Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Clinton Baited Trump

Libby Nelson describes Hillary Clinton's subtle and skillful baiting of Donald Trump in the first Presidential debate on vox.com.

The first rule of debating Donald Trump is to not try to play his game, because you will lose. You cannot win a shouting match with Trump. You cannot force him to back down and admit that, actually, you’re right. Confront him with the worst parts of his record, and he’ll deny it in the face of evidence. He might not come out of the exchange looking good, but neither will you.

So Hillary Clinton, at the first presidential debate on Monday night, didn’t try. Instead, she came armed with invisible barbs that were likely to get under Trump’s skin.

The second rule of debating Donald Trump is that his reputation as a loose cannon is dramatically overstated. His reactions to provocations are as instinctive, and as predictable, as a knee jerking when a doctor hits it with a rubber hammer.

Clinton came with an arsenal of such provocations — and they worked just as intended. She called him “Donald.” She accused him of being much less rich than he claimed to be. She hit nearly all of his sore spots except for the size of his hands.

Some of Trump’s worst moments weren’t in response to Clinton at all, such as when moderator Lester Holt drew him out on his nonsensical answer about why he’d publicly doubted President Obama’s birthplace for so long. But Clinton successfully, and constantly, needled him, enough that Trump, who started the debate in a toned-down mode that could pass for presidential at a squint, got increasingly irritable. He interrupted; she calmly kept talking. He fulminated; she laughed.
By the time he tried to declare that he had a superior temperament near the end of the debate, the contrast was obvious: He had fulfilled her description of him at the Democratic National Convention as a “man you can bait with a tweet.”

Clinton’s tactics allowed her to set off a controlled explosion of Trump’s worst features without bringing herself down in the process, a delicate mission that none of his primary opponents managed to carry out successfully.

1) “Donald”: How Clinton disrespected Trump by calling him by his first name
2) “Borrowed from his father”: Clinton undermined Trump’s business success and made him sound like an out-of-touch plutocrat
3) “I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened”: Clinton kept her cool — and Trump just kept boiling
4) “Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is”: Clinton led Trump into a trap on his taxes
5) “You wouldn’t pay what the man needed to be paid”: Clinton used Trump’s predictability against him
6) “That is not the right temperament to be commander in chief”: Clinton got Trump to make her argument for her
7) “Her name is Alicia Machado”: Clinton’s pièce de résistance

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