Tuesday, September 27, 2016
After the Debate
Well, the first of the 2016 presidential debates is over. If you watched it, as Agnes and I did, you'll have formed your own opinions. I'll just provide a few comments based on what we saw and our interpretations thereof ...
1. In general, Mr Trump appeared angry and aggressive, and presented an apocalyptic view of a nation in hopeless decline; Secretary Clinton appeared poised, articulate, comfortable, and presented a more positive vision. Mr Trump repeatedly interrupted Secretary Clinton, which I - as an experienced public speaker - found offensive.
2. During the exchange on Mr Trump's failure to release his tax returns, Secretary Clinton said: "... the only years that anybody's ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax," to which Mr Trump replied, "That makes me smart." Clinton followed up with this comment: "So if he's paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health."
As I've often written here, nobody likes paying taxes, but taxes provide the money our government needs to operate. Is it "smart" to legally pay no taxes? From a business perspective, probably yes. From a civic duty perspective, not so much.
3. Continuing on the issue of taxes, Mr Trump said this: "... if you want to change the laws, you've been there a long time, change the laws. I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I'm running a company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies. And that's what I do."
Point to Mr Trump. It's not illegal to take advantage of laws that work in your favor, and in Mr Trump's view it's good business. Do the laws need to be changed? It depends on whether you're a person who benefits from the current laws or one who has no opportunities to legally evade their tax burden. In my view yes, the tax laws need to be changed to ensure that all of us - individuals and businesses - share the burden. Will it happen? Not in my lifetime.
4. Mr Trump doubled down on falsehoods that have been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked - his role in the birther controversy, his position on climate change, and his claim to have opposed the Iraq war. While he and others have painted Secretary Clinton as a "serial liar," every reputable fact-checking organization has agreed that Mr Trump has only the most tenuous relationship with the truth, and is far ahead of his opponent in his repeated use of flagrant untruths. Secretary Clinton is a politician, and every politician spins facts and events to his or her advantage ... is this "lying?" In my opinion, there's a significant difference between spinning and deliberate falsification and denial of the proven record.
5. When attacked on the subject by Mr Trump, Secretary Clinton acknowledged that she made a mistake by using a private e-mail server while serving as Secretary of State. In my view, this was less a "mistake" than a serious error of judgement that could have compromised our security. This is my most significant problem with Ms Clinton.
Well, I could go on, but here's my bottom line: people who love Donald Trump still love him and believe he "won" the debate; people who love Hillary Clinton still love her and believe she "won" the debate. Every observer can find something in the transcript that supports their views of the candidates, whether positive or negative.
Now it's up to us. The facts are out there. The important thing is to weigh them carefully and cast a good, well-informed ballot on November 8th.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.