Why Clinton is Winning (One Reason, Anyway)

Original photo by Adam Schultz, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to be taken to the original.

Original photo by Adam Schultz, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to be taken to the original.

The third presidential debate is in the books, and while the noisiest news coming out of it is about a petulant white nationalist blustering on stage about whether or not he’ll concede the election if he loses, as if that matters for the legal transfer of power (it doesn’t; it’s just that if he doesn’t, he makes himself look even more like a child than he already does), the most interesting thing about the debate — and all the debates, if you ask me — is how very fine a job Hillary Clinton did in each of them. Not just for herself, although she did just fine for herself in each of them, answering in detail when she chose to, and generally effectively deflecting when she didn’t.

No, her real skill was in getting Donald Trump to self-own, debate after debate. There’s the saying that one should not interrupt an enemy when he’s making a mistake; well, Clinton didn’t interrupt Trump, but she did prompt him, winding him up and then letting him spew, not only on the debate stage, but on Twitter and in rallies afterward. She wound him up and let him flail ineffectually at her, as if his onstage taunts and bluster were anything compared to what she’s put up with for over 30 years, but well aware how Trump grumbling that she was nasty or how he was going to put her in jail would play to the large majority of America that isn’t circling around in Trump’s ouroboros of denial. She positioned him to lie and lie again, not just about political subjects in general, but about what’s actually come out of his very own mouth. She made him make himself look like a fool, and she did it without breaking a sweat.

Ezra Klein of Vox has a longer piece on what Clinton was up to and how she did it, which I largely agree with, so I won’t go further into it here. Suffice to say, however, that Clinton played him, once, twice, three times (a lady!), and he never seemed to figure it out. But then, why would he? Trump is apparently mentally unable to conceive of being dunked on by a woman, which left Clinton free to dunk on him at will. Trump has no one to blame but himself — not that he would ever do that — but Clinton gets all the credit for happily exploiting his weaknesses.

This is one reason, incidentally, why the current GOP shibboleth that Clinton would have been defeatable if only she had been up against a different candidate is mostly wishful thinking. Clinton isn’t winning just because she’s up against Trump, and she didn’t cream Trump in the debates just because Trump is so very fabulously incompetent. She’s winning because she’s prepared — she knows her opponent, she knows his weaknesses, and she made him reveal them himself. And she would have done it to anyone the GOP would have thrown her way.

Honestly, now: Does anyone really think that Clinton wouldn’t have shredded Ted Cruz, that pulsating globule of smugness, in any debate they might have had? Yes, Cruz was a nationally-ranked debater in college. That’s very nice for him. Clinton would have walked him into his own wankery, the off-putting self-regard that makes everyone want to find a way to stop talking to him five seconds after he opens his mouth, and let that awfulness happen while he spewed his dominionist nonsense. And let’s not even imagine what she would have done to poor, unprepared Marco Rubio, although the words “chew toy” do come to mind.

Indeed, the only person in the GOP field who I think would have given Clinton a run for her money might have been John Kasich, whose largely-pragmatic and well-seasoned demeanor is not terribly dissimilar to Clinton’s. But the GOP’s not about pragmatic and well-seasoned anymore, and even then I think Clinton would have his number sooner than later — he’s got a temper on him, and she’d poke him until he popped. A Kasich-Clinton debate score would be closer, with no knockouts on either side, but I think in the end she’d win on points.

The fact is, Clinton is and continues to be underappreciated for her own hard-won political skills. It’s easy to say she’s not a natural politician like her husband or Barack Obama (the latter comment being ironic, considering how many comparisons to Spock he endured early on), but here’s a point to consider about “natural” talents — they can be lazy, because, after all, if you can get the “A” with almost no effort, why go for the “A+”? Trust me, I know a little bit about the laziness of “natural talent” and how difficult it is to put in the extra work to go from merely good to something better.

Clinton is not a natural politician. She works and works and works and makes a better effort than everyone around her and just keeps on coming. And if people underestimate how formidable that makes her, as Trump so obviously has, and as smarter politicians than Trump also have and continue to do despite all available evidence? Well, I suspect that’s just fine with her. She’ll do to them what she did to Trump in the debates. And then she’ll keep going.

