I tried to watch the debate, not as a politics nerd who is up on a lot of data, but based on what I’ve learned about persuasion techniques from reading Scott Adams’ posts. This meant tuning out a lot of the words and focusing on the key points Hillary and Donald made during the debate. With that in mind, here are my impressions:
Hillary: Very prepared. Best little girl in the classroom. Teacher’s pet. Hectoring voice of an angry mother figure or your nagging ex-wife. Condescending. I found her debate performance offputting, but I’m biased.
Hillary announced that she had a plan about everything. No details, just plans. When I did listen to what Hillary was actually saying, I kept thinking, “This is just another four years of Obama.”
Hillary was greatly helped by Lester Holt, who asked Donald about the tax returns but quickly glossed over Hillary’s server and deleted emails (and asked no meaningful follow-up questions when Trump brought it up), and framed things from the Leftist point of view (income inequality, wages higher, etc.).
Hillary struck me as simultaneously incredibly prepared and completely empty. I thought she made a terrible mistake when she said everyone is racist. I don’t think of myself as racist and I bet you don’t think of yourself that way either. She’s one giant talking point.
Oh, and of course Hillary lied here and Hillary lied there. She obfuscated, exaggerated, misrepresented, and was generally . . . Hillary.
Donald: I couldn’t decide if Trump hadn’t prepared much for the debate or if he picked a few messages and said the heck with everything else. I also found Donald’s speech eerily reminiscent of my mother, in a very specific way. My mother didn’t have “macular degeneration,” like everyone else; she had “the macular.” During the debate, Trump didn’t talk about “cyber warfare,” he talked about “cyber.” He shortened a bunch of other things too. I can’t decide if that’s an endearing habit or a sign of an incomplete thought process.
Donald actually has a nice voice, although I’m biased — I’ve always been a sucker for men with husky voices. While Hillary sounded harsh and grating, Donald, no matter what he said, sounded soothing. He complimented himself way too much, but I think people are used to that by now.
And what about the message? Well, Trump did what Scott Adams says he does: he repeated phrases and words that I assume he’d A/B tested. Law and Order he said in response to the race problem Obama created in America. And then, in his inimitable incoherent way, he made it clear that the biggest beneficiaries of Law and Order are blacks. Iran deal is the worst deal ever. Blacks are living in Hell. Other countries are taking advantage of us. Jobs are leaving. Everything short. Everything repeated multiple times. I think this passed the Scott Adams persuasion-meter test.
Trump was good at hammering home that Hillary is part of the problem, notwithstanding all her yammering about solutions. He spoke about America as an ongoing concern that’s going bankrupt and promised to fix it. I like that message. I don’t know how it resonates with others. He got a little obscure when he talked about not being highly leveraged — I don’t know how many understood — but it might have been intended to impress them with his business savvy; i.e., he knows things about business they don’t, and that’s a good thing.
In connection with Holt’s question about releasing his taxes, Donald finally mentioned Hillary’s emails, but didn’t follow up on that line of attack and let Hillary’s empty apology (“I made a mistake”) mostly stand untouched. That is, he went after it a little, but avoided the repetition he uses for other things.
I was going to say that I don’t understand Trump’s holding back on the issue during the debate, but maybe I do. The Hillary supporter with whom I watched the debate truly didn’t understand what that issue is about. He just thinks it’s “emails,” and refuses to acknowledge the national security ramifications. There was no way Trump could educate Americans who don’t know or care about the issue in the time available.
Trump’s greatest vulnerability (and again, Holt handed this one to Hillary) was about the birther stuff. Hillary kept denying it started with her and Holt let her get away with that, but he fact-checked Donald when the latter implied that he stopped making remarks about Obama’s birthplace once Obama released the birth certificate PDF. At the end of it all, though, it struck me more as political infighting than anything meaningful.
Trump, unlike Hillary, didn’t lie. He puffed, exaggerated, blurred, and made elliptical comments that were unintelligible, but the lies were all hers — not that the MSM will ever admit that. As far as they’re concerned, the only person to fact check — even on things such as opinions — is Donald.
I ended up feeling that neither was badly hurt nor greatly helped. I didn’t think it would shift people, although Don Surber, in an email, said that the polls support Trump — and I believe Don.
As always, the debate format stinks. The artificial constraint of those two minutes, plus the biased mediator (although Holt did try, maybe, I think, to be somewhat, sort of balanced), means that the two candidates just yell at each other in sound bytes. What I’d love to see is a debate of the type used in the House of Commons, where the politicians hurl questions at each other and have to answer them.
Oh, and there’s more commentary coming over at WOW! Magazine, the online collaborative magazine from the Watcher’s Council.