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‘Cmon Man!’ Trump’s Insanely Low Debate Expectations Were Still Too High

By  |  September 27, 2016, 12:32pm  |  @stevengberman


Let’s get real about Donald Trump and last night’s debate. As Cris Carter used to say before ESPN booted him, “C’mon man!”

No candidate in the history of television debates has ever had lower expectations than Trump. Nobody can dispute this unless they’ve been sniffing powder from Tony Montana’s desk or licking Timothy Leary’s “special” stamp collection.

Let’s look at Trump supporter Newt Gingrich’s expectations.

His test for fitness of the leader of the free world is “adequately competent.” Whatever that means. I think Newt might reconsider that squishy bar if we told him his next airline flight was captained by a man adequately competent for the job, or his surgeon produced a diploma of adequate competency. But it’s good enough for Trump.

Here are his predictions before the debate.

1. Lester Holt will be pleasant and work very hard to be fair.

2. Hillary Clinton will be stiff and awkward and her efforts to be folksy and friendly will make her seem even more stiff and clumsy.

3. Donald J. Trump will start slow and be a little tentative but will gain strength and energy rapidly.

4. The audience will be the largest in the history of political TV.

5. Trump will pass the test of being adequately competent and will get a big boost in acceptability.

How did Newt do?

Number 1: False–or true–depending on who you believe. But if you believe Trump’s other supporters, it has to be false. Number 2: Hillary smiled and even did a little dance when Trump melted down like a two-year-old whose cookie was taken away, so I’d say that’s false.

Third time’s a charm: Trump actually started out strong and as the night wore on he lost strength and self-control. False. Number four: who cares? Ratings is not a measure of success, unless you’re Trump. And Newt’s biggest fail is number 5. Trump in no way passed the test of adequate competence. If the minimum score to pass, graded on a curve based on both candidates awfulness, was, say, a 50, Trump got a 25. He scored an  “F.” He flunked out.

After the debate, Newt retreated behind his buddy Bill Clinton, as if channeling Lloyd Bentzen. Let’s bring back President Clinton–err Bill.

How this helps Trump I can’t even fathom.

And now to Trump’s lifeline call during the debate, played like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” (minus friend Regis, who said “Let the world wake up to Trump!”). Trump called Sean Hannity, his all-purpose go-to-man. (I was against the Iraq war! Ask Hannity!)

Hannity Trumpsplained that Lester Holt was biased because he asked more questions to Trump than to Hillary.

Without going into each of these items in detail, Trump had ample opportunity to bring any of these up, and didn’t. Trump whiffed when Holt pitched the emails. He never connected on Benghazi, instead saying that Clinton was fighting ISIS her whole life. The AP fact checker dispensed with that one pretty easily.

TRUMP to Clinton: “You’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.”

THE FACTS: Hillary Clinton was born in 1947 and is 68 years old. She reached adulthood in 1965. The Islamic State group grew out of an al-Qaida spinoff, al-Qaida in Iraq in 2013, the year Clinton left the State Department.

Some of the items Hannity included in his moderator-should-have-asked list were in fact brought up by Trump: Hillary’s health (sort of, in the form of “stamina”), and Trump totally flubbed the email issue when Holt broached the subject.

Trump blathered on about his ten-year-old son and “The Cyber.” Yeah, it’s amazing what kids can do with those durned computers these days, on the line and webbing all the time.

Result: Fail.

Trump claimed that part of his handicap was due to a defective microphone. It made him shout.  “I wonder … Was that on purpose? Was that on purpose?” Yeah, some union IBEW guy rigged Trump’s mic–that’s believable, right?

Perhaps the worst defense of Trump after his total cratering was by Ted Cruz.

On Facebook, which in Cruz’s case should be called “HideYourFacebook” because he can’t find a bag to hide his head, the senator wrote:

Tonight, Donald Trump had his strongest debate performance of the election cycle. He drew strong contrasts with Hillary on taxes, regulations, law and order, and the disastrous Iran deal.

Grading on a curve with an infinite slope might mathematically justify Cruz’s statement. It would mean that Trump’s previous debate performances were the equivalent of a chimpanzee flinging poo.

That must be what Cruz meant, because there’s no bar low enough for Trump to clear if an objective standard was used.

I understand Newt and longtime friend Hannity doing the alter-reality dance for Trump. But for Cruz: “C’mon man!”