Watch­ing Don­ald Trump de­bate Hil­lary Clin­ton is like watch­ing the last 25 min­utes of Fight Club; where will this one all end?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS -

This week it was the walk­ing and loom­ing sec­tion of the Amer­i­can Pres­i­den­tial race (BBC News, Sun­day/Mon­day). It’s the de­bate in which can­di­dates prac­tise their pres­i­den­tial strolling flanked by a col­lec­tion of “or­di­nary peo­ple”, each one sym­bol­i­cally rep­re­sent­ing one of the cor­po­ra­tions that own Amer­ica or pos­si­bly the dif­fer­ent dis­tricts from which Don­ald Trump will pull trib­utes for his Hunger Games ( The Ap­pren­tice).

This “town-hall meet­ing” style de­bate is tra­di­tion­ally pitched as a sort of Tur­ing Test. The can­di­dates must try seem­ing hu­man in the eyes of the “or­di­nary peo­ple”, and then pun­dits an­a­lyse their ready smiles or folksy charm or abil­ity to hide their dis­gust at the mid­dle classes and ten­dency to ad­dress them as “hu­mans” or “flesh­lings” (Trump isn’t even pro­grammed to see them, so of­ten stares over their heads when an­swer­ing ques­tions).

The can­di­dates at­tempt to gen­er­ate “warmth”, and once one of them has achieved suf­fi­cient “warmth” the broad­cast must swiftly be brought to an end by ter­ri­fied white-haired mod­er­a­tor An­der­son Cooper (he has seen so much), be­cause it means they’re over­heat­ing and will prob­a­bly burst into flames like Sir Kil­lalot on Ro­bot Wars.

It’s tricky ter­ri­tory for Amer­i­can politi­cians. They must at­tempt to “feel” peo­ple’s pain and not “savour” it. This is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for Trump who would like noth­ing bet­ter than to de­cant the peo­ple’s tears as a dress­ing for his post-de­bate dol­phin salad.

One way or another, be­ing re­lat­able is a ridicu­lous ex­pec­ta­tion for someone who will soon have the power to nuke Luxembourg on a whim (I’m not sug­gest­ing they should, though given how loose Trump is with his plan­ning, this re­view might soon con­sti­tute a pol­icy doc­u­ment).

How do you make a woman who helped take out Osama Bin Laden, and her op­po­nent, a giant fi­bre-glass sports mas­cot coated in melted Easy Sin­gles and a clutch of Labrador hair, re­lat­able to the av­er­age strug­gling Amer­i­can?

You can­not. The best you can do is seem vaguely hu­man (Clin­ton) and com­pe­tent (Clin­ton) and not very racist (Clin­ton) and not boast­ful about sex­ual as­sault when caught on an open mi­cro­phone (Clin­ton). Of course, these are my met­rics; some peo­ple are clearly analysing it dif­fer­ently.

Free to roam

They aren’t podium-bound for this de­bate so can ba­si­cally roam the stage as they see fit. When Trump talks, Clin­ton gen­er­ally takes a seat and rolls her eyes or flashes a prac­ticed smile at the au­di­ence. While Clin­ton talks, Trump prowls the stage or sways from side-to-side like a dis­tressed Wook­iee on Life Day (see the Star Wars Christ­mas Spe­cial) or stands in the back­ground clutch­ing a chair like it’s the bow of a ship or a fright­ened girl, and stares off into the hori­zon lis­ten­ing to mu­sic only he can hear (just a guess, but prob­a­bly To­mor­row Be­longs to Me).

What are those beady lit­tle but­ton eyes fixed upon? What is that lit­tle beady lit­tle brain think­ing? What thoughts are that beady lit­tle mouth purs­ing it­self upon? Per­haps he is con­tem­plat­ing the Trumpspawn, sev­eral of whom are gath­ered in the au­di­ence and who will, af­ter his fifth term, bat­tle for his love and suc­ces­sion as next pres­i­dent of Trump­ton (the new name for Amer­ica).

