The Morning After the Debate: They Won Some, They Lost Some

Trump/Clinton debate photo courtesy of ABC News

Trump/Clinton debate photo courtesy of ABC News

In a comment below his latest opinion piece, my colleague R.V. Sheide declared last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a tie.

The focus groups and early polls show Clinton to be the clear winner, whereas most of those “What do you think?” online polls on various media outlets show Trump the clear winner.  As for the pundits?  As always, tune into the media provider that most closely reflects your political worldview and get the opinion that pleases you.

Regardless, the polls and positions about who won the debate are almost meaningless.  Hillary's supporters will find reasons to believe she won, and Donald's supporters will find reasons to believe he won.  The winner, if there was one, will be the one who coaxed undecided voters into their tent.  My guess is that this is more crucial to Hillary, because there are a lot of Donald supporters who are saying "undecided" when asked, owing to the negative social stigma attached to publicly supporting Donald—a reverse Bradley effect.

Donald's performance last night—the inability to string together sentences that flowed from one thought to the next, the failure to finish most sentences, the rambling, the constant interruptions, the incomprehensible word salads, the multiple disconnects from reality, the tic-like gesticulating—reminded me of every conversation I ever had with my tweaker neighbor years ago.

Verbatim example:  “Well, I have much better judgment than she does. There’s no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?… I have a much better — she spent — let me tell you — she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising — you know, they get Madison Avenue into a room, they put names — oh, temperament, let’s go after — I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not have a… Wait. The AFL-CIO the other day, behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.”

Before we all became enlightened, Donald's emotionality, subjectivity, and non-aptitude for linear thought would have been considered dripping-with-estrogen feminine. Too bad we're beyond that. I'd have loved to hear Hillary say, "Donald, do you have the vapors, dear? You seem flushed, aflutter, and a little confused. Would you like to lie down with a cold washcloth on your forehead?"

As for Hillary, she was Hillary.  At her best, she let Donald take enough rope to hang himself, and at a few points put him on his heels with some stiff jabs and a couple of solid uppercuts (e.g., the "What's he hiding?" bit regarding his tax returns—laundry-listing the things that he actually could be hiding—and the pandering-to-racists accusation about being a long-term birther).  She appeared far better equipped than Donald to handle a bully like Putin.  At worst, as R.V. correctly observed, she went into robot-Hillary mode a few times and stiffly recited canned material.

Hillary's not much for vision, but what vision she has is plain-spoken and clear-eyed, if largely borrowed from hubby Bill:  It's the middle class, stupid.  To their credit, both candidates were very clear on their respective economic visions.  For Hillary, the middle class is America's economic engine, and that's what needs nurturing.  For Donald, it's rich guys like him—job creators—who need the nurturing.

Hillary also laid out the high points of a plan pursuant to her economic vision, which is in part lifted from Crazy Uncle Bernie:  Tax increases for the rich. Tax incentives for work, not for financial transactions. Invest in 21st-century technology jobs. Subsidize higher education tuition. Fix trade, don't shun it.  No more running up the nation's credit cards so that the 1% doesn't have to pay taxes. Trickle down on me once, shame on you. Trickle down on me twice…

Steven Towers
Steve Towers is co-owner of a local environmental consultancy. After obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Davis and dabbling as a UCD lecturer, he took a salary job with a Sacramento environmental firm. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 50 one afternoon, he reckoned that he was receiving 80 hours of paid vacation per year and spending 520 hours per year commuting to and from work. He and his wife Elise sold their house and moved to Redding three months later, and have been here for more than 20 years. His hobbies include travel, racquet sports, taking the dogs on hikes, and stirring pots. He can be reached at
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51 Responses

  1. JeffG says:

    The only winner of last night’s debate was the establishment duopoly.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I understand the appeal of the “they’re all the same” perspective.  Hillary, without doubt, is the status quo candidate.  Donald probably is too, unless you’re delusional enough to think that he’s going to betray his own class. (That would require you to believe that he’s going to betray himself, which is unthinkable.)

