By Peter Fenn | Contributor USNEWS & WORLD REPORT
Sept. 27, 2016, at 5:05 p.m.
Not a great night for the Donald. Ninety minutes is not his friend. The one with the “stamina” and solid, reasoned, substantive answers was Hillary Clinton.
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway described Donald Trump on TV shows this past weekend as “the Babe Ruth” of debates. What many forget is that in addition to his home run record, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times and led the American League in strikeouts five times. One could certainly argue very persuasively that there was no home run for Trump last night and several noticeable strikeouts. On the President Barack Obama birther issue, on treatment of women, on his six bankruptcies, on his leaving working people high and dry, Donald Trump more or less whiffed.
The assertion by Trump that beating Clinton in a debate “would be one of the easy challenges of my life” was boasting at its best, but reality at its worst.
In contrast, Clinton was prepared, poised and ready to be president. She was calm, collected and did not engage in side comments, interruptions or frustrated facial expressions, in contrast to Trump. On the likability meter she scored very well.
It will be interesting to see how the next two debates unfold. Already Trump is saying that he will be hitting Clinton harder. So how do both campaigns prepare for the debates on Oct. 9 and Oct. 19?
One of the concerns for the Clinton campaign in these final six weeks is the Trump message of fundamental change. Most campaigns, of course, are about change or fear of change. Even an open-seat race such as this one puts Clinton out as the candidate who is established and will continue the Democratic legacy of President Barack Obama. When you have a nation as frustrated with Washington and our politics as ours, it benefits a self-proclaimed outsider. Trump mentioned numerous times Clinton’s “30-year” involvement in politics and government. He is by no means a new face, but he is a fresh face when it comes to government.
So the question for the Clinton team is how hard to hit the “change to what” theme. On the economy, driving home the Trumped-up, trickle-down tax proposals makes real sense. With studies pointing to a loss of 3.5 million jobs, a $10 trillion increase in the debt and more tax breaks to the top 1 percent, Clinton has a good case to make that this is the change we don’t need.
She negotiated the perilous conditions of the first presidential debate with ease.
On foreign and defense policy, Trump’s call for change also gives the Clinton camp openings. Arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons would be incredibly destabilizing. Pulling our support for NATO and cozying up to the Russians and President Vladimir Putin sends the opposite message that is needed. Clearly, building a wall, expelling immigrants and barring Muslims from the U.S. are precisely the kinds of policies that strengthen terrorists and harm America.
Failing to acknowledge that climate change exists and calling it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese is contrary to the views of the vast majority of American voters. Trump’s version of change is becoming the oil and gas president – thanks, we’ve tried that.
Clinton campaigners should draw the clear contrasts between pragmatic solutions that she offers on creating new, good-paying jobs; college affordability; early childhood education; paid family leave; and equal pay with the paucity of plans and ideas offered by Trump. How will a massive tax cut for the rich help those who are hurting?
Bottom line: Trump change is chump change that would harm Americans and make the world less safe. Yes, it is about temperament and fitness to be president, but it is also about ideas that are wrongheaded and harmful. We have a lot to fear with the changes Trump is proposing.