80 Comments on “Why Clinton is Winning (One Reason, Anyway)”

  1. Notes:

    1. Political post, Mallet, etc — be polite to others, please.

    2. Also, I’m about to write a piece about Trump refusing to say he’d concede, so if that’s a thing you want to get on about, hold your fire, please, for the appropriate thread. I’ll post a link here when that one goes up.

    Update: That piece about Trump is up!

  2. Spot on.

    HRC would have crushed just about any potential GOP candidate because she would work to get there. Some/many/most GOP candidates would have continued the long standing underestimation of her abilities and gotten owned. Hard.

  3. Work will beat talent every time. And if you have both, there is very little that can stand in your way.

    And if you have neither, well, apparently you get nominated for president by the GOP these days.

  4. It was interesting to see how much disdain Trump heaped on her over and over and over again for preparing for a debate – after all, what was there to do?

    And yet she trounced him three times because she studied her enemy, saw his weaknesses and exploited them. She may not be the best choice for office but given that she’s managed to shred him to bits… she’ll definitely do for now!

    I think Sun Tzu would be impressed.

  5. I just popped in to comment on the writing.

    1) “Self-own” is such a wonderfully descriptive phrase in this context – I can only picture Trump attempting the Quake rocket jump to get to his preferred camping spot, only to end up gibbing himself on the debate floor.

    2) Ouroboros of Denial is my new Scandinavian Metal band name. I’ll be using that a LOT.

  6. “If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
    –Terry Pratchett

  7. It would’ve been nice to see Clinton vs. Kasich. I think Clinton would win but they both would’ve stuck to issues and would be forced to be more intellectually honest.

    It’s really dispiriting to me that we haven’t had any sort of real discussion on social security or medicare. Trump clearly wasn’t prepared to answer with facts on either, and let Clinton get away with saying she’s going to increase benefits, raise taxes only on the rich and somehow end up without a deficit? That doesn’t add up. Which is sad to me, because I know that Clinton knows more about the numbers on SS/Medicare than anyone in the room at that debate including every member of the press.

    Anyways, Trump isn’t anywhere near Clinton’s league and as much as she was the better prepared candidate by far, I don’t think Trump pushed her anywhere near her full potential.

  8. I’m almost sorry I didn’t watch the debates, just so I could see her pwn him so completely. I “watched” the results come in, live-tweeted online. I cannot stand that man so completely the sound of his voice raises my BP to uncomfortable levels. For my own health and well-being, I avoid him… Shame I had to miss her in action, though.

  9. Spot on.

    Not to minimize her other accomplishments in these debates, but it’s critical to note that she’s done a simply superb job with her physical presence. Watch the debates with the sound off (particularly the second debate) and the difference between the two candidates is stunning. Clinton looks friendly, confident, in control, calm. Trump looks…awful. You’d trust Clinton to house sit. You wouldn’t trust Trump to keep your pants watered if they were on someone else’s porch. I’m sure she’s practiced this, and it shows.

  10. I am going to have to disagree with our Host’s assessment of (future) President Clinton’s debating skills. She was obviously more capable and knowledgeable than her opponent during all three of the debates but she wasn’t spectacular in my opinion. I think the Democrats really lucked out this time around.

  11. I’m hoping we’ll get similar content to yours and Ezra’s in the coming days. I watched Andrew Sullivan complain recently that HRC can’t sell policy the way Bill and Barack can, which is frustrating, because 1) this placement of rhetorical oratory as the defining characteristic for a POTUS is inherently masculine and 2) the value of “selling policy” really exists in the congressional echo chamber- constituents don’t need to understand committee rules, but the members of congress do, and she’s got a long history of selling to them just fine, thanks.

  12. “Clinton get away with saying she’s going to increase benefits, raise taxes only on the rich and somehow end up without a deficit? That doesn’t add up.”

    Worth pointing out that all the fear mongering about Social Security and Medicare is funded by rich people who don’t want the cap on Social Security taxes to be lifted. There is no crisis and there will not be a crisis unless it is manufactured by right wing ideologues.

  13. What’s really amazing is how the reputation of Trump’s dealmaking skill survives this. He’s easily outmaneuvered on the public stage by somebody with half his reputation for deal-making (although I think that’s probably unfair – you don’t become one of the highest paid lawyers in Arkansas, a US Senator, and Secretary of State without an ability to work your way around or through opponents when necessary.)

    Trump’s attempts to publicly portray Clinton as incompetent (“those spineless fools in Washington!”) are really digestible only to a ideological base who believe that already.

