It was a rough night for Mr. Snif­fles

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Kath­leen Parker is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. Kath­leen Parker Colum­nist

Colum­nist Kath­leen Parker com­ments on Don­ald Trump's per­for­mance in Mon­day's de­bate.

My heart went out to Don­ald Trump Mon­day night when it ap­peared he was un­der the weather.

What could be worse than to be sick, snif­fling through his first pres­i­den­tial de­bate just days af­ter he was chal­leng­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s health and, dur­ing the de­bate, taunt­ing her lack of stamina. Trump’s own stamina was not, shall we say, in abun­dance Mon­day. Wearyeyed and gulp­ing wa­ter, he looked as though he might fall asleep were it not for the lectern’s sup­port.

Could his mal­ady per­haps ex­plain his ut­ter in­co­her­ence? Might what­ever was dry­ing out his mouth, but not his nose, ex­plain his child­ish, run­ning com­men­tary as Clin­ton was an­swer­ing a ques­tion?

As karma would have it, Clin­ton seemed perky by com­par­i­son. Pitch-per­fect through­out the de­bate, she was never at a loss for a co­her­ent an­swer or a re­bound. She even man­aged to con­quer her ha­bit­ual im­pulse to nod her head af­fir­ma­tively when some­one else is talk­ing.

Oth­er­wise, she smiled through her con­tempt for Trump’s inane re­sponses or non­re­sponses. In the course of the evening, she seemed to get him to ad­mit to not pay­ing any fed­eral taxes, which Trump ap­peared to con­firm by say­ing, “That makes me smart.” Mod­er­a­tor Lester Holt’s ques­tion about Trump’s birther cru­sade elicited not only a de­fense of his ef­forts but a dec­la­ra­tion of pride that he, Trump, had forced Obama to present his birth cer­tifi­cate.

“I think I did a good job,” he said.

This is false, as any se­ri­ous news con­sumer knows. But these two ex­am­ples il­lus­trate two key com­po­nents of Trump’s char­ac­ter — brag­gado­cio and preen­ing pride. Trans­la­tion: in­se­cu­rity and weak­ness. He was proud of two things — pay­ing no taxes and racist pan­der­ing — for which most peo­ple of con­science would feel shame.

Sure, if you’re some­one whose ca­reer is built on gam­ing the sys­tem, you might gloat about be­ing the best gamer. But is this whom you want for pres­i­dent?

As for racist pan­der­ing, that’s what birtherism was. It was never re­ally about Obama’s birth­place. In Snif­fles’ hands, the birther is­sue was an in­stru­ment to mine the sub­lim­i­nal racist at­ti­tudes that Trump knew were out there. His strat­egy was to con­stantly re­mind vot­ers of Obama’s Kenyan her­itage, thus build­ing a rap­port with a cer­tain seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion that ul­ti­mately would cat­a­pult him onto the de­bate stage. He sub­se­quently re­in­forced his mon­u­ment to in­famy by marginal­iz­ing other dark­er­skinned groups, in­clud­ing Mex­i­cans and Mus­lims. Thusly was Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign launched. His made-for-TV de­scent on the es­ca­la­tor of New York’s Trump Tower was merely a drama­ti­za­tion of the di­rec­tion he would lead his acolytes and, if elected, the na­tion.

Dur­ing his part of the “de­bate,” Trump did man­age to make a cou­ple of points, no­tably that Clin­ton is a ca­reer politi­cian while he’s a builder and job cre­ator. Noted. Oth­er­wise, he was of­ten, if not mostly, a Donny-brook of bab­bling non­sense. At one junc­ture, crit­i­ciz­ing Clin­ton for post­ing her an­tiIs­lamic State plan on her web­site (as op­posed to not ac­tu­ally hav­ing a plan), he said with rough con­vic­tion: “No won­der you’ve been fight­ing ISIS your en­tire adult life.”

Asked by Holt what he would do to pre­vent cy­ber­at­tacks, Trump replied: “As far as the cy­ber ... we should be bet­ter than any­body else, and per­haps we’re not. I don’t think any­body knows it was Rus­sia that broke into the DNC (Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee). She’s say­ing Rus­sia, Rus­sia, Rus­sia . ... Maybe it was . ... But it could also be China, it could also be lots of other peo­ple. It also could be some­body sit­ting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

What came next was, well, this: “You don’t know who broke in to DNC, but what did we learn with DNC? We learned that Bernie San­ders was taken ad­van­tage of by your peo­ple. By (for­mer DNC Chair­woman) Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz. Look what hap­pened to her.”

As a mat­ter of fair­ness, I would in­clude sim­i­larly con­fused re­sponses by Clin­ton, but there were none. When the worst crit­i­cism is that you’re “over­pre­pared,” as some have ac­cused Clin­ton, you’re in pretty good shape. Mean­while, the global mar­ket­place may tell the larger story. As the evening con­cluded, thanks to Clin­ton’s ob­vi­ous dom­i­nance, as well as her as­ser­tion that a Clin­ton pres­i­dency would honor U.S. com­mit­ments abroad, the Asian mar­kets re­cov­ered, the peso ral­lied, and the Dow fu­tures added 100 points. That’s noth­ing to sneeze at — or sniffle about.

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