It seems my own take on the debate, in real time, differed from the consensus of the commentators in one respect. I don’t claim I am necessarily more right than they. I’m just reporting the difference.
The consensus seems to me that while Hillary did very well, Trump did absolutely terribly. I agree that Trump performed poorly. But my own strongest response to what I saw was that HILLARY WAS FANTASTIC!
In my own performances over the years speaking in public — including three debates as a candidate, but mostly doing talk radio or Q & A sessions after talks — I almost always can see, in retrospect, how I could have done this or that better in this or that exchange.
My feeling at the end of the debate was that Hillary used almost every opportunity so well that it was hard to see how each little performance could have been improved upon. She not only seemed to have an excellent — not quite unerring — sense of where to go and where not to go, but she also delivered each statement in a clear, cogent, well-composed way.
(I applaud not only Hillary herself, who clearly had mastered many well-thought out plans for “what to do if,” but also her team, which evidently made in advance a variety of strategically smart decisions in making those plans.)
She was brilliant, and she was formidable.
I believe that it was the best performance in a presidential debate I’ve ever seen (and my viewing goes back to the original JFK-Nixon duel).
One more thought, regarding how Trump will do in the next debate. I can imagine it going either of two ways.
First, he has time now to learn from his mistakes and therefore perhaps he will manage to damage himself less (although if Hillary comes in on top of her game –as she did last night — I do not see how Trump can actually prevail against her).
But there is another possible scenario.
We know a bit about Trump’s obsessions with dominance and with winning. And we know some about his general misogynistic impulses, how important it seems to be to him to lord it over women. Last night, for the first time, he went mano-a-mano (but not man-to-man) against a woman, and he got trounced.
Given those factors, I can imagine that he will come into the second debate with such rage roiling within him, such an impulse to avenge his humiliation, that if he is provoked to lose it at all, he might very well lose it even more catastrophically than he did last night.