Debate as martial arts


Last night, Hillary Clinton debated Donald Trump for the first time. It was infuriating. It got my blood pressure up. It caused me to say (and type) “FUCK” several times.

And it was glorious.

Let me explain. Hillary Clinton just gave a masterclass in using your opponent’s strength against him. Sort of, anyway. At a minimum, she played him like a violin, using the absolute most infuriating thing about him – his incredible misogyny – to destroy him.

Here’s what I saw. Your mileage may, of course, vary. People coming into the debate with different starting opinions will come away with different impressions, yadda yadda yadda. And yet:

Trump came into this debate as a classic example of the  Dunning-Kruger Effect, enhanced by a baseline misogyny that makes him think he is, by default, superior to all women. He thought he could just walk into that room and say whatever came into his head, so he didn’t prep. (If he did prep, Goddess help us all.) He didn’t practice. He thought he didn’t need to. Because of the ease with which he put his sad little Republican opponents down, he thought he had this in the bag before it even started.

So she let him talk. She let him act like a buffoon. She waited while he didn’t finish sentences. She let him accuse her of having ineffectively fought ISIS for her “entire adult life”. She let him say, “Why not?” when she said that, by the end of the debate, she’d be blamed for pretty much everything. She let him lie about things we all know are true, while letting people know that he was being fact checked in real time.

When she talked, on the other hand, she was focused. She was relaxed. She was unflappable. She called him “Donald” (which was clearly a well-planned and effective microaggression). She laid traps that she’d clearly planned in advance. She got him to admit to, and BRAG about, paying no taxes. She knew her stuff, and she made sure he knew it.

He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t STAND to be on a stage with a woman who is both smarter than him, AND who did her homework. He tried to hit her on taking some days “off” this week…she hit back with, “It sounds like you’re criticizing me for preparing for this debate. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President.” He had…nothing. She pointed out that the bully hadn’t done his homework, and he just had to take it.

He started to lose his cool within 15 minutes. He started to shout. He stopped being able to complete a thought.

She kept on doing what she came to do.

Then, in the last few minutes, as he was approaching Maximum Misogyny, she hit him with her best shot: she called him out on the misogyny. In front of at least 80 million people (that’s just the TV numbers; I watched via Twitter), she called him out. Reminded him of his fat-shaming of a former Miss Universe by calling her Miss Piggy.

And what did he do? How did he respond? He spluttered, he denied, and then he, weirdly, decided to attack Rosie O’Donnell. He wasn’t even sure, you see, WHICH woman she was referring to (despite the fact that she, in a brilliant stroke, said the woman’s name out loud). He’d lost the ability to remember what, exactly, he was even responding TO at that point.

She took his misogyny, his complete inability to accept that a woman could be better than him, and used it to wipe the floor with him. He finished the debate by saying he had planned to say something “really rough to Hillary and her family”, but it wouldn’t have been “nice”…but she hasn’t been nice to him. NICE. Seriously, he finished by whining that people aren’t nice to him. Nice show of strength, there, Donnie.

And today? He’s reverted, at least temporarily, back to Old Donald. He’s out there doubling down on “Miss Universe got fat” and saying he wishes he HAD said that thing about her family. (Newsflash: we all know her husband cheated on her. And it’s a classic tool of misogyny to blame that on the woman.) He’s complaining that the moderator was biased against him. He’s whining that his MICROPHONE was defective.

So weak. Sad.


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