Donald Trump knew that he lost the third debate long before it was over. As he seems to know, finally, that he will lose the election that is not yet over. The debate (like the election) was stacked against him. And by Fox News! You could read the rage over all that on his face, as he ripped his notes from their pad at the debate’s end:
But The Donald does not lose. Just ask him. He’s a winner!
One of the inevitable post-debate conspiracy theories that Trump pedaled the next day: that Hillary knew the questions in advance. There must have been some cheating because remember, he does not lose. But guess what—Hillary admitted that she did know. The next night at the Al Smith charity dinner, she revealed her secret information source: preparation.
It’s Politics 101, people! Trump trashed her for taking multiple days off the campaign trail—to prepare for an appearance in front of 70 million people. This while he performed his usual daily schtick before crowds averaging far less than 10,000 people. And didn’t study.
And so, The Donald tanked at the debate. Again. And Lord, did he know it. Watch that video again. I can’t stop!
I’m not talking about his scowling and the “nasty woman” quote. His ugly personality is an excellent reason to reject him, but IMO it isn’t the best reason. His greatest political fault is that he can’t do his homework. And his performances at the debates tell you he’s tired after 90 minutes of pressure.
So… want to know the kind of effort government work requires? (Spoiler: It involves lots of preparation. And stamina.) I know that from direct observation…
My wife advises a city government planning commission about architectural preservation. Her work answers a basic question: does this proposal meet the city’s preservation standards?
She gets a thick portfolio of architectural drawings and endless pages of dense text a week in advance. She spends hours going over these materials, then spends more hours in a public meeting where the plans are presented and argued, and accepted or rejected.
She’s just one advisor to just one committee in a city of less than 65,000! So much effort to achieve a routine decision. She—and many others—put in all that time because good government requires it. Now take a gigantic leap to the daily decisions that a president must make, and you see the value of preparation, and quality advisors.
I see no possibility that Donald Trump can find either. Certainly not the motivation to educate himself to make important decisions. And not the attention span. His choice of Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie are ample evidence that he also lacks the ability to pick quality advisors.
Does Hillary over-prepare for everything? Is there endless discussion and careful programming of responses to issues? That’s a common criticism, but IMO it’s borne more from her sometimes robotic recitation of talking points than from having the knowledge. Even so, the criticism reminds me of the reason some girls never got a date in high school. “Ugh, she’s a brain!”
That characteristic looks a lot better in adulthood. I’m trying to imagine being over-prepared for leading the free world. No president should ever be forced into a snap decision.
Consider George W. Bush’s Iraq war—and dispense for a moment the bullshit reasons for starting it. We really did win in six weeks. If the “Mission Accomplished” banner backgrounding Bush’s victory speech on that aircraft carrier referred to just the invasion, then it was completely accurate.
But the “peace” that followed was horribly mismanaged, and what we’re seeing there now is the result. You can try to tag Obama for that, but our failure began as soon as we declared victory. The big mistake was made before we ever invaded: Bush’s people had no viable plan for the war’s aftermath.
Going to war was not so much a snap decision as one already made by the Bush administration. Following bad advice from the absolute worst advisor possible: Dick Cheney. And then they put so much effort into convincing the country to go along that they forgot to think about afterward.
What didn’t we plan for? The thousands of Iraqi soldiers with no job—and no pay—following their defeat. They had families to feed and clothe. We didn’t consider the age-old hostility between Sunni and Shiite muslims; Saddam Hussein had managed that—brutally. We ignored it completely. And foolishly.
Perhaps most foolishly, we assumed that democracy would flourish with a people who had never practiced it before. We blew the military aftermath as thoroughly as we did the political. We spent eight years as a police force, driving around in insufficiently armored vehicles—and getting blown up regularly.
The Iraqi army that we trained, supplied and then left to defend their country failed quickly and utterly. They turned and fled when ISIS confronted them, leaving our expensive weaponry to the enemy. Our failure was not in the quality of training or equipment, but in a shallow understanding of the socio-political underpinnings of life in the country we conquered. Because we didn’t do our homework.
Hillary gets some bad credit for supporting the Iraq war, but its a share of the collective blame earned by Congress and the Bush administration. I’m hoping that her personal habit of over-planning everything will become the norm of her administration: think twice—think a dozen times!—before you start a new war.
Should you craft a plan for possible future events? What Donald Rumsfeld once called the Known Unknowns and the Unknown Unknowns? Excellent idea—and oh-so-similar to preparing for a public debate!
That tendency to throughly prepare for everything is the main news that has come out of all the emails, and even the Wall Street speeches, that WikiLeaks has published during the past month, in an effort to embarrass Clinton. They don’t.
In fact, the lack of embarrassing content has surprised me a bit. I wonder exactly how many of those emails, and how much of her Wall Street speeches, that Julian Asange actually read before releasing them. They are a weak October Surprise.
Asange got his timing right when he released notes allegedly written during Clinton’s infamous Goldman Sachs speeches in the same week that Trump’s paid-no-tax-for-twenty-years bomb dropped. But there was nothing there to indict Hillary. I did hear Trump rant about her secret meetings with global banking conspirators bent on destroying the U.S.A. But that’s Alex Jones material.
WikiLeaks dropped the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches (full text and analysis here) one week later—but it turned out to be the worst possible timing. That release hit the internet just one hour after the Trump Access Hollywood sex talk video hit television—and on the same day that the U.S. Government announced “for certain” that the Russians had hacked us and and are attempting to interfere with our election.
WikiLeaks has released a few thousand emails every day since, to very little notice by the public. Who knew that sex was so much more fascinating?
And what are the embarrassing revelations that the daily WikiLeaks releases reveal? Well, Dan Zak writes in the Washington Post that campaign chairman John Podesta’s “…correspondence reveals what everyone already knows but is shocked to see confirmed: In private, most of us can be pretty bitchy.”
Wait, there’s more…
Annie Linskey wrote in the Boston Globe that Hillary’s team exchanged at least 37 messages about a single tweet about the minimum wage. And they considered 84 possible slogans before settling on “Stronger Together.” Pretty methodical, not so sexy.
Clinton has played everything close to the vest ever since she began public life. The WikiLeaks releases have been a real test of what enforced transparency looks like when applied to an extremely private person’s endeavors. And they’ve revealed no smoking guns.
Because the U.S. intelligence community has identified Russia as the instigator of the hack and WikiLeaks’ source, there is still speculation that the released emails have been altered. Putin’s propaganda machine has done this before with other countries. With that in mind, the Clinton campaign refuses to even acknowledge them, except to complain about their source.
It’s a familiar approach. In an August 2015 email to John Podesta, sometime Clinton employee Neera Tanden references the Russian involvement while criticizing Clintons’ public approach:
“I know this email thing isn’t on the level. I’m fully aware of that. But her inability to just do a national interview and communicate genuine feelings of remorse and regret is now, I fear, becoming a character problem (more so than honesty).”
But mostly, what the emails reveal is how a real politician practices politics.
In the New York Times, Jonathan Rauch explains that being two-faced can be valuable in diplomacy and political public relations. You’ve read me lamenting about the sausage-making aspect of government. Although I hate some of the things that transparency reveals to me, I do want them to keep making the sausages.
The election’s almost over, folks. Hang in there. And cheer up… if you think you’ve got it bad, check out what Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway endures just on her days off:
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