  14. My only real frustration with Clinton’s performance in the debates is that she rarely took the opportunity to correct, debunk or otherwise negate Trump’s accusations — they just sat there. Something as awful-sounding as the incitement to riot in Chicago, for instance, I felt could have used a response… but it would have brought her down to his level.

  15. Hillary Clinton reminds me of Angela Merkel in many ways. They both are not known for their charme or wit but both are very intelligent, hard working, much more qualified than a lot of men in their parties and had to put with a lot of crap over many years but came out on top because they know how the power game is to be played. It is going to be very interesting to have Clinton as the most powerful woman in the world.

  16. @Joel Finkle:

    The problem with debunking all of Trump’s accusations is that he’s basically been trying to run a Gish Gallop – if she tried to counter every lie, she’d be doing it forever and lose a chance to make her case for herself. She’d be engaging him on ground of his choosing.

    Instead, she had time to do stuff like set the Miss Universe trap – granted, a better Republican candidate wouldn’t have fallen for that one, but it’s a safe bet she wouldn’t have used it on a better Republican candidate.

  17. Richard

    I’m on this side of the pond in Brexit land where we are grappling with home-grown politicians who quite seriously believe that money will miraculously arrive from an unspecified somewhere; until very recently those politicians were completely protected from having questions put to them about this in Parliament, and it is becoming ever more apparent that they haven’t thought about it at all.

    It is difficult, verging on the impossible, for one person to discuss specific policy when there’s no one prepared to respond; criticising Hillary Clinton for not conducting a seminar on funding healthcare when she is, in fact, taking part in a debate with someone who hasn’t thought about it beyond the most superficial level, and thinks that there’s no problem anyway, since once all the sick people die America can get on with being great again, seems to me to be imposing a standard which is impossible to attain.

    Setting impossible targets isn’t helpful…

  18. Donald Trump has never actually been running for President, from the very beginning. He isn’t interested in getting votes; what he wants is RATINGS. He’s going to “keep us in suspense” so we’ll keep looking at him and talking about him. He’s managed to fool the Republican Party and a good chunk of the electorate, but it’s never been about the Presidency.

    Look at how he campaigns, ignoring the constituencies he’s allegedly appealing to (talking to white audiences about black issues), charging his own campaign for rental space and travel, ignoring issues to talk about the Emmys! He thinks ratings win elections. Or at the very least, ratings make him powerful. And that’s what he’s wanted from the beginning.

  19. Dang, @ embertine beat me to it. ;-)
    I too wish it could’ve been Kasich on the stage. But then the debate would have been more of a distraction from yesterday’s really tremendous event: The Tribe won the AL Pennant! World Series-bound!!

  20. If she can continue on the course she charted for these debates she might be able to get something done as president. She wasn’t really debating just Trump, it was the entire Republican Party. None of them have been able to coherently rebut her performance.

    Watching her drag out pieces of her policy, toss them onto a shelf and watch the entire Republican party trip over their stepladders on top of that crap pile their called a party ticket might shame some work out of Congress and the Senate.

    If the Republicans can read the writing on the wall they should have opened the nomination process for Merrick Garland this morning. Failure of them moving forward now could be even more disastrous come election time than even the Trumpenator.

  21. Completely agree on all of this. It has been frustrating to see Clinton’s hard work being downplayed so consistently in the media. I’m proud to be voting for her; she has consistently shown herself to be smart, knowledgeable and talented and not getting much credit for any of those things.

  22. Oh good, I hadn’t read a good Cruz description in a while. One thing I’ll be sad to miss when he disappears from public view.

  23. Reading the Klein dissection of her strategy with Trump makes me very curious to watch her dealing with Putin.

    Especially if (ghods willing) she has a useful congress behind her.

    And if the Dems get congress back, I dearly hope they don’t waste time trying to achieve “consensus,” and just focus on getting shit done.

  24. So I agree; I actually have gained a lot of respect for Ms Clinton in this cycle. I mean, I kind of thought of her as a slightly more accomplished Democrat apparatchik (though as I pointed out to a few of the Bernie crowd, exactly one person in all the election has tried to introduce single-payer healthcare, and it wasn’t him), but she’s shown so much more than that, and of course her campaign operatives certainly deserve some credit, down to how they carefully stage managed the VP debate to get all that video of Mike Pence denying reality.

