I attended last night’s debate at Hofstra, so I don’t know how things looked on TV, but viewed in person, let me tell you: it was a total disaster for Donald Trump.
Well, maybe total is too strong a word. After all, the debate did not plumb the full depths of Trump’s racism, divisiveness, and authoritarianism. But it sure did show him to be a thin-skinned bully, narcissist, and sociopath, who can’t abide the slightest criticism, repeatedly talks over others, uses a patter of repetitive BS to dodge questions, and is utterly incapable of distinguishing truth from lies.
Like a spinning top that begins in a tight spiral and then eventually flops all around the table, Trump unraveled as the evening wore on — bringing up Rosie O’Donnell, repeatedly invoking Sean Hannity, bizarrely describing an imaginary 400-pound computer hacker, airing out various personal grievances and discontents, as though the debate were a sort of weird national therapy session. My favorite moment: when Trump proudly boasted that some club of his admitted people of different races, as though compliance with non-discrimination laws deserved a special prize. Or, well, maybe my favorite moment was when Trump claimed to have a great temperament – which, by all evidence, means the impulse control and attention span of a toddler. There were really too many favorite moments to choose.
Bottom line: this was the worst debate performance of the modern era from the worst Presidential candidate of the modern era.
What about Hillary? She was solid. Some great answers, some just OK. But compared to Trump, Hillary might as well have been Abe Lincoln or Daniel Webster — she was unflappable, in command of the issues, and absolutely ready to be President.
This whole awful campaign has had a circus-like quality, and last night was no exception. As if to make the point – step right up! – Don King was in the house, bedecked in a star-spangled jeans jacket with oversized Trump button. Catching a glimpse of him chatting with Sheldon Adelson – surely the oddest of odd couples – was worth the price of admission alone.
I took it all in with a few fellow mayors. We felt privileged to have an up close (or at least row M) view of this little bit of American history, and we had some good laughs together at the expense of the whole Trump carnival.
And yet every time I really reflect on all this, the laughter dies away pretty quickly and is replaced by sorrow and fear.
This is the greatest nation in the history of the world. The Presidency is an office of unique importance to all of humankind. How is this election even close?