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How Hillary Clinton Can Win The First Debate Before It Even Starts

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How Hillary Clinton Can Win The First Debate Before It Even Starts

The images of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump are seen painted on decorative pumpkins created by artist John Kettman in LaSalle, Illinois, U.S., June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Despite Donald Trump’s apparent commitment to turn every female, African American and Hispanic against him, he has a chance to win the election. After the first debate with Hillary Clinton, he should have none. A candidate who has ignored his policy debate team and plans to double down on the brutal strategy that worked so well in the Republican primaries must endure six 15-minute rounds on topics — America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity, and Securing America — that demand more than slogans and insults. Disaster awaits.

But so great is current hostility to Clinton that “likeability” may matter more to viewers than competence. And if NBC newscaster Lester Holt elects not to serve both as moderator and fact-checker, Trump might successfully pass himself off as likeable — until he’s insulted. And Trump, who is easily insulted, invariably responds, instantly and brutally.

With one exception.

As James Fallows has pointed out, Trump doesn’t get heated in one-on-one confrontations when his female antagonist is in the same room; he prefers to lie about the encounter when he’s safely behind his Twitter wall. He didn’t snark Carly Fiorina — “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” — when she was on stage with him; he waited until he was on his plane, surrounded by staffers. And he meekly surrendered to an African-American pastor in Flint, Michigan when she told him to stop politicking. She wasn’t a “nervous mess” until after the event. “The man is a bully,” Fallows concluded, “and like most bullies he is a coward.”

Hillary Clinton has an advantage here.

She gets to shake Trump’s hand.

At the start of Presidential debates, convention dictates that the candidates greet one another formally. Trump isn’t a germ freak at the level of Howard Hughes, but he tends to be a hugger, not a shaker of hands. At the Republican convention in Cleveland, he shook the hand of his running mate, but also gave Mike Pence an air kiss so hygienically pristine that it inspired Twitter comments like “when ur saying goodbye to a tinder date who u have no intention of ever seeing again.”

If there’s one hand he desperately doesn’t want to shake, it’s Hillary Clinton’s.

Ever since he suggested that Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly might have been menstruating during a debate, we know that Trump finds female biological machinery distasteful, if not outright disgusting.  Shaking hands with Hillary Clinton, knowing where her hand has been, is likely to be even more uncomfortable for him than his forced acknowledgment that Barack Obama was really born in America.

And she can make that ritual more uncomfortable.  At the first Obama-Romney debate, the ritual handshake lasted for five seconds. If Clinton holds on a little longer, the contrast between Trump’s discomfort and her disingenuous smile should make it abundantly clear who cares more about equal pay, reproductive freedom and maternity leave. That instantly viral image? Worth considerably more than a thousand words.

Does this seem like a moment too inconsequential to matter? Only until it happens. Think back to 2012 and that $50,000-a-plate dinner in Florida. Mitt Romney started speaking. A server or bartender activated the video on a Smartphone. And Romney’s derogatory remarks about 47 percent of his fellow citizens pretty much destroyed his campaign.

An anonymous videographer recorded that moment, but at the debates, network cameras will be trained on Trump. This is his heart’s desire — what’s more public than the ultimate reality TV show, with all of America watching to see if he’ll fire Hillary? He desperately wants to flay a woman he believes is as unclean in her morals as she is in her person. But if experience is a guide, he’s afraid of the woman in the room. The internal conflict will be intense.

“There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.” That line — Raymond Chandler wrote it in a detective novel — can be the coda of Trump’s long, sick story. He has set the trap. Will Hillary Clinton help him spring it?

Jesse Kornbluth, a novelist and screenwriter, edits HeadButler.com 



  1. Jon September 25, 2016

    Trump’s cowardice is well documented. It seems doubtful that he will acquire a backbone before the debate tomorrow. She is not a 13 year old girl he can rape. She is a woman who will not back down from the moronic bully.

    1. AgLander September 25, 2016

      …unless it was Bill involved with that 13 year old girl, in which case you better believe Hillary will not back down. Under her direction, she’d unleash the full fury of the heavily used “Bimbo Eruptions War Room” on the` unfortunate child and make that teenager wish she had never been born!

      1. Independent1 September 25, 2016

        From the NYTimes in their endorsement of Hillary:

        In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential
        candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election
        year. A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where
        one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service
        and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses
        nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and
        offering the stars on layaway. (We will explain in a subsequent
        editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward
        by a major party in modern American history.)

        1. penelopebi@me.com September 26, 2016

          I haven’t read these comments….but I am a big fan of this columnist….he is smarter than anyone.
          I am terrified Trump is going to cancel the debate. He will realize he cannot do. However; that being said; maybe his egomania will not allow him to see he cannot do.

          Ordering dinner in…..watching…..the first debate I have watched since Kennedy and Nixon. Honestly. I am that old. Others I did not have interest in. (I should have!)

