, you know, graciousness, his initial performance was Good Trump. He was controlled and composed, even if he did pretty much just launch into his typical doom and gloom stump speech.
But Trump gonna Trump. Partly because Clinton clearly got under his skin by calling him Donald but mostly because it was obvious he’d done little to no preparation for arguably the most important moment of his campaign, Trump unraveled. He avoided questions, going off on bizarre tangents that seemed to inevitably come back to either how great and smart he is or how badly off the country is. Seemingly unaware of or indifferent to the fact that he was appearing on split-screen, he grimaced, sighed, eye-rolled and grunted as Clinton spoke. When he wasn’t jumping in to interrupt her by disputing actual provable facts, that is; maybe don’t deny you ever said something when it’s still posted on your Twitter feed, Donald.
The overall impression was one of bored annoyance. That he had to be up there. That he had to defend himself to a woman. That he had to answer questions. That he was doubted. That he was in a situation not under his total control that he could easily detach himself from when it became inconvenient. That he was being held accountable.
You know, one of the things we do to a president. And nothing we saw last night even remotely hinted that Trump is ready to be president of a homeowner’s association, let alone the United States. In demeanor, in preparedness, in intellectual curiosity, in eloquence, he was completely and utterly outclassed by Clinton, who often — and wisely — simply responded to Trump’s rantings with a patient smile that seemed to say, “You see?”
Of course, anyone already supporting Trump likely didn’t see things that way. Either they’ve drunk so deeply from the Kool-Aid they’ll say he won, or they’ll blame the media for making him look bad. An avoidance of personal responsibility that makes Trump and his supporters perfect for each other.
As for the undecideds, if that didn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will. If you didn’t watch that debate last night and grasp the possibility that this racist, misogynist boor will ride to the White House on your vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or no one at all, I’m at a loss. Last night we beheld the man who would be president. We saw how he’d be president. And the temporary warm feeling of your protest vote isn’t worth that coming to pass.
And if you’re even still considering Trump, then god, I don’t even want to know you.