what trump forgot last night

The best thing about last night’s debate? It perfectly encapsulated both candidates. It was a distillation of the qualities and defects of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton did what she’s done her entire life. She prepared. She studied, she armed herself with facts and figures, she practiced, she devised various strategies for different possible scenarios. When she walked out on stage she was confident, in control, ready to debate. She knew what to expect and was ready to deal with it.

And Trump did what he’d done his entire life. He winged it. He didn’t bother to study, he didn’t prepare, he didn’t practice. He figured he knew what he needed to know and assumed his ability to out-talk, out-negotiate, and out-bamboozle his opponent would be enough for him to succeed. When he walked out on stage he was cocky, but sadly unprepared. He had no idea what he was in for, and didn’t know how to handle it.


Why was he so unprepared? The qualities that have allowed Trump to be successful at business simply aren’t the qualities needed to win a debate with a serious candidate (or to run a democratic nation). When Clinton accused him of ‘cheering’ the housing crisis, Trump truthfully and accurately replied “That’s called business.” When she accused him of paying zero federal income tax, he said “That makes me smart.” When she referred to the Justice Department’s lawsuits against Trump for racial discrimination, he said, “[Y]es, when I was very young, I went into my father’s company, had a real estate company in Brooklyn and Queens, and we, along with many, many other companies throughout the country — it was a federal lawsuit — were sued. We settled the suit with zero — with no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do.” When she brought up his multiple bankruptcies, Trump said, “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.”

And there it is; that’s what he does. More accurately, that’s what his lawyers do. Profiting off home foreclosures — that’s business. Not paying taxes — that’s smart. Settling a discrimination case without an admission of guilt — easy. Avoiding liability by declaring bankruptcy — just taking advantage of the law. That’s why you hire lawyers, right?

That’s what got left out of all those exchanges last night — Trump’s lawyers. When he talks about his successful business negotiations, what he really means is he has enough money to hire good lawyers. He doesn’t have to go to the negotiation table prepared; his lawyers do all the preparation. He doesn’t have to know the details of the issue; he’s hired people to do that for him. He can sit in a room with business opponents and, in effect, say “This is what I want; this is how it’s going to be.” But then he leaves the room and lets the lawyers pound out the details. Trump’s lawyers have made him a lot of money. Trump seems to think having a lot of money and a lot of lawyers is the same as being smart and powerful.

Last night we saw one candidate who was willing do the dull, un-glamorous grunt work necessary to succeed. We saw the other candidate who was largely lost at sea without a cadre of legal fluffers doing the hard work for him. Last night Trump failed to bring his checkbook and his team of lawyers (and maybe Sean Hannity) to the debate stage.

4 thoughts on “what trump forgot last night

  1. I thought too, when you are rich you pay expensive lawyers and accountants to keep you up there. Donald doesn’t seem to notice the difference – gives himself credit for a lot more than he actually does. His father also barely did anything by lending him millions of dollars – he just credits himself with being an amazing self-made businessman. This post is spot on!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A little tangential to your point, but it reminded that when he talked about his discrimination case “without an admission of guilt” I thought Clinton missed a grand opportunity. Wish she had said something like “You know, Donald, you’re right – you went through the legal process and not found to be guilty, so we should all drop it. Just like I went through the legal process over those emails – FBI investigations, Congressional investigations, and 11 hours of testimony – and I was found without guilt. So glad to hear that you absolutely agree that we should ALL move on from issues that you and I have been found ‘innocent’ of.” When he said that, I was yelling at the TV as if she was a quarterback that didn’t see a receiver wide open in the end zone.


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