PI columnists react to debate: Of incoherence, a biased moderator and an SNL skit | PostIndependent.com

PI columnists react to debate: Of incoherence, a biased moderator and an SNL skit

James Kellogg

Lindsay DeFrates

Lindsay DeFrates

Mitch Mulhall

Mitch Mulhall

Jessica Cabe

Jessica Cabe

We asked four of our community columnists — two left-leaning and two-right leaning — to dash off their impressions of Monday’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Here are their perspectives:


If I begin critiquing Trump’s debating skills, all of his supporters will immediately respond that maybe being able to manipulate words well isn’t a good thing. But as a former English teacher, that is where I am compelled to begin. I just wanted to grab every two minutes of rambling, disconnected, made-up words (“Do better ‘cyber’’’ and “bragadocious”) and reorganize it for him: I would actually like to help him make a single point coherently with supporting logic or, god forbid, evidence.

It’s as though he knows his supporters aren’t actually listening to him, that at this point, all die-hard Republicans know that come Election Day, they will just be taking a bitter shot, then chase it with the sour hope he will eventually toe the party line when elected.

Trump says nothing … badly. And when confronted with previous words that are no longer convenient for him to acknowledge (“presidential look” versus “stamina”), he simple refuses to acknowledge them.

Hillary Clinton, of course, says almost nothing with much better organizational skills. She responded in the long-practiced generalities of election season to the question offered. So in terms of the debate, she was the clear winner.

But Trump’s rhetorical failings matter. Words matter. The man who is speaking for our country does not know how to speak. One G.W. Bush sounds like the world’s greatest orator when compared to a man who cannot even answer a single question staying on topic. A man who, if elected, will be negotiating nuclear arms treaties, trade agreements and advocating for our country with leaders across the globe.


I was struck by the biased nature of the questioning by the moderator, Lester Holt. Does the media think people aren’t going to hone in on that like a laser? All the questions were designed to put Donald Trump on the defensive. At the same time, Hillary Clinton was allowed to cast outrageous strawman accusations of every type, while Holt didn’t even bat an eyelash. Not once did Holt ask Clinton to be specific or back up any of her claims. On the contrary, Holt was constantly arguing with Trump about his alleged record.

There’s a reason so many people despise the media. This debate was an example of a moderator, on behalf of his network, working hard to prop up one candidate. The fact is, most Americans do not see Hillary Clinton as trustworthy or likable. I don’t believe this debate will succeed in changing that perception. In fact, I suspect it might backfire because the questions were so blatantly loaded. I’m convinced the media thinks “the deplorables” in this country are too dumb to detect this.

At the beginning of the debate, the candidates were put in the position of actually talking about their plans, policies and records. Hillary Clinton continually insisted that all the needs of the middle class can be met if the government spends more taxpayer dollars, implying that government is the answer. It’s unlikely that vast majorities of voters truly believe that politicians and bureaucrats are smarter than the rest of the population.

Donald Trump was making a clear case for something new, support for returning us to the culture of individual liberty and personal responsibility that made this nation prosperous and profound. Hillary Clinton was stumbling badly, and her very public record is undeniable. That’s when Lester Holt came to the rescue. Without question, her poise subsequently improved. Problem is, a debate moderator can’t win this election for Hillary Clinton. Lester Holt helped turn this debate into spectacle about the candidates instead of something valuable for the country. I’m not alone in the sentiment that the whole thing was crap.


Donald Trump wants to make America great again, but after the first presidential debate of the election season, he hasn’t told the American people how he plans on doing it.

He shared some nice buzzwords and catchphrases that he liked to repeat about a hundred times, like “law and order” in reference to how he’s going to address the strain between police and minority communities (oh, and he endorsed the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk. Great judgment). But if he has a plan for any of the issues he thinks are putting America at “Third World country” status (yes, he actually said that — because our airports aren’t nice enough), he didn’t share them last night.

What he did share was how proud he is of himself for all the money he’s made — as if he’s some kind of self-made man rather than a spoiled kid who was born with a silver spoon. Not to mention all the grime that plagues his record in business. It’s funny to me that the average Trump voter is the very “little guy” this presidential candidate has made his fortune abusing and taking advantage of. He’s had countless contractors come out of the woodwork to say they never got paid for the work they did for him — work from which he has since profited.

Given Trump’s general ineptitude, every time Hillary Clinton chuckled after one of his rambling, nonsense responses, I felt like I was finally able to relate to a woman who is usually a bit cold.

Clinton is not a perfect candidate and not the one I caucused for, but she proved Monday night that she knows what she’s talking about, she knows how to say it and she’s the person who can sit at the table with everyone from community organizers to world leaders and get the job done for the American people.


Trump won the first 30 minutes. He pulled out a glass of water and sipped it whenever Hillary seemed to be making a point, and for several minutes the debate was an SNL skit with Daryl Hammond and Kate McKinnon. Hillary was on her heels, and Lester Holt had lost complete control.

Trump’s energy flagged, however, when Hillary didn’t cough, twitch or foam at the mouth. Trump had her dead to rights on her deleted emails, but then Hillary tossed the tax returns milk bone, and Donald chased it like a flea-bitten spaniel, electing to defend his fiscal stature instead of stepping on the Hillary’s email jugular, which he could have done.

The last phase of the debate on national security, a subject on which Donald should have smoked Hillary, was more of the same. Hillary didn’t try to bite her ear lobe, and Donald was embarrassingly close to incoherent.

No one threw a knock-out punch, but Hillary, with her shorter podium, managed to stand above the cesspool.

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