Clinton vs Trump
I feel very ambivalent about presidential debates. They are gripping spectacle, and they do prompt further debates off-screen. But, as I've said before, the idea that people might make up their minds on whom to vote for on the basis of this choreographed stand-off, for which the candidates have been prepping for weeks (even if they claim they have only taken the previous Friday off for a bit of last minute mugging up). To put this another way, when it comes to choosing a President or a Prime Minister, their ability to "win" (whatever victory means in this context) in a debate of this sort is pretty low down on the list of what I am looking for.
Anyway, ambivalent or not, I was curious enough about how it would turn out to have the telly on in bed in the early hours of Tuesday morning to watch/listen in a semi-conscious sort of way. (The husband was awake for every minute and claims that I was occasionally in the land of nod, but when I reheard the highlights the next day, I did remember pretty much all of them.)
So who did I think won?
Well, in a way obviously, Clinton -- although the prepared soundbites stuck out glaringly. I dont think that: "As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities and nations around the world . . . he can talk to me about stamina" came spontaneously; nor the line about "I prepared to be president". (Cicero, when he wrote about the most effective oratory, was very down on learned-up jokes and quips: candidates take note.) But you can't get over the fact that Trump appeared to talk for outsiders to the "system" (though quite how much someone who is able to borrow $14 million from their Dad can count as an "outsider" to any system I dont know).
And you can't get over the fact that the slick debate format makes it very hard to confront simple and repeated untruths with the far more complicated truths. But usefully CNN did a pretty thorough fact check soon after and showed that Clinton repeatedly (not always, but repeatedly) getting the facts right, and Trump repeatedly (not always, but repeatedly) making seriously false claims, at a level that went far beyond a slight economy with the verité. It is well worth reading.
If democracy is worth anything, it has to be worth taking not just truth but also complexity seriously.