No, Trump Did NOT Have a Good Debate

Oh, please, stop it with the “presidential.” If last night Donald Trump was “presidential,” then clearly you have no respect for the Presidents of the United States.

A colleague and I just came up with the perfect analogy. Last night, Trump was the student who’s usually a problem in class but, for one day, was actually calm and not a distraction. Did he have something to contribute? No. Did he do his homework? Nope. Did he study so he could keep up with his classmates? Not at all. He just BS’ed his way through his responses as he always does, using repetitive words and phrases and largely dodging the questions. But at least he wasn’t bad. At least he didn’t swear. At least he didn’t throw a fit and lower the quality of the class. And when that happens, we’re relieved and we say the kid “had a good day.”

But I’ll tell you what — I sure wouldn’t support that kid for class president.

Unlike Trump, I’m hoping to bring specifics to back up my ideas. Here is the debate transcript.

On Social Security

Moderator Dana Bash explained that without changes, Social Security would go bankrupt in 20 years. She asked Trump what he would do about that.

“Well, first of all, I want you to understand that the Democrats, and I’ve watched them very intensely, even though it’s a very, very boring thing to watch, that the Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security. They’re leaving it the way it is. In fact, they want to increase it. They want to actually give more.”

After the Democrats slam, he eventually got to his answer:

“I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country, rampant, totally rampant. And it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.”

You see this right?  Am I taking crazy pills?

But he wasn’t finished. “You have 22 years, you have a long time to go. It’s not long in terms of what we’re talking about, but it’s still a long time to go (So, to be clear, it’s both a long time and not a long time) and I want to leave Social Security as is. . . . I want to make America great again and I want to leave Social Security as is. We’re going to get rid of waste, fraud, abuse and bring back business.”

Bash, as you can imagine, had a follow up, mentioning that cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse” plan would save about 3 billion of the 150 billion dollars needed to keep Social Security solvent.

Trump doesn’t seem to know that Social Security is funded through the payroll tax, not the government, because his response was to talk about how much we spend on the military (“We’re the policemen of the world. We take care of the entire world.”), which presumably means he would redirect that money to Social Security. But in the course of that response, he said, “We’re going to have a stronger military, much stronger. Our military is depleted.”

These contradictory responses were in stark contrast to Rubio and Cruz’s specific approach to saving Social Security (admitting fraud is not enough, directly dealing with the larger problem, slowly raising the retirement age, etc.), but, as always, Trump supporters won’t care.

Moving on… oh, but before I do, as I was scanning down the transcript, I just spotted him saying, “We’re going to find the answers to things.” Had to share.

On trade

After immigration, his opposition to free trade may be his biggest selling point (and most direct comparison to Bernie Sanders). Trump was confronted about his wish to put tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese goods. Ted Cruz pointed out that would essentially work out to a 45 percent tax on the American people for all our goods we buy from China on an average trip to Wal-Mart.

Trump’s response, “The 45 percent tax is a threat. It was not a tax, it was a threat.” After one sentence where he calls the tax a threat, he says it’s not a tax at all. But, if it’s just a threat, hasn’t that threat now been broadcasted that it’s only a threat? And if the Chinese roll the dice and don’t back down and he follows through on the threat, don’t we now have that 45 percent tax at Wal-Mart?

So which is it — is his tirade against free trade destructive or just plain toothless? I guess he wants to keep us guessing. (It’s worth noting that it’s not his first head-scratching free trade moment. A debate late in 2015 had this moment, when he said “I’m a free trader, 100 percent!” while also promoting high, blanket tariffs. The man is an enigma wrapped in a riddle embedded in glow-in-the-dark skin.)’

On Cuba

Bash: “You said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. Why do you agree with President Obama and disagree with what Senator Rubio just said?”

Trump: “I don’t agree with President Obama, I do agree something should be — should take place. After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks.”

Actually, that’s basically what the President said and the Republican Party has disagreed with. Trump said what sets him apart from the President is, as always, “I would want to make a good deal, I would want to make a strong, solid, good deal.” Also as always, he offered no specifics about what this deal would contain. Again, he’s making it up as he goes along and hasn’t given it much thought yet because he hasn’t had to.

After his characteristically nebulous response, Rubio offered a litany of specifics about what such a good deal would need. “I’ll tell you what the good deal now, it’s already codified. Here’s a good deal — Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, Cuba has freedom of the press, Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes (ph) and kicks out the Chinese listening station in Berupal (ph) Cuba stops helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions, Cuba takes all of those fugitives of America justice, including that cop killer from New Jersey, and send her back to the United States and to jail where she belongs. And you know what? Then we can have a relationship with Cuba. That’s a good deal.”

That’s what substance looks like. Not “I would want to make a good deal, I would want to make a strong, solid, good deal.” 

Nevertheless, Trump supporters — say it with me — won’t care.

On his rallies

Jake Tapper pointed out that Trump’s messy rallies often devolve into violence, and asked Trump if he has contributed to that.

Trump: “I hope not. I truly hope not.” And then he talked about how many people come to his rallies.

Tapper didn’t let him off the hook, pointing out the following excerpts of Trump at his rallies, talking about protesters:

  • “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • “In the good ol’ days, they’d have ripped him out of that seat so fast.”
  • “Knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

Faced with this damning evidence, Trump resorted to a “They started it” argument. Somehow I doubt that.

But hey, at least he didn’t refer to his penis, right? So presidential.

Tomorrow, a look at Florida.


14 thoughts on “No, Trump Did NOT Have a Good Debate”

  1. When I hear Trump talk, I sometimes shake my head and wonder if I’ve missed something. However, seeing his comments in print lets me know that I’ve not misunderstood. He is genuinely incoherent.


  2. […] In 1880, Harper’s Weekly described Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock as “loose, aimless, unintelligent, absurd,” while the Nation opined “The General’s talk about [tariffs] is that of a man who knows nothing about it, and who apparently, until he began to talk had never thought about it.” (Sound familiar?) […]


  3. […] Which leads to our next question. Can he get healthier still? It’s certainly possible. The economy looks good, the Korea developments are a long process, and Trump presumably will stick to speaking only with friendly media (read: Fox) to minimize the possibility of disrupting this progress. He hasn’t had a press conference in 451 days. It’s worth noting I was critical of Hillary Clinton at 267 days, and she was just a candidate, not the sitting President. I noted how Trump, in contrast, had “the fortitude to stand in front of reporters time and time again.” It appears that fortitude has been misplaced somewhere in the west wing. His advisers probably know that his ranting is good for ratings and galvanization, but if pressed on specifics on almost any issue, President Trump is as vapid as candidate Trump. […]


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