    The comparison to Frau Merkel is spot on. She (Merkel) is amazingly bright (remember, she has a pHD in Quantum Chemistry) but more importantly, everything I’ve read is that she’s very very disciplined and plays the long game. She even had to deal with her version of Trump in the form of Berlusconi, who famously called her an “unf***able lard-ass”; in public she mostly ignored him, but I’m willing to bet money the Bundesnachrichtendienst has a dossier on him, his parties and his guests that they are using behind the scenes to influence things.

  25. I love this piece so hard that it’s sad. I wish Secretary Clinton had had a more worthy opponent, but you’re right – she would have shredded them all, because that’s what she does, through hard work and perseverance and (most of all) BEING PREPARED, DAMMIT.

    But I think that I need to point my students to this blog post just for this point alone:

    “[H]ere’s a point to consider about “natural” talents — they can be lazy, because, after all, if you can get the “A” with almost no effort, why go for the “A+”? Trust me, I know a little bit about the laziness of “natural talent” and how difficult it is to put in the extra work to go from merely good to something better.”

    I struggle with students who can’t give up the idea that either they have the “talent” for doing something in my class (like writing a research paper) or they don’t, and that if they don’t, trying isn’t worth it since they don’t have the “talent” for it. I’ve even said to them that they can do better than their first draft and been looked at like I’ve grown a second head; the idea is that alien to them. Lately I’ve asked them to please make sure that their drafts don’t read like Secretary Clinton’s opponent in the debates… and even that does not get through to them. Maybe this will.

    Thank you, John, for pointing out that putting in the extra work is something you have to do in order to get the results you want.

  26. I would LOVE to have been a fly on the wall for their postmortem on the first debate — the only question is how, exactly, they said “I know this was the plan, but I never dreamed it would be so easy!” and whose mouth it actually came out of first.

  27. Thanks for the link to the Vox piece. As a Canadian who’s mostly just watching this for entertainment value (though Trump winning would certainly be a huge disaster for my country as well), I often find it hard to sift through all the muck to find the interesting stuff. You make a pretty good filter, in that regard.

  28. A couple thoughts. One, this is why almost no one was willing to challenge HRC in a primary; they know her skill set. Two, I still think it’s likely that the GOP retains hold of the House and how many people, even professional politicians, want to deal with that reality? Three, maybe being Secretary of State is great training for dealing with crazy old men in positions of power. Four, it does make you wonder about some of her dumber moments after this artful annihilation of a man who probably was riding the wave of history.

  29. Have to say her presence is getting better and better. Totally commands the stage. Also, her outfit really said ‘The Future’ which is something that a party looking backwards just doesn’t get or want to acknowledge. Well done!

  30. Excellent piece, Mr. Scalzi.

    Someone on MetaFilter timed Clinton’s response to Wallace’s final question, which was to the effect of, “A one-minute closing statement wasn’t in the list of topics you both had in advance, but I’m going to give you each an opportunity to make a one-minute closing statement.”

    According to the person on MeFi, Clinton’s response was one minute and four-tenths of a second long. And I’d bet she had a two minute version prepared just in case.

  31. “Bundesnachrichtendienst.” Even if I disagreed with everything you said I’d still give you a thumbs up just for using that word. Anything I could possibly add to this entire thread can be summed up thusly: “Me, too.”

  32. Craig: “If the Republicans can read the writing on the wall they should have opened the nomination process for Merrick Garland this morning.

    I had this vision of the day after Inauguration, when the President holds a press conference and states for the record that as the Garland nomination seems to be stalled, she will submit Gloria Allred’s name. To the opposition gibbering in a corner, the equivalent of “You had your chance.”

    (Not saying this would happen in reality.)

    By the way, one of the reasons I tend to read our host’s posts rather than watch the debates firsthand is that the posts are so much more witty and on-point than the debates themselves. (Memo Salazar at Medium has the 20th century’s history of presidential debates and how they got that way.)

    I will be voting for Hillary Clinton (1) because I am everything Republicans hate and (2) because I do not suffer from Stockholm syndrome. Her policies are also more aligned (though not perfectly–that’s never happened) to my principles.

