Tuesday, September 06, 2016


Alas, Greg Sargent is right -- though he neglects to mention part of the problem:
Get ready for news organizations to grade Trump’s debate performance on a massive curve. Here is a depressing harbinger of what’s coming, from CNN today:
In front of a vast television audience, the GOP nominee could reshape perceptions of his character and readiness -- if he can avoid being drawn into gaffes and personality clashes by Clinton. He will benefit from rock-bottom expectations, given controversies whipped up by his tempestuous personality and the vast gulf in experience between Trump and Clinton.
In other words, if Trump doesn’t try to urinate in Clinton’s direction or manages not to vomit all over his podium, he will have “defied expectations.” So presidential!
What Sargent doesn't mention is that Hillary Clinton is going to bumped down one or several grades precisely because she'll know what he's talking about. Journalists and pundits will use this against her two ways: (1) They'll dismiss her command of the subject because, well, of course she should know her stuff after all these years, and (2) they'll act as if she's showing off by displaying a command of the facts. Remember Frank Bruni in 2000 sneering at Al Gore for knowing what he was talking about at the first debate with George W. Bush:
It was not enough for Vice President Al Gore to venture a crisp pronunciation of Milosevic, as in Slobodan, the Yugoslav president who refuses to be pried from power ... Mr. Gore had to go a step further, volunteering the name of Mr. Milosevic’s challenger, Vojislav Kostunica. Then he had to go a step beyond that, noting that Serbia plus Montenegro equals Yugoslavia ... and as Mr. Gore loped effortlessly through the Balkans, barely able to suppress his self-satisfied grin, it became ever clearer that the point of all the thickets of consonants and proper nouns was not a geopolitical lesson ... it was more like oratorical intimidation, an unwavering effort to upstage and unnerve an opponent whose mind and mouth have never behaved in a similarly encyclopedic fashion.
Apparently, when two candidates are seeking the job of Leader of the Free World, it's unfair of one to demonstrate that he or she is more qualified than the other -- at least when the other is a frattish, gregarious, backslapping big-man-on-campus Republican.

I don't know how Hillary Clinton will overcome this hurdle. She'll have to look as if she's not trying to embarrass Trump, whereas Trump will get higher grades the more he insults Clinton. And, of course, Clinton can't forgo gravitas to give Trump a taste of his own medicine -- see the CNN story quoted above, which warns that Trump will have to "avoid being drawn into gaffes and personality clashes by Clinton." Really, she can't win.

(Greg Sargent quote via Digby. Frank Bruni quote via Jonathan Chait.)


MaryAnn said...

My observation is that the pundits follow whoever sets the spin first. Pro Hillary bloggers and surrogates need to be ready to set the tone. I agree that deck is stacked against Hillary.

Ken said...

The Clinton-Trump debates will be as big a mismatch as the Biden-Palin one.

Victor said...

A final bottle of gin, poured into a pitcher, and let me have a heavy hand with the Anthrax and strychnine, please.

And don't forget the lime!
THank you...............

Here's your tip.
Keep the money.

Dark Avenger said...

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said 51 percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.

But respondents said the folksy Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent. Seventy percent said Biden was more of a typical politician.


Trump won't be able to pull off folksy, Mr. Fruit Loop.

Knight of Nothing said...

Dammit, SteveM, I really hope you're wrong about this. The feeling in my gut as I read this post says otherwise.

Unknown said...

Hasn't the influence of the media enfeebled in the last couple of decades? Hillary's not immune; the "Clinton scandals" are entrenched narrative. But new damage? They will try, but it's not 2000 anymore. The media are in disgrace, and they've been largely replaced as sources of important information and analysis. Right?

A.J. said...

"He will benefit from rock-bottom expectations."

Conservative Affirmative Action. Isn't this the same as the “soft bigotry of low expectations”?

Feud Turgidson said...

A Partial List of Soft Bigots of Low Expectations

Brian Williams
Morning Goe & Mme Twit
Frank [kissed more publisher ass & sucked more publisher dick than any major organ pundit, including Cohen & Marcus] Bruni
Everyone on CNN not named Seltzer, Tapper, or,sometimes, Anderson
Everyone on Fox NC not named Shep
Everyone on ABCNews not named Preposteropoulos
Everyone on CBSNews
Joe Klein

Gadfly said...

Barack Obama himself the biggest beneficiary of soft bigotry of low expectations.

And, wake me up when Lauer has Jill Stein on.

Right now, the whole duopoly is being graded on a massive curve.

And, no, outside of Lauer's goof on Iraq, Trump was/is NOT being so graded.

That David Brock Kool-Aid is sure getting around, though.