Friday, September 30, 2016

Sigh And Sniff

Congratulations, Donald Trump. You lost the first debate by demonstrating inferior ideas, knowledge, temperament, and logic, but not in one important aspect: media reaction.

The media could have reacted as it did to the first Bush-Gore debate of 2000, moderated by PBS' Jim Lehrer.  The New York Times last Sunday quoted Lehrer remarking

After the debate I walked out with my family, and one of my daughters said something I’ll never forget. She said, “Oh Dad, isn’t it something, what Gore did?” I stopped and said, “What do you mean?” Because as a rule, I only look at the candidate who is speaking. She said, “All that huffing and puffing and eyerolling and sighing.” I said, “My God, I didn’t know anything about it.” And she said, “Well, Dad, that’s going to be the lead of the debate stories.” And she was right. That night proved beyond any shadow of any doubt that body language is truly important in a presidential debate.

It shouldn't have.  Whatever the reaction of viewers to the Al Gore Sigh, most polls indicated that they believed Gore was more impressive than Bush in the debate, presumably because he had the knowledge of issues Bush lacked. These were not the Internet polls of today, when Trump supporters, as they clearly did, Monday night, voted repeatedly for their candidate, before legitimate polling found overwhelmingly that Clinton had  decidedly defeated her opponent.

Gore's advantage was not overwhelming but it was undisputed at that moment. Promptly, however, the media began talking about "all that huffing and puffing and eyerolling and sighing" Gore exhibited, notwithstanding the agreement there would be no reaction shots of the candidates.   Substance was ignored; affect and appearance prevailed.

Thus, in one sense Trump has prevailed. He was criticized because he was unprepared, offensive, rude, ignorant, and unashamed of it, the first three to an unprecedented degree. (Ronald Reagan was actually proud of his lack of knowledge.)  But he has largely escaped criticism- or even examination- of his debate style, so roundly critized of Al Gore.

This was reflected in response to the tweet "notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?"of former Democratic governor Howard Dean of Vermont.

Other than uncharacteristic silence from the Trump campaign, reaction was as expected.  CNN sniffed "Howard Dean claimed, with no evidence, that Donald Trump's sniffling at the debate could be due to cocaine use -- a comment that's being ripped as way out of bounds, even by those in his own party." It noted Obamite David Axelrod, unlike Dean not a fan of Mrs. Clinton, tweeted "I love @GovHowardDeanBut this is nuts."

Tuesday morning Dean explained

....he sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do. He also has grandiosity, which is something that accompanies that problem. He has delusions. I'm not talking about being crazy, but for example, when he told everybody it was very smart not to pay taxes and then denied he said it, after he said it in front of 100 million people. It's not that he's delusionary about it; it's that he thinks somehow he's going to not get caught. That is delusional. He has trouble with pressured speech. He interrupted Hillary Clinton 29 times. He couldn't keep himself together.

He also is rarely inhibited and frequently agitated.  Trump also seems to have lost weight, common among cocaine users, but give him credit there, for he demands a slim body for many of his female employees.   "No  evidence at all," according to CNN.

Dean conceded "So, look, do I think at 70 years old he has a cocaine habit? Probably not" before adding "I think it would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that."

Don't hold your breath, Governor. Donald Trump is no Al Gore, and there is no liberal smear machine to compete with the right-wing media establishment.

Update: Dean has apologized. (That's what Democrats are expected to do.)

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