Hillary Clinton Brings Out the Real Donald Trump

John Cassidy in The New Yorker:

First-Debate-08-1200Words matter when you run for President,” Hillary Clinton said toward the end of Monday night’s happening at Hofstra University, on Long Island. Clinton was criticizing Donald Trump for his loose language regarding America’s allies in Asia, but she could have been summing up the lopsided debate, which saw her doing virtually everything she needed to do while Trump indicted himself with his own words. As anybody familiar with Clinton’s career could have predicted, she was extremely well prepared for her first debate against Trump. After finding an opening to voice the key theme of her campaign early on—“We have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top”—she spoke confidently and with precision more or less throughout. Although some of her attack lines sounded rehearsed—“Trumped-up trickle-down” was one that she repeated—they were still effective. She didn’t say anything that will come back to haunt her, and her only really awkward moments came when her opponent attacked her for reversing her position on the Trans Pacific Partnership. Trump, on the other hand, had evidently been telling the truth, for once, when, in the lead-up to Monday night, he said he didn’t believe in spending a lot of time on debate prep. His spontaneity and direct language played to his advantage in some of the debate’s early exchanges. But as the night wore on, and as the discussions got more detailed, his lack of respect for the format got him into all sorts of trouble. First, there were his errors of omission. Trump’s harsh stance on immigration and his depiction of Clinton and other professional politicians as puppets of corporate interests have both helped propel his campaign to this point. But on Monday, speaking before an enormous national audience, he barely mentioned the wall he wants to build across the U.S. border with Mexico, and he didn’t bring up Clinton’s ties to monied interests at all.

Then there was the damage done by the things he did say. At one point, Lester Holt, the moderator, asked Trump about his refusal to release his tax returns, a subject that Trump must have known would come up. He replied by saying that he would release his returns “when she”—Clinton—“releases her thirty-three thousand e-mails that have been deleted.“ Perhaps Trump thought he was being smart with this this answer, but it only gave Clinton a chance to respond, which she did with relish. “So you’ve got to ask yourself: Why won’t he release his tax returns?” she said, seizing the moment. “Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is … maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be.” Then Clinton raised another theory, one that I and others have written about: “Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.” Here, you’d expect the target of the attack to sense the danger. Evidently, Trump didn’t. Having interrupted Clinton during most of her previous answers, he did so again. “That makes me smart,” he said. Even on Twitter, where people were pulling apart Trump’s words with the relish of a class of third graders dissecting a worm, it took a few seconds for this statement to sink in. Had he really just boasted that he didn’t pay any federal taxes? Indeed, he had.

More here.