  33. It was both pleasant and instructive to read this, and Klein’s piece and others, around the same time as reading a lot of live commentary and after-the-event mansplaining of how Clinton failed to DESTROY Trump on this or that particular answer. Apart from a strong feeling that a lot of those people offering such advice wouldn’t have done much except pee themselves if they lucked into the same position, it shows how much the ability to see the whole board is what makes a truly talented politician.

  34. Agree with almost everything said in this piece, but I do want to question one thing – the idea that “Clinton is not a natural politician.” I believe she is, but not in the way most people think about politicians. She’s not a great PUBLIC politician – a speechmaker, a charismatic presence, a salesperson – but she’s a grandmaster BACK-ROOM politician – the person who gets deals done, wins others over, finds the compromises that will get legislation passed. Her skill set is closer to that of LBJ than JFK, more James Polk than Andrew Jackson. Bill Clinton can sell you a used car, but it’s Hillary that will work out the bank loan for you and make sure you’ve got the maintenance agreement you need – and that’s no less of a political skill.

  35. Still can’t get over that moment when Hillary insisted that Trump attack Putin over Wiki-leaks. Her brilliant strategy aside, I saw myself watching a Democrat attacking a Communist ploy and a Republican almost by default defending. It was just weird.

  36. If the Republicans can read the writing on the wall they should have opened the nomination process for Merrick Garland this morning.

    Congress is on vacation until November but if they weren’t you have to think there would be serious discussion along those lines.

  37. Hillary landed a few shots against a deeply flawed, erratic opponent who gave fresh meaning to the concept of “verbal salad.”

    At the same time, Hillary had no effective response when Trump challenged her to return Gulf Arab donations made to the Clinton Foundation.

    If anyone is unclear about Patriarchy really looks like, take a look at Saudi Arabia and its institution of male guardianship of women.


    The Saudi patriarchy donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, as did other serial violators of human rights.


    So which Hillary are we dealing with? The Hillary who outlined, early in the debate, all the legal work she did on behalf of women’s issues early in her career? Or the Hillary who accepted Saudi donations despite the Kingdom’s atrocious record on women’s rights?

    Hillary may be earnest. Hillary may try really, really hard to overcome her lack of natural political skills. But at the end of the day, hypocrisy and greed is what it is. And Hillary is amply endowed with both vices.

    I don’t see how any self-proclaimed feminist, male or female, can accept Hillary as a feminist in good standing given her willing acceptance of funds from misogynistic regimes.

  38. I don’t see how any self-proclaimed feminist, male or female, can accept Hillary as a feminist in good standing given her willing acceptance of funds from misogynistic regimes.

    I think this is an interesting question, but not in the way you put it.

    There are various ways of modifying behavior of those that can be modified. One is to provide positive reinforcement for whatever good they do, and use that to modify future behavior (and don’t fool yourself—financial behavior actually does affect future behavior in a variety of ways, according to the social psychological research that’s been done).

    Of course, that’s believing that future behavior can be modified. If you believe it can’t be modified, it’s an essentialist argument that I find a bit too inflexible.And in that case, I’m not sure its a bad idea to extract money to ameliorate that bad behavior…

  39. “Indeed, the only person in the GOP field who I think would have given Clinton a run for her money might have been John Kasich”

    That’s how I felt about Romney in 2012. I honestly was scared that he could beat Obama since he appeared so reasonable. Boy was I wrong.

  40. It’s even worse than that, Pedro. The Clinton Foundation accepted at least $100,000 from a man who has boasted that his fame and power have allowed him to commit sexual assault with impunity, has said that women should be punished for having an abortion and who has promised that, if he were in a position to do so, he would ensure that Roe v Wade was overturned. And then she used a time machine to go back in time by four years and attend the wedding that he was paying her to attend with his donation in the future!

  41. Gwangung: “There are various ways of modifying behavior of those that can be modified. . . . I’m not sure its a bad idea to extract money to ameliorate that bad behavior”

    That’s an interesting way to put it. In my observation, it’s usually the ones giving the money who expect behavior to be modified. Not the one’s taking the money . . .

  42. Taking money from bad people to do good things is bad, because reasons. Collecting money for a charitable organization that actually uses that money to do things (rather than as a grifting operation like some) = greed.

    Hot take there, Pedro.