Clin­ton is a flawed can­di­date. There’s no doubt about that. And Trump at­tacks her weak­nesses – her use of a pri­vate email server, her de­part­ment’s re­sponse to the 2012 at­tack on Amer­i­can fa­cil­i­ties in Beng­hazi and her ties to Wall Street. But it’s also clear, when he lam­basts her for hav­ing ac­tual poli­cies (as op­posed to a grab-bag of racist dog-whis­tles and na­tion­al­ist memes) and rants and raves about her be­ing a liar and an apol­o­gist for her hus­band’s al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct, that she’s also partly a prod­uct of his imag­i­na­tion.

“Crooked Hil­lary” is ba­si­cally Tyler Dur­den, and some­times watch­ing Trump de­bate her is like watch­ing the last 25 min­utes of Fight Club. It’s Ed­ward Nor­ton re­peat­edly punch­ing him­self in the face. Which was pretty cool, now that I re­call . . . F**k it, maybe I’d vote Trump.

This is, I be­lieve, the only way any­one de­cides to vote Trump, with the words “F**k it” at the start of the sen­tence. It’s a drunken late-night de­ci­sion (“F**k it, are we do­ing this?”), and it’s been night in parts of Amer­ica since the 1970s and Amer­ica has been drink­ing since the 1990s.

In this de­bate, Trump pub­licly con­tra­dicts his own run­ning mate on whether he would at­tack As­sad in Syria (he would not), boasts about not pay­ing tax, boasts about the num­ber of Twit­ter fol­low­ers he has, boasts about know­ing noth­ing about Rus­sia, dou­bles down on curb­ing re­li­gious free­dom and threat­ens to jail his op­po­nent when crowned king . . . I mean, elected pres­i­dent.

Com­par­a­tively pres­i­den­tial

Clin­ton is com­par­a­tively pres­i­den­tial, but the bar is pretty low. What does seem­ing pres­i­den­tial even mean any more? That she isn’t a drool­ing, il­log­i­cal hate-mon­ger? That she has never en­gaged in recre­ational ball-grop­ing? That she is flesh coloured? That she has reg­u­lar-sized fin­gers rather than ter­ri­fy­ing, grasp­ing nub­bins of hate?

At some point, to­wards the end, a man with a red jumper and a neatly trimmed mous­tache asks a ques­tion about en­ergy pol­icy. His jumper is so red and his mous­tache so neat that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple watch­ing think, “What about him? Couldn’t he be pres­i­dent in­stead?”

No, he could not. The choice is be­tween Clin­ton and Trump. The choice is Amer­ica’s. I can’t tell Amer­i­cans how to vote and wouldn’t dream of lead­ing them in any di­rec­tion us­ing hy­per­bolic al­lu­sions to his­tory.

In­ter­est­ing hair

On an un­re­lated note, the sec­ond episode of Hitler: The

Rise and Fall also aired on Sun­day (Chan­nel 4). It cov­ers the pre-war years, and tells the story of a bad-tem­pered dem­a­gogue with in­ter­est­ing hair who is un­der­es­ti­mated by the tra­di­tional con­ser­va­tives who seek to con­trol him.

He sur­vives news­pa­per scan­dals (the sui­cide of at least two lovers) that would have grounded other politi­cians of the day. He jails po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, dis­likes im­mi­grants and makes use of new me­dia to con­vince peo­ple he will make their coun­try great again.

It’s com­pelling stuff, even if oc­ca­sion­ally the rhetoric from the dra­mat­i­cally sound­tracked ex­perts seems a lit­tle sen­sa­tional. I mean, what’s the worst that could hap­pen? We’ll find out over the com­ing weeks, I sup­pose.

While Clin­ton talks, Trump prowls the stage or sways from side-to-side like a dis­tressed Wook­iee on Life Day or stands in the back­ground clutch­ing a chair like it’s the bow of a ship or a fright­ened girl

Walk­ing and loom­ing: Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump dur­ing Sun­day’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate

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