Snif­fles and The Cy­ber go to town

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker’s email ad­dress is kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com.

My heart went out to Don­ald Trump Mon­day night when it ap­peared that 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. Weary-eyed 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 non re­sponses. 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.

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, no mat­ter who thought of it first. Democrats aren’t any more vir­tu­ous than Repub­li­cans when it comes to foul play; Repub­li­cans are just bet­ter at it.

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 anti-Is­lamic 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 Chair] 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, de­bate-wise. 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 mar­ket re­cov­ered, the peso ral­lied, and Dow fu­tures added 100 points. That’s noth­ing to sneeze at — or snif­fle about.

Kath­leen Parker Colum­nist

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