  43. re: Pedro’s Hilary/Arab/money post.
    A friend of mine–who seems to be getting more and more off lately and hates Hilary/Michele/etc. used somewhat the same argument.
    I asked him why he thought that her taking money for the Clinton Foundation meant that she would actually be at their beck and call?
    I have a feeling that the male powers there underestimate her because she’s a woman.
    She’s pragmatic and knows that they may expect something but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get it. She’s perfectly capable of taking their money and using it to better women’s lives in ways they may not approve of and telling them to live with it.
    What are they going to do?

  44. Rob in CT and Harold Osler: It is doubtful that Saudi princes really care how the Clinton Foundation spends its donations, because the Saudi government does not permit Western NGOs to operate in the Kingdom. So whatever indulgence Hillary might earn by spending Saudi money elsewhere in the world, the Saudi patriarchy will be unaffected.

  45. The Clinton Foundation spends about 90% of funds received on charity around the world. My guess is the money the Gulf states donated is already spent, getting HIV meds and mosquito nets in Africa or similar.

    And frankly, the alternative would be the Trump Foundation. Which shelled out big bucks for–a life sized portrait of Donald Trump. I mean, who *does* that?

    And what kind of malicious actor tries to spin a successful life-saving charity like the Clinton Foundation as some kind of negative about someone’s character? How does a charity–a charity that has never paid a penny to any of the Clintons–become evidence of “greed”?

  46. @Pedro–then it’s a win/win, the Foundation gets money and the Saudis look like they care about the world. But just because western NGOs can’t operate there doesn’t mean there’s no influence.
    Anonymous donations are one thought.

  47. I chose not to watch last night’s debate. It was a choice between that and watching Fail-Safe on TCM, and while one was a chilling vision of a tragic mistake that could have led to the destruction of all life on Earth by means of a nuclear holocaust, the other had Henry Fonda.

  48. So Pedro, may we assume you’re voting for Trump? Or one of these two lovely contestants?

    Hillary’s genius in how she’s run this entire campaign cannot be overstated. The subtlety she employs to bring out the crazy in Trump and all of his idiot sycophants has been a beautiful thing to watch. One of the commenters above said that she couldn’t bear to watch the debates because her blood pressure couldn’t withstand it. I’m in agreement with her. I can only imagine what it takes for HRC to stand on stage with a man who has called her crooked and nasty and constantly calls for her to be locked up and shot… allowing all of his bluster and nonsense to spew while formulating coherent answers and jedi mind fucking him. And people say she isn’t a great candidate? They’re wrong and further, she is going to be a great POTUS. And once this national nightmare is finally over, I pray Trump is starved of oxygen and fades into well deserved obscurity.

  49. Hillary is going to be fantastic. She doesn’t need soaring rhetoric, or charm–she has intelligence and a quiet strength that is going to serve her very well. And if she needs charm, there’s always the First Dude.

    There was one point last night where she appeared close to losing her temper, but then she beat ot back and fed Trump a little more rope. This has been a brilliantly run campaign. I can’t wait to call her Madam President!

  50. Scout: Pedro supports the two moderate Republicans masquerading as Libertarians.

    Harold Osler: I very much doubt that the Clinton Foundation has any influence in Saudi society, but the Saudi people are absolutely crazy about social media, especially Twitter. In recent months, a number of young Saudi women have posted under the #Iammyownguardian hashtag. That’s an emergent social movement that may or may not coalesce into something serious. But that campaign is something organically Saudi, though I suspect the women behind it are U.S.-educated.

    Cat Faber: “And what kind of malicious actor tries to spin a successful life-saving charity like the Clinton Foundation as some kind of negative about someone’s character? How does a charity–a charity that has never paid a penny to any of the Clintons–become evidence of “greed”?

    What kind of malicious actor would spin a successful graft-generating organization as a life-saving charity? If you want to accept at face value how Hillary describes the work of the Clinton Foundation, that is your prerogative.

    However, Hillary has a long history of involvement in all kinds of corrupt shenanigans going back to the Arkansas days, all of which have been heavily reported and can be easily researched online. To Hillary’s credit, she has at least learned a few things about “honest graft” since her early missteps with cattle futures and shady real estate deals.

  51. Pedro:

    Yes, but the conversation is wandering off from the actual discussion at hand. If you really wish to discuss it further, collect emails and go from there.

  52. Fair enough, John. I’ll let my post at 2:37 p.m. stand as my last word on that particular institution in this thread. BTW, congrats on getting TCE across the proverbial finish line.

