Last night, a friend sent me a stream of frustrated emails while watching the "Commander-in-Chief Forum:, upset how Donald Trump could continually get away with saying things that simply weren't true or were meaningless, without ever getting challenged. Things like how he was against the Iraq War, when there is very real audio of his telling Howard Stern he was for it in 2002 -- rather than referencing a magazine article from two years later after the war had been going on for over a year. Or correcting a veteran, who knew much better, to the extent of shaking her head in disagreement, about how many veteran suicides there are a year. Or extolling his abilities to send men and women into war because he has "good judgement" -- despite having half a dozen bankruptcies, and despite using junk bonds to fund the Taj Mahal casino against all advice, only to see it collapse.
Or, as I added, him suggesting we should expect rape in the military when you put men and women together. One can only hope that this isn't another case of Trump projecting, especially given the lawsuit against.
As I explained to him, this wasn't a venue set up for challenging the candidates on what they were saying. The veterans were there to ask questions and hear the answers. I do think Matt Lauer was more disappointing than I expected and could have done a significantly-better job challenging some assertions or at least following-up since this wasn't a debate at all and he wasn't a moderator here, but rather an interviewer, but clearly that's not how he saw his job. Though he seemed fine repeatedly grilling Secretary Clinton about emails which , while it does relate in some distant ways to being command-in-chief, has a nebulous connection to veteran affairs. That said, I think she handled very well his repeated questions about it, as well as the follow-up question from the angry veteran in the audience. Basically, "Confidential documents say 'TOP SECRET' across the top, and none of the documents on my private server did." That and "The government server was hacked, and there is no evidence that mine was."
But I also told my friend that the situation will be very different when they do have debates. Because Hillary Clinton will be right there, face-to-face, to directly challenge him on his misstatements, empty answers, and lies. (Former NATO Commander was particularly pointed afterwards explaining extensively in detail how Trump's suggestion that we should have just left some men behind in Iraq to "get the oil," was clueless and showed no understand of the realities. Like, for instance, not only that it was unworkable, but that it would have been a war crime. No doubt Secretary Clinton will be in that same position.) I am utterly certain she will challenge Trump, and she's shown that she and her term are all preparing for all his lies and evasions.
But most of all, as I've written here and elsewhere numerous time for months, I am 100% sure that Secretary Clinton will make her detailed, specific corrections as deeply personal as possible, continually and relentlessly correcting the record and saying, “Mr. Trump is wrong” over and over. And over. And over. Pounding that phrase in, "Mr. Trump is wrong," because it’s abundantly clear to anyone even paying half-attention that Donald Trump can’t take being criticized. It's not just that it temperamentally unequipped to take personal criticism, but it's unlikely that he has had to much ever during his business career. And the more she does personally criticizes him – from a woman no less – the Clinton campaign's hope, I’m certain, will be that she can get his head to explode.
This is a very good, thoughtful article by Howard Fineman and Lauren Weber on "How to Beat Donald Trump in a Debate." And of note is their point #3 -- "Neddle Him Into a Freakout." As I was saying...
You can read the article here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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