Our subtitle today is not original, so we've got to start by giving credit where credit is due. David French, a writer for the ultraconservative National Review (and a man once so horrified by Donald Trump's candidacy that he considered running himself), had the funniest metaphor for Trump's performance in Monday's first presidential debate:
Archive of Articles for September, 2016
With only about four months left to go in his second term in office, President Barack Obama just had his first veto overturned by Congress. Considering Obama's rather aloof attitude towards Congress (including even members of his own party), what is extraordinary isn't so much that Obama just got overturned -- it's that it hasn't happened before now. The contentiousness between the White House and the Capitol has been pretty fierce during Obama's term, but up until this week none of his vetoes has been overturned.
There has been relatively little speculation this election year about what could possibly be the "October surprise." In a normal presidential election year, this is a fun subject to speculate about when the actual news from the campaign trail gets dull and repetitive. This year, of course, that hasn't exactly happened -- the political news has been anything but dull and repetitive, in fact. Because of this, most political reporters haven't even bothered to wonder if an October surprise will happen, much less what it might consist of. The few articles I've seen have suggested two possibilities: Wikileaks releasing more of Hillary Clinton's emails, and Vladimir Putin launching some military adventurism somewhere in the world. Both, it's interesting to note, would aid Donald Trump's candidacy. Perhaps one or the other of these will happen, but I think there's a different October surprise out there, and one which (depending on the outcome) might help Clinton, not Trump.
As startling as it is to those of us who obsess over politics, last night's presidential debate was actually the first time millions of Americans paid any attention whatsoever to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. For millions, the first debate is the first time they tune in at all, both literally and figuratively. Even more astonishing, most of them haven't made up their minds on which candidate to support, even this late in the race.
Well, the first presidential debate is a done deal, and as always I like to quickly type out my own personal reactions before reading everyone else's, to give you an opinion uninfluenced by the herd mentality of the rest of the media.
In the world of wonkcraft, though, political observers everywhere are caught in a waiting game, ticking off the moments until the first presidential debate (which happens this Monday night -- which you probably already knew, if you're reading this sort of article). What will happen? Will Donald Trump melt down? Will he strain his "presidential" muscle? Will he storm off the stage in a tantrum, halfway through? Will Hillary Clinton make it through the evening without stumbling (either metaphorically or physically, one might add)? Will Lester Holt redeem NBC News after the fiasco named Matt Lauer? Will Trump reference body parts (his own, his opponent's, or perhaps even the moderator's)? It's certainly happened before.
Are the presidential debates a valuable tool for voters to become informed about the candidates, or have they morphed into something which has no real bearing on how anyone would perform the job of president? That was the provocative subject of a Washington Post opinion piece today, and the author mostly came down on the side of the debates having outlived their usefulness.
As I write that headline, I have to wonder why we all haven't been using the neologistic verb "Donald ducking" by this point in the presidential race. After all, a large part of Donald Trump's campaign has been built on the foundation of him ducking questions and issues that he doesn't want to talk about. He's a master at the art, in fact. Consider just the birther issue -- up until last Friday, Trump's been successfully ducking the issue for the entire campaign. He never answered the basic question of Barack Obama's birthplace, saying quite bluntly that he just didn't want to talk about it. He got away with not talking about it for almost a year and a half. Donald ducked, and it worked.
Lester Holt has his work cut out for him, that's for sure. Holt, news anchor for NBC, will be the moderator for the first presidential debate. It will quite likely be the most-watched television debate in American history. It will also probably generate a few moments that historians will later endlessly replay when trying to explain the 2016 election. In other words, there will be soundbites.
Hillary Clinton's lead in the race for Electoral College votes is shrinking. In fact, it has been shrinking for a solid month now. Two weeks ago (the last time I wrote one of these columns), this hadn't really benefited Donald Trump much. Now, however, Trump seems to be surging in the polls [...]