  53. Man, she baited him HARD. And he went for it every time. It was just crazy. Every damn time. I thought he might have learned to stay on point (or that his people would have beaten it into his skull) after two disasterous debates, but she’d feed him a little rope, and damn if he wouldnt hang himself with it every damn time.

    It was like Hillary figured out Trump was Frankenstein’s monster, and then she’d just casually light a cigarette, and watch him go nuts at the sight of open flames, rampage around the stage, and throw little girls down a well. Then she’d calmly take a drag, pinch the cigarette out, and keep it handy for the next round.

    Just wow.

  54. She laid rake after rake in his path and he stepped on them time and again.

    There will always be some feeling of “well, of course she beat him!” because this always should have been a comical mismatch. Trump for President is patently absurd.

    But the deficiency there isn’t just with Hillary Clinton, mere mortal, for not actually melting him with laser beams from her eyes. It’s with American media and, most importantly (and most scarily) a large minority of the public.

  55. I think Clinton was lucky in the opponent she got, not so much because one of the others would have beaten her — I tend to agree that she’d take them apart strategically, too — but because Trump has been _such_ a garbage fire that it looks like the Dems will take back the Senate. And maybe even the House, which wasn’t even considered a long shot at the start of all this, but a flat-out impossibility.

    With a different opponent, it’s still reasonable to see Clinton winning, but does anyone think that we’d be looking at winning Arizona and maybe Georgia, and being this close (even if we aren’t going to cross the line, realistically) in Texas, Utah and Alaska? Clinton might be able to beat most of all of the GOP choices, but with Trump out front, she’s stomping the whole party pretty good.

    As Nate Silver said lat night, an election where you’re thinking, “We could really use some more Idaho polls!” is generally not a good sign for the GOP.

  56. Hillary Clinton systematically dominated Adolf Trumpler with surgical skill and precision. She dominated the clock, she had skin of titanium, and she refused to allow the quisling moderator or the fascist pig at the other lectern to shake her from her perch.

    If you look at the way that Clinton’s body language shifts from that of an active, engaged politician to a subdued, quiet elder when the toxic tire fire known as that is Donald Trump’s more despicable deeds became the focus of the debate, it becomes clear that she not only read the odious lump of cancerous tissue that is Donald Trump like a book, but she also played him like Augustin Hadelich playing a violin. The third debate was the culmination of this; Clinton looked like a compassionate, patriotic, respectable, all-American leader, and the mound of decaying human waste known as Donald Trump revealed his true self as an immature callous selfish narcissistic pathologically mendacious un-American traitor. Clinton not only won, she conquered like Genghis Khan annihilating Iran so thoroughly that Persia’s capacity to act as a world power was utterly destroyed for almost a thousand years if not more. She was Lyudmila Pavlichenko headshotting 300+ Nazis. She was Nadezhda Popova standing next to Medvedyev and smiling with the absolute certainty that she was infinitely more badass than all of the be-medaled Russian men present, and with the Order of Lenin to prove it. Clinton was Elizabeth Tudor, hearing of Medina Sidonia’s incompetence and preparing to revel in her hard-won position as European kingmaker.

    And she was fucking beautiful.

    I’m fully aware of Clinton’s problems as a candidate, as a public servant, and as a person. And I still believe that she is by far the best candidate running in this election.

  57. But does this not throw a bit of a wrench into your thinking? If Trump really is a charmless, know-nothing boor reliant upon his various social identities, it’s no great achievement for a career politician to humiliate him on the debate stage – and it’s certainly no indication that she’d be able to do the same to Cruz or Rubio. If, on the other hand, he’s – well, maybe still a boor, but a cunning boor who stumbled upon a formidable strategy that wrong-footed seventeen intelligent GOP candidates, Clinton’s performance starts to look more impressive.

  58. So, we have a debate from two people playing in different leagues. On the one hand we have Trump who is a league of his own and believes that giving people nasty nicknames and spray painting his name–graffiti tag–shows just how big and bad he is. On the other side we have Clinton who follows Frank Underwood’s advice: Shake with your right hand, but hold a rock in your left.

    Trump as usual showed up thinking that his name, his smarmy attitude, bad hair, and some nasty names. Clinton arrived with that rock in her left hand, a pair of brass knuckles in her pocket, a sap in her waist bad, and a switchblade in the top of her boot.

