I was surprised by Donald Trump’s debate performance last night. In previous debates, Trump’s responses followed a fairly predictable pattern. A question would be asked, such as, “Do you think the government should be buying Dove soap?” You would think the answer would be “yes,” “no,” or “it depends.” Trump would rarely answer the question. Instead, he would respond by saying how awful the problem of cleanliness is. For example, “Soap. It’s a disaster. Terrible. One quarter cleansing cream. Give me a break. The government is spending money and it has no idea what it’s for. Horrible. I’ll tell you the truth, it’s disgusting.” From this point in his answer, he sometimes shifted the subject of his complaints to something else tangentially related. But, generally, his next move would be to blame the problem on Hillary Clinton. He would continue with something like: “Clinton has been around for thirty years. Why hasn’t she fixed the problem? Nothing but talk. She voted against Dove when she should have been for it, and voted for it when she should have been against it.” The final piece of the pattern would be to make the attack personal. He rarely attacks directly. He lets the listeners make the associations. Trump would say, “Thirty years. That stinks. Hillary, do you believe in showers? Ask anyone about the bad smell.”
But, he did not follow this typical pattern in the first half hour of the third debate; he actually answered the questions coherently while providing some degree of detail. He also put Hillary on the defensive a few times. Since the issues were known ahead of time, Mr. Trump may have spent some time getting information about the topics and practicing his answers. His hope for this debate, I suspect, was to try to look and sound presidential (which he did at first), then pray that Hillary would make a big mistake so he could get back in the race. Instead, what happened was that Trump lost his focus and energy. President Clinton 45 then proceeded to take him apart.
The concept of “projection” may help us understand Donald Trump’s psyche. He has been saying that Hillary Clinton does not have the stamina to be president and that she’s in poor health. Well, maybe he is actually concerned about his stamina, so he is projecting his fear on Hillary. I also noticed he didn’t snort at all. How come? Will he be doing commercials for Mucinex? “Trust me, Mucinex is the greatest ever. There is no one that respects Mucinex more than I.”
What ended up happening in the debate, of course, is that Trump made a major blunder that finished off his campaign (saying he would have to wait to see if he would accept the results of the election). But, maybe Trump had already given up before the debate started. Instead of the scorched earth approach I expected he would take, maybe he decided that he needed to restore his image as best he could, realizing that he had to find a way to rebound after his impending defeat. I don’t think he can salvage his reputation, however.
Would you eat Trump steaks or stay in a Trump hotel? Not even for free. Not today, not tomorrow, not ten years from now.