While Hillary Clinton reassured our allies that “words matter” and the United States of America will honor its commitments, she just grinned broadly when Donald Trump said he had the more even temperament. She also nailed him on his secret tax returns, his sexist insults, his willingness to start a war with Iran over low-level swabby taunts and his notion that countries should pay us “protection,” like the mob collects from a corner grocery store. Also: his eagerness to use nukes and goading China to invade North Korea.
Overall, The Donald was, as Republican operative Steve Schmidt said on MSNBC, “off the rails,” spewing “incoherent babble.” Hillary, by contrast, was poised, strong and precise. With stamina.
While he smirked, threw hissy fits and ceaselessly interrupted her and NBC moderator Lester Holt, she stood by patiently like she was waiting for the crazy, drunken uncle to pass the gravy at Thanksgiving.
“Donald I know you live in your own reality but that is not the facts,” she said at one point.
For the first few minutes – especially on trade – Despicable Donald actually sounded coherent. But by the time Holt got to taxes, income equality, birtherism and race (bring back stop-and-frisk!), not only were he and Clinton 180 degrees apart, but Trump doubled down on positions that will likely scare the bejesus out of suburban women, millennials and even college-educated men.
Throughout, he was still in Republican primary mode and, regardless of his many lies and wildly inaccurate statements, his lousy performance won’t do much to dislodge his post-factual political base.
Take your pick from a host of Red Bull-fueled news organizations, but NPR offered a one-stop transcript fact-checked in real time, while the meatiest work on substantive policy issues, not surprisingly, was turned in by the 72,000 members of the NYT’s team, which you can find here.
There were 16,303 words spoken in the debate (you could look it up). Clinton spoke the most important two of them: “Words matter.”
We couldn’t agree more. As president, and even as a candidate, every statement should be thoughtful, well-considered and calibrated, for its effect on our allies and enemies, not to mention the stock market. So here are some extended excerpts of what we saw as the most important nine takeaways of the debate:
Temper, temper. The most hilarious exchange of the night came when NBC moderator Lester Holt asked who has the temperament to be president (38 percent in a recent Fox News poll say he does, compared to 59 percent for Clinton). Trump, who looked, um, out of sorts all night long, had this to say:
DT: 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? You know I have a much better — she spent — let me tell you — she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising — you know they get Madison Avenue into a room and they put temperament, let’s go after temperament — I think my strongest asset may be by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament…
HC: (big smile). Okay.
The taxman doesn’t cometh. Hillary destroyed The Donald on his refusal to release his tax returns, shrugging off his weak attempt to change the subject to her email problems; she merely repeated her apology for using a private email server, then counter punched his lame pivot as a “bait and switch.” The exchange is worth an extended read:
HC: So you gotta ask yourself — why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First maybe he is not as rich as he says he has. Second maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third we don’t know all of his business dealings but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about six hundred and fifty million dollars to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he does not want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he has paid nothing in federal taxes because the only years that anybody has ever seen for a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license. And they showed he did not pay any federal income tax.
DT: That makes me smart.
HC: If you have paid zero, that means zero for troops, here for vets, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he is not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are because it must be something really important even terrible that he is trying to hide. In the financial disclosure statements they don’t give you tax rate. They don’t give you all the details the tax returns would. And it just seems to me that this is something that the American people deserve to see. And I have no reason to believe that he has ever going to release his tax returns because there is something he is hiding. And we will guess — we’ll keep guessing at what it might be that he is hiding. But I think the question is were he ever to get near the White House, what would be those conflicts? Who does he owe money to? Well, he owes you the answers to that. And he should provide them…
DT: … As far as my tax returns, you do not learn that much from tax returns. That I can tell you.”
But what about the little guy? Clinton pressed her attack on Trump’s personal finances, noting the number of times he’s stiffed contractor and subs on his construction jobs; she even worked in her late father, noting that one of the guys that didn’t get paid was a drapery contractor, a small businessman, “like my dad.”
HC: And indeed I have met a lot of the people who were stiffed by you and your businesses Donald. I’ve met dishwashers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers like my dad was, who you refused to pay when they finished the work that you asked them to do. We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It’s a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you would not pay what the man needed to be paid when he was charging you.
DT: Maybe you can do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work. Which our country should do too. (Huh?)
