Clinton and Trump Share the Stage / by marilyn salenger

                                        Photo by Gage Skidmore

                                        Photo by Gage Skidmore

Presidential debates hold an esteemed role in our country's history. They provide a unique showcase for the final candidates to go head to head in full public view, letting us see who they are and who they aren't. It's a brilliant political creation. 

Hillary Clinton won the the first 2016 Presidential Debate. It has to be said up front because if she had lost the debate, some tides might well have turned. She won the debate on substance and style with a deft use of preparation that was a winning factor. She did her job well, and as the first woman on the stage in that position, gender is something that shouldn't be dismissed. 

The big question going into the debate concerned her opponent. Which Donald Trump would show up at the Hofstra University setting? We now know. The real one. The one who for whom rules don't apply - at least in his mind - and preparation is something other people do. The so-called presidential appearing Trump was nowhere to be found.

From the moment the television cameras went to a split screen picture of each candidate, Trump lost. It was fairly remarkable to watch the body and facial language of a man who made his way into our public lives via his own TV show. The man we saw standing on the debate stage next to Hillary Clinton squirmed, squinted, pouted and slouched his way through the Presidential Debate trying hard not to look as nervous as he apparently felt. It was hard not to think of Richard Nixon sweating under hot studio lights during his first debate with John Kennedy.

Trump is a man used to controlling the show. In order to do that, you advisedly have to prepare yourself thouroughly so there are no surprises. He brought in Roger Ailes, who's pedigree includes preparing Nixon for his second debate and Presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush for their debates. Ailes got bounced from heading Fox News on sexual harrassment charges shortly before becoming part of the Trump team. If you bring in a professional coach, it generally pays to listen. But Trump didn't. The real Donald Trump that came to the Hofstra University stage showed us what not preparing for a Presidential Debate looks like. He is a man who still believes he can become leader of the free world without in-depth knowlege of the issues involved. 

And he kept interrupting the woman on stage. Not once, but throughout the 90 minutes they were together. He kept trying to argue, not debate which can happen if you're short on substance. It can also happen if you're a man who thinks he can get away with that kind of behavior opposite a woman in a professional setting. The tall big man on stage looked much smaller.

When the debate ended, Trump went into the Spin Room to talk to the media. He talked about how great he had done. And then he said something that tells us much about the man himself:

"I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton." He continued, "Maybe I'll tell you at the next debate. We'll see."

No matter how far he's come, Donald Trump appeared officially out of his league back home again seven miles from Queens, New York.