The US presidential debate last night, the first in a series leading to the November Presidential election, was an ugly affair. Ugly because it revealed the base flaws of both candidates. Ugly because it revealed the deep, stark divisions within American society that have dogged it for decades now. However, it was interesting in some senses as well.
Much has been made of Hillary Clinton's health as of late. Numerous on line videos show her in a near trance-like state. Last night was not much different. While she spoke Clinton seemed on point, but it was the points in time she didn't speak that were quite frankly unsettling. She gazed off into what appeared to be her "happy place". A bizarre, vacant looking smile and stare came over her. It was almost as if she was in a drug induced state of bliss. Her performance, when not occupied with actually speaking, gave the impression that whatever medical condition she suffers from is clearly still very present.
Trump, however, also lived up to to the billing of arrogance and meanness that the establishment has been painting him with. While he cruised through the first third of the debate, scoring body blow after body blow on Clinton, the latter half was dominated by his ego peeking its head out. There were moments when I had flash backs of the contestants on his show the Apprentice. Often they would attempt to sell their performances, or lack of performances in a similar fashion as Trump attempted to thwart relatively minor blows from Clinton. Some critics of the debate suggested he "couldn't help himself", and in many ways that is how it came across. That being said, Trump wasn't going to win any favours from the American press - as he noted during the debate. The problem with that is he carried the point too far, and dwelled on it too much, which is why he spiralled into a "me" and "I" tirade that made him look somewhat immature.
The personalities aside, which in either case haven't been endearing to the American public, or the world at large, some stronger themes emerged that will shape the race far more than moments of debate. America is a divided society. It has been for decades now, and each US Presidential election has clearly shown it. The last number of Presidents has won by the slimmest of margins against their opponent, yet each winning side hails itself as a fundamental shift. The reality is the American people haven't got the fundamental shift many were/are hoping for. Recall Obama's "Yes We Can" by way of example. He was the big change candidate, and his wars in the Middle East and disconnect with Eurasia show his slogan should have been "No I Won't".
As Trump very successfully pointed out during the debate, Clinton presided over the last 8 years of war in the Middle East that has the nerves of the entire world on edge. What he failed to do was carry the point one crucial step further: he failed to state to Clinton, when she contemptuously bragged about preparing for the job of President, that he didn't realize that part of the preparation to be US President was turning the Middle east into a disaster for the US and the World. He could have driven home the point by connecting her claim of readiness to the disasters in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. He failed to drive home the point that setting the world on fire hardly qualifies one for leadership, and that would have come across statesmanlike.
Being statesmanlike, and presidential isn't about having your jaw in the air and peering down on people, or making childish facial expressions at your opponents jibes while on camera in front of a world-wide office. It's about being in control of yourself, your emotions, and the moment. And while Clinton hammered away at Trump's taxes he could well have pointed out the "Clinton Foundations" special status and role in the Clinton's tax status. Or he could have pointed to the massive speaking fees that the Clinton's have charged while taking advantage of her husband's post office connections. Instead, he tried to make himself look good by saying not paying taxes would make him "smart". Again, the ego overruling the brain and mouth.
Trump's major saving grace in the debate, and in the election campaign as well is the painting of Clinton as the establishment candidate. He could have, and should have gone much further with that point. He could have named all the people who conducted the war on Iraq who now endorse Clinton, despite being Republicans. If people are judged by the company they keep, then that would likely be a very clear illustration for the American people. George Bush, and Paul Wolfowitz come to immediate mind. Actions speak louder than words, and Clinton can say she is the "grandma" candidate, but not many "grandmas" wrap their arms around people that are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a wildly unpopular war.
That being said, Trump is "somewhat associated" with being the anti-establishment candidate, and he did get that message across in the debate. I thought his best shots were when he came back at Clinton with "Those are just words", because that is exactly what many Americans believe. in that way he is linking himself with them, and that is important. The world-wide movement against the "establishment", or the "1%" as they have become known, has become a mass movement. Trump should be pointing to those within his own party, that are widely seen as "establishment" that are backing Clinton and not him. He can wear that as a badge of conviction. As he would say: "That's a winner".
My own feeling on the election as a whole is that Trump stands a very good chance of taking it. What many in the world-wide media, and that most definitely includes the US media, fail to understand about the US is a simple term known as "brand". The US is really the home of "brand". It comes from the American fixation with free market, capitalistic economy - in theory at least... when it suits. So, if America is the "Land of Brand", which of the two candidate has the biggest grand? Clearly, Trump has spent his entire life organizing his last name as a brand in itself. To a large extent he has been successful in that regard. Clinton, however, has not focused on branding other than in the political sense. Unfortunately for her, Clinton's political brand has accumulated more baggage than JFK International airport. Everything from shady real-estate deals to mass deleted emails - many containing classified information which is a serious crime in the US. In fact, the FBI is still going through them while the US election stumbles along. The Clinton brand is the political establishment brand, and that's a huge anchor around her neck. Americans aren't very proud of their political establishment, but they still have a healthy respect for successful people in business. The champions of their American Dream. Trump has it in spades, BUT his egotistical rubbing it in is tarnishing his successful branding. There is no need to brag when the entire world knows the story. Therein lies the keys to Caesar's room.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)