Presidential Fireworks: The Verdict

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
Pursuit /
September 27, 2016 /

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For the first couple of moments, Trump’s tone was under control. Clinton’s was shaky, her sentences over-rehearsed. Initially he accomplished a natural, off-the-cuff persona. She was stiff and awkward.

While the consensus is that debates only provide testimony to confirmation bias, I nonetheless started to wonder whether Trump could actually pull off presidential.

As it turns out, it only took minutes for the whole thing to unravel and for Trump to demonstrate that no, he can’t do statesman. In fact, not only can he not do statesman, but he apparently can’t do decent high school debater either.

Mere minutes in, and he was talking over Clinton, talking over the moderator. That initially neutral face of composure all too quickly morphed into a pinched mash-up of irritation and belligerence. The idea of being forced to stand silently and listen seemed preposterous; the concept of “debate” completely foreign to him.

Through all his very audible sniffling-into-the-mic, Trump came across as shouty, sarcastic, and cantankerous. Rather than modulating the arrogance he’s been widely panned for, instead he doubled-down: something illustrated by repeated mentions to his mammon.

He went so far as to pat himself on the back for not saying “something extremely rough to Hillary”, all the while being unable to resist the siren’s call of fat-shaming ­– apparently the cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee could have been “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” and, hilariously, the tried and true ‘you-love-it-so-much-why-don’t-you-marry-it’ schoolyard zinger of “the Iran deal that you’re so in love with”.

Trump was out of control. Of his mouth and his emotions. And in turn he perfectly validated the sceptism his doubters have about his diplomatic dexterity.

Clinton, on the flipside, was composed. She didn’t bite when he baited; rather, she stood there with a smile that vacillated between mirth and mild mockery, and waited her turn to speak with patience, with decorum.

She played to her strengths. Those first few words were excessively crafted and they were her weakest moments. But the very second she trusted herself enough to respond on the fly, she was calm, unruffled, and provided a persuasive reminder that this is her game, her stomping ground, her presidency.

Tonight’s debate served as proof that while he might have showmanship and celebrity, politics – in the broadest sense of the world – aren’t in the Trump skillset.

© Lauren Rosewarne