There’s one essential challenge facing Republican nominee (!) Donald Trump in Monday night’s First Round debate, and it’s monumental: Stand on the stage at Hofstra University and appear to be a plausible president and commander in chief.
After more than a year of peddling lies, bluster, self-obsession, lies, racism, incitements to violence and lies, while soiling U.S. politics, degrading the nation’s culture and spewing lies, Despicable Donald has 90-minutes in which to sell himself as a leader credible, smart and prudent enough to prevent a mass panic among half the country’s population, who otherwise are likely to flee in short order to Canada, Tuscany and the island of Corfu.
This just in: Trump seeks late-breaking deal on character transplant.
Why would he need one? Because, as it always is, the No. 1 challenge for any candidate in a general election debate is to look and sound like a president.
Fun with numbers. Perhaps it’s merely a Calbuzz failure of benighted imagination, but it’s unfathomable for us to envision Americans electing as president a person they overwhelmingly agree is unfit for the office.
Check out these findings from Sunday’s big Washington Post poll of likely voters, widely ignored amid all the breathless coverage about a horserace dead heat (thereby triggering a nasty outbreak of enuresis among West Coast libs from Cape Flattery to Border Field State Park):
–Nearly six in ten (57-40%) say he’s simply “not qualified to be president.” Six in ten say Clinton is.
–Nearly two-thirds (61-35%) say he lacks the “personality and temperament” to be president. A large majority (56-41%) says she has it.
–A landslide majority (59-38%) say he does not “know enough about the world to serve effectively” as the nation’s chief executive. By 67-29%, likely voters say she does.
And, for good measure, a solid majority (54-38%) says they “trust” her more to handle an international crisis.
And, yes, we’re cherry picking numbers a bit (the belief that Trump would do a substantially better job, by 50-34%, in “handling ethics in government,” for example, sent us promptly to our fainting couches).
In a survey that shows a wash in how the two would handle the economy and terrorism, the electorate’s top two issues, however, the widespread belief that the troll-haired melon head possesses neither the aptitude nor ability to reside in the White House seems determinative to us.
What Hillary must do. As for Clinton, her opening strategy should be Hippocratic: first do no harm.
She probably should spend the first 5-10 minutes or so rope-a-doping, to see if Trump is choosing to play the wild man card; if so, be prepared to deliver one short, sharp and powerful punch to the bully’s face that will reveal him for the overbearing sexist pig he is, to leave him whining, raging and limp. She might make a quick slashing attack, taunting him for not releasing his taxes because they’ll show he’s not really all that rich, for example.
If, on the other hand, he tries to playact as if he’s a normal person, Clinton must be aggressive in making him pay for his repulsive record as an alleged human, and his campaign’s countless vicious, violent and racist statements and actions (it’s a good bet Lester
Dolt Holt won’t do it).
Wake up the kids, it’s time to vote. As a political matter, one of Clinton’s most important missions over the three debates is to win over 18-to-34 year old millennial voters, who right now are tending dangerously towards third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Not only must she highlight the existential dangers of a Trump presidency, she also needs to present a positive rationale for her candidacy that goes beyond I’m-not-Trump and fires up younger voters and other key factions of the Obama coalition now tepid about her campaign.
The fact that a substantial majority of the entire electorate presumes that Clinton is not honest is bad enough. However, that belief is magnified strikingly among the munchkin class: According to the Quinnipiac Poll, the 18-34 cohort judges her dishonest by an extraordinary ratio of 77 percent to 21 percent. (Of course, there’s never been a time since they’ve been alive that the Clintons weren’t under attack from the right and falsely accused of everything from murder to corruption to treason.)
As millennial Daily Beast political reporter James Kirchick recently wrote of his cohorts:
There’s something deeper, and darker, about millennial opposition to Clinton and the attendant blitheness toward the prospect of a Trump presidency. It’s best described as a mix of moral relativism, historical ignorance, and narcissism …
“[The] main reason for millennial apathy toward the possibility of a Trump victory, I suspect, is a lack of historical understanding. Millennials, particularly American ones, are too young to have any memories of the Cold War, never mind World War II, when fascists ruled Europe and millions of people died as a result. Trump’s echoes of fascist movements past has no resonance with us.
Worse, when you combine a lack of historical knowledge — abortion has been fully legal in their lifetime, for example — with a belief that no one will ever take away the rights they’ve enjoyed all their lives (“It can’t happen here”), what you get is a generation that simply has no sense of the vital stakes in this election.
You might think they’re morons. They’re not, necessarily. But they sure are ignorant.
P.S. Best What-Hillary-Must-Do column we’ve seen was penned by former Obama political brain-truster David Axelrod. It’s here.