      Still, one of them is going to win and become President.  There are many substantive differences between the two.  The world would likely be a very different place today if the malaise of “Clinton fatigue” hadn’t cost Al Gore the 2000 election and put Bush II in office.

      • JeffG says:

        Let’s go Godwin: A vote for Mussolini is not a vote against Hitler

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          You’ve messed with the probability function of Godwin’s Law by invoking Hitler a little early, but okay.

          Mussolini gets credit for making the trains run on time, but so did Hitler.  In Hitler’s case, though, the trains were heading for death camps.

          The lesser of two evils is a real thing.

  2. Darcie says:

    The biggest loser or curse is the American public.   Don’t let anyone tell you a third candidate has never won watch this humorous video

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      Non-sense! Voting third party, writing in Bernie or not voting at all for president will inevitably help tip the scale in Trump’s direction. Many knowingly support this con-man one way or another whether they admit it or not.

  3. R.V. Scheide says:

    A bully like Putin? How descriptive!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’m not sure what that brief comment is meant to convey, but if it’s more description you want:  I think Putin is the megalomaniacal dictator of an oligarchy who enjoys crushing dissidence with an iron fist.  Russia ranks 148 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders 2016 World Press Freedom Index.  From their website:

      “What with draconian laws and website blocking, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012. Leading independent news outlets have either been brought under control or throttled out of existence. While TV channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse or just try to maintain quality journalism. The leading human rights NGOs have been declared ‘foreign agents.'”

      The USA ranks 41st on the PFI.  New Zealand, which is looking more and more like heaven, ranks 4th.

      • JeffG says:

        It is no wonder the US ranks so low — California just passed a law censoring IMDB!!

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          I had to Google that, because no way.  But yeah, we made it a law that actors can remove their ages from IMDB.  Good luck defending that in federal court, Ms. Attorney General.

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            So the Assembly spends time on reviewing and passing such idiocy as AB1687 while Rome burns.  And these people continue to be re-elected.

          • JeffG says:

            Think that is silly?  In California it is a felony to take a selfie with your completed ballot.

      • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

        That’s right, Putin kicked the Western NGOs out of Russia, because they were actively trying to destabilize the country. No other country in the world has free speech as strong as the US, including the EU, so maybe Reporters Without Borders should start in France, where you can be jailed for all kinds of speech that’s legal here. The truth is, those NGOs cared jackshit about the Russian people or nation and operated exclusively to separate the Russians from their resources. The Clintons were deeply involved with the ransacking of Russia in the 1990s, Bill even pardoned Marc Rich, one of the main looters. The reason I posted such a short answer is with language like “a bully like Putin,” it’s clear you haven’t really looked into this subject that much. There’s much, much more. Clinton’s Russian policy is one of the primary reason to vote against her.


        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Reporters Without Borders, based in France, ranks France 45th on it’s RFI—hardly a glowing endorsement, and lower (worse) than the USA.

          I think I understand, more or less, your animosity toward globalization and your desire to protect our country’s national sovereignty. And I credit you (and Voltaire Network) for being consistent and fair—arguing that the right to national sovereignty extends to all nations, not just the nations that we like.

          What I don’t understand at all is your clear admiration of rabid authoritarianism. Authoritarianism, as a mode of leadership and governance, freaks the royal s*** out of me. Putin is a thug. Trump is a wanna-be thug. Hell, I’m not even comfortable with Hillary-level authoritarianism—I don’t like that she thinks we’re the World Police.

          I don’t like the Patriot Act. I don’t like the Freedom Act. I don’t like that we have a for-profit criminal justice/prison system built on a foundation of Biblical retribution. I don’t like that our cops are trained to shoot first and sort it out later. I feel bad for them that this is how they’re trained—if anyone is going to be thrown under the bus for a “bad shooting,” guess who that’ll be?  The cop who was trained to shoot first, that’s who.

          The authoritarian ethos is a burning bag of human feces on America’s front porch.

          • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

            You’re quite the psychiatrist. First, you brand Putin, Trump, whoever doesn’t agree with your idea of what a leader should do, a thug. Then you brand anyone else who suggests the thug might have a clue or one or two, a thug-lover. You’ve fallen for the propaganda that we’re fighting for women’s rights or gay rights or whatever the flavor of the week is. That’s the wedge the US uses on its own public to justify it actions everywhere it goes. It’s a sham. It’s all about power and manipulation, and the neoliberalcons who’ve been salivating over Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, from Clinton to Bush, have never ceased in their desires to loot eastern Europe and Russia. Obama’s few saving graces include the fact that he tried to go against the neoliberalcon grain, in Syria and Ukraine. They hate him for it.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            A psychiatrist, R.V.?  In the words of Lucy Van Pelt: “I know when I’ve been insulted! I know when I’ve been insulted!”

            I don’t brand whomever I don’t agree with a thug. I can’t abide the things that Reagan did, but I never thought either was a thug. The people who pulled the strings in the Bush II administration were thugs. I don’t agree with Clinton on most things, but I don’t think she’s purely a thug—at worst, I think she’s a semi-thug when it comes to foreign policy. My son-in-law and I are on different planets when it comes to political correctness, but I don’t think he’s a thug (or vice-versa). Putin is a thug. My wife and I are close friends of a Russian family in Davis who still have family in Moscow, and I have another Davis friend who has done research yearly in Siberia for the last two decades. I have a pretty clear sense through them of the reach of Putin’s thuggery. Trump seems to admire Putin and his thuggish behavior. And R.V., I never called you a thug-lover—but you seem to admire Putin and Trump.

            Russia has legitimate beefs with the West. That’s no excuse for Putin being a thug with his own people and his neighbors. I always wanted Russia to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union as a liberal social democracy, and an ally. Instead, Russia turned to authoritarianism, ultra-nationalism, and Putin the thug.

            An authoritarian thug is an authoritarian thug. I can’t abide them.

        • Breakfast Guy says:

          Wowwie R.V.!  You must be a really smart guy so perhaps you can help explain: If Hillary is as corrupt as radicals on the right say she is, then a good size segment of them must be pretty dumb and wasting a lot of time & tax payer’s resources, you think? Because for decades, they have investigated every single aspect of her political life with unlimited funds and the full power of congress behind them yet have found her innocent of every single charge, every single time. (currently it’s about her email) Have a nonpartisan reasonable explanation, R.V. ?


          • cheyenne says:

            It is hard to be non-partisan in this toxic political climate.  While Putin may be called a thug he is not as bad as some of the other thugs in Russian history and I would say he pales in comparison to real modern day thugs, Assad and Saddam and many African and South American dictators.

            The Clintons have Teflon coating.  The lies, misspoken taken out of context, have mounted up; Sex is not sex, I ran through the airport in Bosnia avoiding sniper fire, there is a vast right wing conspiracy against my husband, and the big one “We are broke”.

            Of course Bush had WMDs, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Nixon had Watergate.  And as I read again in the paper about ACA costs rising and more insurance companies leaving the ACA I think that will be Obama’s major failure.

            But that is just the opinion of an old uneducated white man living in a deep red state.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Cheyenne — No doubt Putin isn’t Stalin. But since I’m a psychiatrist now, it’s my professional opinion that if we plumbed the depths of Putin’s psyche, we’d find he’s more of a Stalin admirer than a Gorbachev admirer (who envisioned a Scandinavian-style social democracy rising from the ashes of the Soviet Union). Putin isn’t even anywhere near evil enough to be called “Stalin Light.” Still, he’s an authoritarian thug who tolerates close to zero dissent by Russia’s press, and runs the country solely for the benefit of Russia’s oligarchs.

