The election comes down to the debates

unknownHillary Clinton is no match for a down-and-dirty street fighter like Trump

[By Ted Rall, Aug. 23, 2016]

The biggest potential game changer in the U.S. election are the presidential debates. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton will use her command of the facts and her ability to namedrop world leaders to run circles around Trump. But conventional wisdom is often wrong–just ask ‘unstoppable’ 2016 Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush.

I think Donald will trounce Hillary in the debates. We like to think that the presidential debates are about issues and facts. They aren’t. The winner is the candidate who unleashes the zingiest one-liners and putdowns. Consider these examples form past debates:

“There you go again.”

“Where’s the beef?”

“I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Hillary Clinton’s brand is experience and competence. She can’t get down into the gutter with Trump without undermining her message that she’s the adult. Remember what happened to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush when they tried to out-Trump Trump: they wrecked whatever chances they still had to stop him during the primaries.

Does Trump have vulnerabilities? Obviously. Hillary’s aces in the hole are the temperament argument and his refusal to release his taxes. The secrecy surrounding his tax returns raises suspicions that risk unraveling the fundamental rationale of his candidacy: I’m rich and successful, and I can use the talents I used to get that way to benefit the country. But her vulnerabilities are more serious.

The problem for Hillary is that she has gotten a relatively free ride from journalists and pundits, most of whom will vote for her. Her hypocrisies and inconsistencies comparatively unexamined, she emerges from her primary campaign untested and untempered. The debates offer Trump a juicy opportunity to expose those weaknesses on what promises to be a national stage with record audiences.

If she asks him about his tax returns, he can deflect by demanding the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, which she repeatedly refused to release while fending off Bernie. When she goes after him on ethics, he’ll pound away on the 30,000 deleted emails, and the Clinton Foundation scandal.

If Trump wants to go nuclear, he can slam her with the biggest unreported story of the year: the allegation that her husband President Bill was a frequent flyer on a convicted pedophile’s sexual tourism escapades overseas.

Hillary Clinton was reluctant to agree to any debates. Past performance suggests that she isn’t a strong debater to begin with, let alone going against a master reality TV and pro wrestling ringmaster like Donald Trump.

Trump knows all the tricks: how to deploy comical facial expressions, how to dominate by by using body language, a laser-like ability to identify an opponent’s weaknesses and reduce them to rubble via ridicule (“Little Marco”). In an American presidential debate, 15-point white papers don’t count for jack. The best entertainer always wins.

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.


Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Wednesday, Oct.  19, 2016, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV