Will Trump’s Thin Skin Do Him In?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Dominick Reuter      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1GZCO

The first presidential debate of 2016 has concluded, and I’m unimpressed with the performance of both candidates. Hillary Clinton was stodgy, smug, and, well, all the things that you’ve come to expect of Hillary Clinton. But Madame President (we might have to get used to that term) knew that she had Donald Trump squirming towards the end, so much so that she felt comfortable enough to play the “sexist” card.

Donald Trump started off strong and you thought that he might gain some new support from those that want a presidential, yet strong, commander-in-chief. And then his skin got in the way; his orange-pink, thin-as-a-slice-of-prosciutto skin.

Donald Trump has some gut instincts as to what will play before an audience, but he doesn’t have the presence of mind that one-on-one debating requires; the ability to grasp upon something, just said by your opponent, that you can turn to your advantage.

That doesn’t mean to say that he never takes an opening. When Clinton garbled that she wasn’t in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trump jumped in with “You said it was the Gold Standard!”

In a discussion about jobs, Trump parried Clinton’s standard stump blather with “But you haven’t done that in 30 years!” To be honest, Trump would have won the debate if he had just said that after every one of her talking points. Just as Ronald Reagan used “There you go again” to unseat Jimmy Carter.

But our boy can’t take a joke, and certainly not a poke. Like a delicate snowflake or average college student, he took insinuations about his taxes and his various business ventures to heart from the team of Clinton and Lester Holt, and spent way too much time defending himself, sometimes using Business School jargon.

Lester Holt can thank the ghost of Matt Lauer for teaching him that you have to throw softballs at Hillary Clinton or you’re a turncoat, a traitor, or worse, a moderator that acts in moderation towards both parties.

Seeing the unfairness of the two against one (which you should always expect as a Republican), the Trump Train derailed and Donald’s new focus on defending himself instead of attacking Madame President gave her a rare twinkle in her jaundiced eye.

You see, Hillary Clinton has said and done a number of things that should have gotten her in trouble during the debate. Email scandals, calling young blacks “super-predators”, Obama’s birth certificate, and more. Trump was right to mention these gaffes, but notice what she did when confronted with these inconvenient truths.

She either didn’t say a thing (super-predator, Obama’s birth certificate), or made sure she explained it away in 2 or 3 short sentences (her Email scandal!), and then on to the attack. Trump should have, of course, pounded her again and again or even asked her “Do you deny it?” and see her cough up an answer that would have set the tone for, if not a knockout, at least a unanimous decision.

These and many more missed opportunities and omissions gave the victory to Clinton. Benghazi wasn’t even mentioned; Libya and immunities granted to her staff over emails? Glossed over. Domestic terrorism? Barely there. And it all happened because Donald Trump hasn’t met an insult that couldn’t unhinge him. We’ve seen it in the primary debates, and now we see it in the presidential debate. Even when Hillary played the “sexist” card, Trump couldn’t say something like “I think that sexism is a bad topic to discuss for someone married to Bill Clinton. Would you like to know why, Hillary?”  I would have loved to hear what she would have said to that.

A lot was made of Trump’s forgoing any mock debates or other preparations for his bout with Clinton. Well, his performance was what you get when you fail to prepare. Even just having his aides throw insults at him for an hour would have thickened his crepe paper skin a little and helped him focus.

Donald Trump didn’t make any new converts this time around, and you can expect to see polls turn in Hillary’s favor in the next few days. If the other two debates are more of the same, get used to the term “Madame President” and another four to eight years of circling the drain.

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