            I wouldn’t characterize the Clintons as teflon-coated. What’s remarkable about them is that they’re so resilient in the face of all of the rotten cabbages thrown at them, much of which they invite. Bill Clinton is the second president in history to be impeached—but who really holds it against him in retrospect, other than the most fervent of Clinton-haters? Both 41 and 43 will probably vote for Hillary. Bill may be living in the White House again come early next year. It’s remarkable how much grief they take, earned and unearned, and still prevail.*

            It’s also one of the reasons I can’t warm up to the thought of Hillary in the White House—eight more years of unrelenting white-hot, red-faced, s***-throwing animosity. Ugh.

            *One lesson the far right has never learned: If you have bona fide grievances hidden in huge mountains of obvious bulls*** you risk most somewhat reasonable people concluding, “Everything you say is bulls***.” The little boy who cried wolf too often was ignored when the wolf actually appeared.

  4. Breakfast Guy says:

    Great review, Steve.

    It’s interesting how people’s true stripes eventually emerge.

  5. Rod says:

    The winner is the candidate who coaxed the most fence sitters to come on over?  Baloney.

    The winners are us.  Never before have Americans viewed a better example of free people attempting to understand what is best.  How to judge that is without a guide book or map.  Our country exploded not heads but thoughts of right/wrong.  Who deserves my precious vote?

    I saw 2 frantic people on stage who were blown-away by the American potential.

    Is it possible to get one’s head around the ramifications of the presidency. Is there a comparison anywhere at any time as to the gravity of the voters’ upcoming decision? NO. We’re breaking new ground.

    Sure we’re offering the same job as all the previous American Presidents held.  It’s always been a tremendous weight to carry.  Our times have changed, big-time!

    I’ll trade my tax returns for your 33,000 emails.  Stop and let that engage your sense of right/wrong.

    My vote deserves the best of the best ever,  I’m being offered 2 jokers who don’t take me seriously.  OFF with their heads—both of ’em.



  6. Grammy says:

    Thought that Ms. Clinton held her own and didn’t loose her cool.  Can not be said of “The Donald”.  He was rude and interrupted many many times and tried to control the debate 70% or more.

    Did admire that she held her tongue and let Trump hang himself.  When she mentioned his dis-respect and rudeness of women, he hung himself.  How can any woman want this pig in office?

    Did wish that they had gone more into his financial bankruptcies on what projects and how did it play out?  Did the little people loose out? Nail him down on what he would do to settle the national debt  He has in the past said that he would get it settled pennies on the dollar.  But Social Security is the holder of the largest percentage of that debt.

    Truly wondered how someone could have that many facial expressions.  Clinton surprised me that she came across demure and more of a class act than in the past.  Worries me though that she is in the pocket of Wall Street and big business.

    How in the World did we end up with these two with 275 million people in the United States?  This is as good as it gets?  That is just sad!

  7. cheyenne says:

    While the voters are fixated on Clinton/Trump the real battleground, no matter which one wins the presidency, is the members of Congress up for election.  The makeup of the House and Senate will determine what actually happens.  I am more interested in who will be Wyoming’s new Representative then which one of these pretenders wins.  Doesn’t California have Congress candidates up for election?

  8. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Thanks for an excellent article Steven Towers.  The rambling statement of Donald Trump you quoted would have doomed a high school debater.  I can be as rambling in casual conversation, but I would never bring that style to a formal debate.   Again, thank you for your article.  I love reading what you have to say.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      It was amusing that Trump’s frenetic style made his lack of preparation even more evident as the night wore on—the rambling got progressively worse after the first 30 minutes (during which he held his own).  In the end, when trying to defend himself against the charge that he had said that Clinton “didn’t look presidential,” he tried to argue that he had meant that Clinton lacked stamina.  The irony was lost on him.  He had run out of gas an hour earlier.

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Yesterday, driving home from my tennis match, I was entertained for a spell by yell-radio wacko Michael Savage.  He had his callers convinced that many of Lester Holt’s questions (whom he referred to as “Lester Dolt”) and all of Hillary Clinton’s responses were written by mind-control experts at the CIA. The CIA had placed “triggers” throughout the dialogue, designed to turn Trump into a confused, defensive, unhinged a**-clown. It was a strategy straight out off “The Manchurian Candidate,” according to Savage. Savage explained that he’s the only guy on the far right who picked up on this because (1) he’s the far right’s sole expert in the field of mind control, and (2) he’s the only guy on the far right who’s not in denial about how badly Trump got his clock cleaned.