          I was also at the Ambassador celebrating the win of Robert Kennedy….(after walking through Watts registering people…for three weeks as a student at USC. I was never scared. The dogs and people loved me….and I loved them. (I had on a kilt and a shetland sweater…..monogrammed no less!)

          Those people were lovely to me. And they registered! Hundreds of them!!! And the dogs were all friendly! (I am not making this up…..this went on for weeks!)

          I was completely traumatized by that assassination….and I never worked on another campaign until Obama.

          I am scared for the first time in my life by a candidate. SCARED.My mother sent me on a trip to Europe when I was 18; I saw Buchenwald, and Auschwitz. (as well as 12 countries and 32 cities!)

          Brilliant of her. What I saw in Germany……That is why I am so scared. He sounds like what happened there. And it wasn’t that long ago. I saw it.
          I just hope he isn’t smart enough to refuse to debate.

      2. Thoughtopsy September 25, 2016

        I’m always freshly amazed at how low you can go.

        Apparently you are stuck in some 1950’s paradigm where women should be denigrated and stay in the kitchen, and “blacks” should know their place.

        You also appear to have no sense of shame, or local feedback on how ugly, abusive and brutal your attitude and comments are about anyone who isn’t a White Male.

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 26, 2016

          Aggie boy has a medical issue that compels him to expose himself in public.

  2. Oddworld September 25, 2016

    The challenge for Hillary isn’t the issues themselves, she knows them well. She needs to be careful not fall into the trap of Trump’s psychological games. Donald Trump is a bully, of that there is no doubt but Hillary must not come off as a bully herself or seem too weak in her retorts. She needs to strike a balance between toughness, empathy and sincerity and allow Trump to hang himself.

  3. Jinmichigan September 25, 2016

    She should sneeze into her hand just before offering to shake trumps hand.

    1. AgLander September 25, 2016

      She already has every dangerous germy virus, bacteria, and STD known to medical science in her system thanks to exposure to the one she’s married too!

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 26, 2016

        Do you ever get the feeling that your futile quest to influence people is all in vain? You waste more time with drivel and the farcical quixotic quest to make an impact on anyone other than a negative one. Don’t flatter yourself if you think you’re making an impression on anyone besides yourself.

  4. Steve Lacy September 25, 2016

    She should put something sticky on her hand before she shakes. Something that won’t come off when he uses the hand sanitizer. And make sure they’re nice and moist too. He’ll feel like he has germs crawling all over him the whole time.

  5. AgLander September 25, 2016

    It’s impossible for Clinton to win any debate that she is going into as untrusted by almost all Americans watching plus add that she has the personality of a heavily used toilet brush to go along with her unappealing appearance and look of someone quite unhealthy and it’s a predictable big win for Trump. Hillary’s best chance is to have another medical episode and call in sick before the debate.

    1. Independent1 September 25, 2016

      Do you actually work at coming up with all this mindlessly stupid rhetoric of yours?? Hopefully no one is paying you to post all that drivel!!!

    2. Thoughtopsy September 25, 2016

      It appears you haven’t actually been reading any facts again.
      A majority of Americans do consider her untrustworthy, it’s true. Ironically a LARGER majority of Americans find Trump untrustworthy… Where is your statement on Trump not being able to win based on this, either? I seems it’s missing.

      – I note you also can’t seem to criticize Hillary without commenting negatively on her appearance. I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions about what that makes you.

      – I note that “Unhealthy Appearance” could far more be applied to Trump. The only “Orange-American” ever running for office. Bluntly: He’s obviously overweight, on a bad diet (according to his own words), and often looks puffy and sallow (although it’s hard to tell under the orange… which is possibly why it’s there).

      – “Predictable big win for Trump”… Actually he’s been way behind until recently. Now he’s only slightly behind. Neither of these facts support a “Big Win”.

      I look forward to hearing what you have to say after the Debate where Trump shows his true nature, and America collectively recoils. Unfortunately you can’t be the ADHD 5 year old in the room when you have to talk for 15 minutes about policy. Can’t wait to see how he tries and fails to do that.

    3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 26, 2016

      Like someone told you earlier, you don’t read and comprehend facts, but simply act on impulse like a protozoan or jellyfish.
      You undergo medical and mental episodes every time the urge to make a comment here strikes your fancy. It must be the highlight of your day to expose your weaknesses so brazenly and w/o remorse or shame.

      But, if you must be a masochist, by all means continue to amuse us.

  6. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 26, 2016

    Trump’s shield and ally has been Twitter and standing before rabid crowds to unable or unwilling to understand the larger scope of the mess America is mired in. In the open, without the “skirts” of Twitter to hide behind, it is quite likely he’ll reaffirm how shallow and callous he is.
    When a bully has to look you right in the eye, he wilts and backs down, as I’ve noticed on a couple of occasions in elementary and Junior high school. This is the sort of stance that cowards who like to push women around, or who prefer other easier targets go after.
    Trump’s fans love bully tactics, and a bully, it would seem.


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