|THE THRILLA IN SAINT LOUIS 10 Oct. 2016||| Print ||
THE THRILLA IN SAINT LOUIS
10 Oct. 2016
Dear Friends and Patriots,
My, my, what a difference a couple of weeks and several scandals can make. I adjudged the first Clinton-Trump debate to be a sorry spectacle, unworthy of the time invested. Today I have to report a far different kind of spectacle.
Remember The Thrilla in Manila, the third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? Well, I’m old enough, and I do. The scene last night was very reminiscent of that battle. There were scandals leading up to that bout, just as there were for the debate. In one pre-fight scene in Manila, Ali demonstrated a gross lack of respect and common sense by introducing his girlfriend to the leaders of The Philippines, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, as his wife. That misstep compelled his actual wife to fly to Manila to engage Ali in a different kind of world championship bout; one in which she prevailed. So, Ali had his media sex scandal, as did Donald Trump.
There were other issues in Manila that have their modern-day parallel. For the Ali-Frazier fight the Frazier camp was desperate to find a referee who would stop Ali’s tactic of pulling on his opponents’ necks while in clinches. Ali had been getting away with that maneuver for several fights in a row and Frazier’s camp knew their champion would be at a disadvantage if they couldn’t find at least a neutral referee. If you recall the last Clinton-Trump debate you know the mediator, Lester Holt, demonstrated an amazing lack of neutrality in the selection of the question topics.
The Thrilla in Saint Louis was a battle from the very start. All the media hype leading up to the night tended toward one narrative – Donald Trump was grievously wounded by the Billy Bush video featuring sophomoric, sexually explicit “locker room” banter. Elected Republicans rushed to microphones to disavow him; some even denied knowing who he was. Even Trump’s own camp thought it might be the final, fatal straw in a campaign laden with verbal slips, trips, and falls. They didn’t admit it, but they realized their guy was in real trouble and might not recover. The debate last night was looked on far and wide as his only opportunity to ensure he would stay in the contest. Many, many advisors and onlookers grabbed media time to advise the Trump camp to be low-key, non-confrontational, and apologetic. Contrite! Yes, Mr. Trump had to pay an obvious price for his 11-year old sins, and obvious contrition was needed to remove the worst aspects of the stain of his terrible sins. If he went “Ali” on Hillary the conventional wisdom was he’d be tossing the educated white female vote out the window. But, apparently Donald Trump had different thoughts. I’m sure he realized he couldn’t concede the night and appear cowed by the topic the media had selected as his Achilles’ Heel.
Clinton’s tactic of the night was to throw haymakers at Trump’s head, and keep it up throughout the contest. Her camp believed Trump’s weakened state would ensure her punches connect and Trump would go down for the count. The tactic was to overwhelm Trump with a recount of all his sins and expose him as the disgusting, sniveling coward they want the voters to believe him to be. Again, Mr. Trump had different ideas.
The battle was joined in the first minute. It never let up. It was unrelenting. In some ways it was brutal. If you want to know who won, pick a TV channel and see how they scored it. Most of the mainstream media ran polls, and most of those polls indicated a noted preference for Hillary Clinton. Is that a surprise? It shouldn’t be; not at all. Media polls are notoriously slanted. We have to wait until reputable polling is done to find out more about how the public scored the contest. My own scoring metric tells me Trump won, pulling away.
My way of judging debates involves the number of lies told per minute and whether or not a lie was left unchallenged. By that method I’ve determined Clinton to be the champion liar, by far. Trump prevailed in the debate due to his tactic of directly challenging and belittling Clinton on her untruths.
One question involved the future of Obamacare. Obviously Trump would advocate for scrapping it. Obviously, Hillary would advocate for moving to a “more affordable” single-payer system to correct the latent defects of Obamacare. Oddly, Hillary chose to point north, to Canada, as the shining example of the healthcare she desired for all Americans. Yes, she wants a healthcare system just like the Canadians. Talk about a punch that missed! Trump countered with a statement that was almost masterful, pointing out that Canadian healthcare was so bad any Canadian who has a serious illness and the means comes to an American hospital for treatment. He correctly pointed out the wait-time for healthcare in Canada often leads to “catastrophe.” He then pointed out the enormous cost of a single-payer system and declared that, with a $20T debt and deficits of $800M we simply can’t afford it.
No topic was off limits. Hillary tried to brand Trump as an unrepentant misogynist, a racist, a xenophobe, and pretty much any other slur she could conjure up. Trump came back in his famous counter-punching style and labeled her as a sexual predator enabler, a liar, a criminal, and an incompetent who promised she would be there for that 3:00 a.m. phone call, but wasn’t. If you missed all that, you did miss a spectacle. The only things missing were physical weapons. It was what the Ali-Frazier fight would have been if boxing gloves had been replaced by brass knuckles; without the blood, of course. In politics there’s rarely any visible blood. The wounds inflicted are only reflected by facial expressions and in the next day’s headlines and polls.
Hillary tried with all her might to unsettle The Donald. She tried insults, innuendo, and outright lies, but for some reason Trump’s determined demeanor didn’t crack. He didn’t loose his temper. He didn’t go wildly off script. He just didn’t play her game. By the final third of the contest it was easy to tell the unsettled one was Hillary. She seemed to lose focus in mid-answer. She repeated herself. She was flagging. Trump just kept banging away.
I would never actually equate Trump to Ali, even though he did prevail in last night’s slugfest. In the Thrilla in Manila Ali had style and still had remnants of his old snake-like speed and tactical brilliance. In comparison, Trump’s talents were in his resolute, brute-force approach to the night. He realized he could never recover from the media scandal of the week if he appeared cowed and weak. His only option was to meet force with force, insult with a better insult, and make sure everyone listening understood what he really thought about the character and experience of his opponent. He couldn’t treat Hillary as a lady. He had to treat her as an equal. And, he did. One could tell she was surprised and eventually beaten back. If there had been another half-hour to the night, she would have been obviously defeated. She was failing that much at the end.
This so-called debate will go down in history as the nastiest political exchange of the modern era; at least in presidential politics. I’m certain there have been worse in local and state elections, but certainly not on national TV. It was a set-piece that exposed the best and worst of each candidate. There were many stones turned, though certainly not all.
You want to know what I thought was the best part of the whole event? It was when Donald Trump stated if elected he would appoint a special prosecutor to do a real investigation of Hillary Clinton and her misdeeds. That was a statement that made many in the Hillary camp gasp. It made many of Donald’s own supporter’s and the fence-sitters gasp, too. One side gasped in horror. The other side gasped in hope.
I can hardly wait for the third debate. I do hope the Secret Service pats both candidates down before they take to the stage. Last night will be hard to top, but someone might be feeling a bit desperate next time. One of them might want to demonstrate the depth of their feelings in a non-verbal way. Reality TV! That’s what this is, folks. Reality TV! And, unlike Naked and Afraid and The Bachelor, this time, it’s actually real.
There is one question left to settle. Now that the weak-kneed Republicans who stampeded to the microphones to disavow Donald Trump in the last week have seen he’s not going down in defeat without waging war, unlike either candidate Obama faced, what are they going to do now? They’ve dug their own holes. If Trump wins next month, what will those holier-than-though members of the choir of the Immaculate Church of Congress going to do next? They better get some practice in eating crow pie. I have a feeling The Donald will be dishing that pie up at every opportunity.