    And his callers were uniformly like, “Wow. Yeah. I hadn’t thought of that, but now that you mention it, it totally explains why Donald seemed a little bit like a rambling, witless moron.”

    And Savage is like, “And even though the CIA was baiting him with triggers, it was still not a blowout.  Do you realize what this means, people? Even with the CIA’s mind-control experts pitted against him, Donald Trump was able to hold on for 30 minutes before wilting. Believe me, that’s strength.”


    • Rod says:

      Can the media be any more creative?

      Can the media direct voters?

      Can the clamoring flock of resident seagulls (reporters) provide dialog that’s any better refined than a chorus of schreeching and squawking?

      Election by media,  there’s a real American approach. It seems to fail every presidential election.  By now, I’m sure the betting oddsmakers have learned to leverage in opposition to the media bias.

      On the other hand, Granny Over The Hill,  held up pretty good for a one round fight.  The big guy has 2 more rounds.  He’ll come back with a plan to be polite or not.  It ain’t gonna be pretty with sugar and spice.


      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        The MSM are for-profit enterprises—they peddle what they know will sell. The Big Guy owes his nomination to them. They love the spectacle—the bombastic New Yawk arrogance, the word “billionaire,” the reality TV angle, the serial trophy wives, the endless stream of insults and non sequiturs, the orange skin and hair. They’re probably already looking forward to the next election, laying the groundwork for Kanye West (D) vs. Caitlyn Jenner (R).

        • Rod says:

          Euuuuw, you’re right, I hadn’t considered the next generation of presidential combatants.  On-stage nude mud wrestling might get higher ratings, by then.


    • Breakfast Guy says:

      Howard Dean stands by Cocaine tweet


    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      There’s no better way to make your head explode than by listening to Michael Savage. This son of Russian Jewish immigrants he is almost violently anti-immigration (legal and illegal). He’s smart, possessed with a PhD in nutrition science and a head full of European history, but somewhere in between his brain and mouth there’s a screw loose. Highly entertaining. BTW, Monday, in the country with the freest speech in the world. Savage’s New York City affiliate pulled his show off the air mid-broadcast because he was talking about Hillary’s health.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        You’re exactly right about his intelligence—he’s as sharp as a Hattori Hanzo samurai sword.  I often get the impression that he’s all show—that he’s acutely aware of the benefit of pushing each discussion into the absurdity zone, because his core listeners are a pack of easily deluded nipple-heads.  I don’t believe he’s another Ann Coulter, who seems to possess a truly hateful soul and likely remains a succubus when the microphones and cameras are turned off. I think he’s a rank opportunist, secretly scornful of his audience’s gullibility (unlike Rush, who openly mocks his audience’s desire and need to be told what to think).

        Alternatively, as you suggested, Savage has a screw loose.

        • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

          There are some extremely strange stories about his early life when he hung out with the beats, like Ginsberg. He’s still very pro gay. He has some sort of major falling out with the liberal cause in the 70s and has never been the same. I like listening to him while working on motorcycles in the garage.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            It would be a treat to talk with Savage over a few beers and get a sense of how real the radio persona is.  Savage’s son—the one who owns Rockstar energy drinks—tried to contribute $25k to Gavin Newsom when Newsom ran for governor.  That’s a head-scratcher.

            Savage probably would have made a hell of a gonzo journalist, sensu Hunter S. Thompson.  They have quite a bit of common when it comes to temperament, and even outlook.

  10. cheyenne says:

    Talk radio.  When I worked at Shasta I worked with a guy who lived in Round Mountain and on the drive to work, a good hour or more, he would listen to talk radio.  By the time he got to work Black Ops helicopters were ready to swoop down and don’t dare go outside because the Chem Trails were spraying mind control drugs.  The only thing talk radio is good for is spreading misinformation unless it is a mechanic or gardener giving tips.