HC: Do the thousands of people that you have stiffed over the course of the business not deserve some kind of apology from someone who has taken their labor, taken the goods that they produced, and then refused to pay them? I can only say that I am certainly relieved that my late father never did business with you. He provided a good middle-class life for us but the people he worked for, he expected the bargain to be kept on both sides.
Hide the ball: Moderator Holt did a nice job of not letting Trump lie his way out a question of why he perpetrated for years the rotten alt-right conspiracy about President Obama’s birth certificate, trying to pin the whole thing on leaks from Clinton’s 2008 campaign team. Hillary cut to the bone on this one:
LH: But I just want to get the answer here. The birth certificate was produced in 2011, you continued to tell the story and question the president’s legitimacy in 2012, 13, 14, 15, as recently as January. So the question is, what changed your mind?
DT: Well, nobody was pressing it. Nobody was caring much about it. I figured you’d ask the question tonight, of course. But nobody was caring much about it. But I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate. And I think I did a good job. Secretary Clinton also fought it. I mean, you know, now everybody in the mainstream’s gonna say, that’s not true. Look, it’s true…
LH: I’m sorry. I’m just going to follow up. I will let you respond because there is a lot there. We’re talking about racial healing in the segment. What do you say to Americans of color . . .
DT (interrupting): I say nothing (!!! -ed.) because I was able to get him to produce it. He should have produced a long time before. I say nothing, but let me just tell you. When you talk about healing, I think that I developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community. I think you can see that. And I feel that they really wanted me to come to that conclusion…
(Which must be why he’s polling at 7 percent among blacks. -ed.).
HC: And, clearly, as Donald just admitted, he knew he was gonna stand on this debate stage and Lester Holt was going to be asking us questions. So he tried to put the whole racist birther lie to bed.
But it can’t be dismissed that easily. He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it, but he persisted. He persisted year after year because some of his supporters, people that he was trying to bring into his fold apparently believed it or wanted to believe it.
Cashing in on misery: Citing Trump’s 2007 comments, when the housing bubble began to burst and the epidemic of foreclosures began, sinking the economy with it, Hillary nailed him:
HC: Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money. Well, it did collapse.
DT: That’s called business, by the way.
All righty then.
Preparation H. In one of his many rabbit-hole digressions, Trump meandered on a question about race to poke Clinton for disappearing from the campaign trail for a couple days:
DT: And I will tell you, you look at the inner cities, and I just left Detroit and I just left Philadelphia and I just you know you’ve seen me I been all over the place, you decided to stay home, and that’s OK…
HC: I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president, and I think that’s a good thing.
Paging Arthur Laffer. Both of them played to their respective bases here, with the key difference that Hillary spoke in complete sentences and Donald, well, he gets a Calbuzz Trophy for Participation.
In a very good prepared sound bite, Clinton called Trump’s tax plan, widely estimated to cost about $4.5 trillion dollars, “Trumped up trickle down” and trumpeted her own wonky plan because “I think investing in the middle class works.”
Ignoring the recent history of failure of tax cuts for the 1% to jump-start the economy (hello W.!), Trump insisted, “The wealthy are going to create jobs.”
Trade it in: In a lengthy exchange on trade, one of the few times Trump was on offense, assuming you could follow his post-Palin syntax and grammar – please diagram this sentence! After he kept throwing a fusillade of unconnected taunts, she got the last word with what is sure to be one of the most replayed sound bites of the night:
HC: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts.”
What do women want? Trump went into the debate badly needing to boost his standing among women voters; it’s hard to imagine he did much besides drive his numbers down among females.
Near the end of the debate, Holt brought up Trump’s recent comments that Clinton doesn’t have “the look” and “the stamina” to be president, and challenged him to say it to her face. And once he got slugged:
DT: She doesn’t have the look. She don’t have the stamina. I said she does have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina to be president of this country you need tremendous stamina.
HC: … While one thing Lester is now you try to switch from looks to stamina but this is a man who is called women pigs slobs and dogs, as of one who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men.
And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest he loves beauty contests supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman Miss Piggy. That he called her Miss housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald she has a name.
Mercifully for The Donald, the event ended soon after.
There were injuries, including one big one.
To read all of the brilliant Calbuzz live Twitter feed, in reverse order, click here.