    Of the two, when it comes to the barroom brawl known as dealing with Congress… who is going to be ready to rumble? I know where my vote goes.

  59. The part where she baited him on his claim the Emmys were rigged, and he jumped in with how he should have got it, wasn’t the biggest moment of the debate, but it was very telling. People I watched with laughed. That was pretty much the game-over moment.

  60. I despise Ted Cruz and I think that Senator Clinton is poised, polished, disciplined, articulate and intelligent. However, her performance against Trump is not in any way indicative of how she would perform against Cruz who, for all his legion of flaws, is also intelligent, poised, polished and articulate. It is equivalent to putting the Yankees up against a Little League team and using the resulting blowout to conclude that the Yankees will obliterate the Red Sox. When she debates professionals, such as Obama in 2008 or Sanders more recently, she does well but not overwhelmingly so.

  61. My (former) Asian co-workers made a point of the difference between growing up in (let’s say) Chennai and the USA: in the USA children get praise for talent, in Chennai they get praised for hard work. A child without talent in the USA has less incentive to work hard to make up for it, but in Chennai (or Seoul, or Shanghai, or …) it’s different. In Chennai, a child with talent is still expected to work at least as hard as the others, but in the USA coasting is just as praiseworthy.

    Of course, there are always those who for whatever reason internalize working hard no matter where they grow up. But the culture certainly shifts the odds.

    Garrison Keillor describes Clinton:

    What some people see as a relentless quest for power strikes me as the good habits of a serious Methodist. Be steady. Don’t give up. It’s not about you. Work for the night is coming.

  62. MRAL. : ” If Trump really is a charmless, know-nothing boor reliant upon his various social identities, it’s no great achievement for a career politician to humiliate him on the debate stage”

    In this day and age, it is a great feat to win so handily. Main contenders can be taken down with one odd-sounding raaawwwrrrr! Just ask Howard Dean.

    All it would have taken is one “a little too snippy” reply from Hillary, and the right would be playing that video over and over screaming “she’s a witch! Burn her! Burn her!”. But she didnt.

    Pedro: “I don’t see how any self-proclaimed feminist, male or female, can accept Hillary as a feminist in good standing given her willing acceptance of funds from misogynistic regimes”

    So…. feminists should vote for Trump?

    (eye roll)

  63. embertine asks:

    Sloth, why do I need to keep my pants watered?!!

    If your pants are on fire, you most definitely want them well watered!

  64. @Alllllllllllll the way back up to Richard: The thing to realize about Social Security is that there’s a dollar cap on your taxable income for Social Security taxes (I forget whether it’s $100,000 or $200,000). So basically, a successful businessman making $200K a year is paying, say, $10K into Social Security (caution: tax rate on Social Security may not actually be 5%) and Warren Buffett, who makes $20 million a year…is also paying $10K into Social Security. Basically, people who’ve run the numbers have said that you can pretty much close that shortfall simply by removing the artificial cap so that guys like Warren (who’s all in favor) pays his $1 million instead of $10K.

  65. @MPAVictoria: “Worth pointing out that all the fear mongering about Social Security and Medicare is funded by rich people who don’t want the cap on Social Security taxes to be lifted. There is no crisis and there will not be a crisis unless it is manufactured by right wing ideologues.”

    I wonder if your definition of crisis and mine differ a bit. If you’re only looking at the next four years, then I think that modest tax increases will probably handle things alright, but that’s not going to cut it long-term. If you’re interested in the longer-term outlook, then you might want to take a look at the projections on Social Security and Medicare costs along with the expected fraction of the deficit growth from those two items that could be covered by lifting the Social Security tax cap and raising the SSNRA to 70. Not for nothing, but I support both of those changes and, unfortunately, those aren’t going to be enough to get it done in the long-run. There are lots of papers on this and the demographics just aren’t in our favor.

    (And before anyone starts, no, I am not supporting Captain Creamsicle, and yes, despite my reservations I did vote (absentee) for former Secretary Clinton.)

  66. Regarding taking Saudi money for a foundation that does good works: The issue was covered in the stage play Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw, one of the few plays that makes me laugh out loud when I read it at home.

    Barbara is a major in the army, the Salvation Army, where her boss distresses her by taking money from a munitions maker. Imagine the smoke and the smell of sulphur! (for gunpowder) But even the devil’s money can be used for good.

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