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      I partially agree. Right wing talk radio is usually pretty dreadful. Spreading lots of fear (and hate) seem to be their main objective. However, not all talk radio is bad. Try Thom Hartmann’s show. Hope you can pull it in where you are. We get it on KKRN from Round Mt.

  11. Frank Treadway says:

    The Trump Train has been the catalyst for all the fear and hate being spewed over the last 6 months, locally and nationally. He’s given hatred the OK to be direct instead of listening to the Give Peace A Chance folks. Gonna take years to bring back a non-discrimination era between him and the GOP Platform.  Now, I say it again, get used to: Madame President.

  12. Breakfast Guy says:

    So, the debate was a draw, R.V.? Well, quite frankly, your assessment is weird. It was not even close to a draw. Even most right wing pundits admitted immediately after the debate that Trump fell badly. Perhaps you should have left your TV on a couple extra minutes. Maybe Foxnews or The Onion could use such an inaccurate review somehow. I don’t know. You might check with them.

    In addition, NBC Fact Check shows Trump was wrong on nearly everything he spoke of.

  13. cheyenne says:

    RV, your assessment that the debate was a draw was your opinion and I agree.  I saw nothing that would make me vote for Clinton.  And I don’t need to google to try and change somebody else’s opinion.  I guess that makes me an old white racist living in deep red country.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Cheyenne — It’s okay to not vote for Clinton and still not vote for Trump. You live in Wyoming, just as I live in California.  Both states are a lock—each of us can vote for 3rd-party candidates or write in Augie Donatelli or Kinky Friedman or Gorgeous George if we want.  I still have not committed to Clinton*.  If I lived in Colorado (my home state), I’d for sure pinch my nose vote for Clinton because the race is close there, and Trump is wholly unfit to be President.  But I don’t live in Colorado.

      *I swore that in my lifetime, I’ve had an @$$-full of familial political dynasties, and I won’t be a party to supporting the Clinton dynasty.  But I took that pledge before the GOP nominated a flaming buffoon.

      • cheyenne says:

        What I am finding is that many, including conservatives, would just as soon have Obama for a third term as any of these two and maybe in four years both parties could come up with better candidates.  I will write in my presidential vote because as you state, Wyoming and Colorado are a lock.  And we have our own battle over a “Dynasty candidate”, Liz Cheney.  Cheney is not well liked by many in Wyoming and its possible Wyoming’s lone Representative could be a Democrat.

  14. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Fascinating poll results from Fox News today, including this:

    Who Won the First Debate?

    Clinton:     61%

    Trump:      21%

    Tie:             12%

    Lots of interesting poll results on such issues as honest, temperament, etc.

  15. Richard Christoph says:



    Many thanks for provided this forum for Steve’s superb writing and for the lively  and (at times) informative comments which followed.

    Though opposed to most of what is said by hosts and callers, I do attempt to listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingraham, Levin, and Savage when performing mundane tasks, for as long as it is possible to tolerate. BTW, Michael Savage’s birth name is Michael Alan Wiener, which he says he changed for obvious reasons. Clearly the most intelligent and entertaining of the right-wing radio pundits, but often Waaaaaayyyy  out there.

    I was pleased to see my favorite political cartoon in recent weeks finally published on the editorial page of yesterday’s R-S.  For those without access, I’ll describe:

    Woman at ice cream counter, representing the “undecided voter.”  To the young man behind the counter she says,

    “Mmmm…  I’m torn between the vanilla cone and the jack-o-lantern filled with raw sewage.”

    Pretty much sums up our choice this year.






  16. Virginia says:

    The vitriolic is so bad this year (the worse I’ve seen), it is amazing that anyone knows who to vote in as president.  But when one has to choose between a habitual liar and an egotist, I’ll go for the egotist.  At least, he created jobs, rather than vote for one who only spends my money!

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