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Sept. 27 2016 1:46 AM

Every Time Donald Trump Sniffed at the Debate

Many things happened at the first presidential debate Monday night. Hillary Clinton said "Woo, OK!" Donald Trump name-dropped Sidney Blumenthal, Rosie O'Donnell, and Sean Hannity—and definitely did not talk about Bill Clinton's infidelities. But unless you watched the festivities with the sound off like a total weirdo, it was hard to miss the defining noise of the night: Donald Trump's incessant sniffing.

Did Trump have a tiny Lego stuck up his nose? Is sniffing his nervous tick? Maybe he has pneumonia, hard to say. Anyway, enjoy this video, which is super pleasant and not at all disgusting.

Sept. 27 2016 12:43 AM

Trump Praises Self During, After Debate for Not Bringing Up Bill Clinton’s Infidelity

Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump on Monday night for his history of misogyny, and during his response, Trump said something weird about wanting to say something but not saying it.

The transcript:

Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials, some of it said in entertainment, somebody who's been very vicious to me, Rosie O'Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree she deserves it, and nobody feels sorry for her. I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I can't do it. I just can't do it. It's inappropriate.

Hey, that doesn't make sense at all! Trump then elaborated, sort of, on this claim after the debate to CNN's Dana Bash.


BASH: Anything you wish you did earn differently?
TRUMP: I'm very happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton, and I didn't want to say what I was going to say—
BASH: Which is?
TRUMP: Which is I'll tell you maybe at the next debate, we'll see.

It now appears that Trump's campaign—which is losing the post-debate news cycle pretty badly, for what that's worth—is now trying to make "at least he didn't talk about Bill Clinton's affairs" some sort of positive-takeaway talking point.

It's good to have things to be proud of. But hey, I guess when most pundits agree that you got roasted and toasted in your big presidential debate, you might as well throw the old "I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging that the congressman had sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered" strategy at the wall to see if it sticks.

Sept. 27 2016 12:19 AM

I Watched the Presidential Debate With the Sound Off. Bugs Bunny Won.

It’s been said the best way to judge a presidential debate is to watch with the sound off. So I did.

It was liberating! Stress that accrued throughout the day—as I fretted for the fate of our republic—dissolved into the calming silence of a muted television. During the pre-debate runup, graphics swooped weightlessly across the screen, untethered to those urgent string sections. Teams of analysts flapped their gums, but no inanities reached my ears. So serene.

And then the candidates took the stage. Clinton covered more ground as they marched toward each other, racing across the carpet with her robotic, arm-pumping gait.

Once installed behind their lecterns, Trump leaned forward and gripped the sides of his as though he wished to pry its top off, while Clinton placed her hands gently before her on the flat surface. His suit jacket easily filled the full width of his split-screen half. Her narrower, flame-red-clad frame left open space at her sides.

As they started to speak, their hands rose and flitted. Her gestures rarely ventured beyond the silhouette of her torso. She often swept her hands inward, toward her heart. To emphasize a point, she’d indicate delicately with her right hand, as though placing a peach on a shoulder-level shelf. She sometimes offered tiny shrugs, while lifting her lower lip, in a manner that suggested she’d contemplated both sides of a thorny question and found no easy answer.

His gesticulating was far more kinetic, his hands chopping down from ear level toward the lectern, his arms swinging side to side. He forever seemed to be forcefully sweeping something off a table. He nodded decisively with each syllable, conveying certainty in what he said. When answering a question, he’d lean toward his mic, letting one shoulder drop, torqueing his upper body. His eyes and his whole posture repeatedly gravitated toward his rival, and it appeared he wished to challenge her. She’d observe him coolly, blinking, expressionless. On occasion she’d break into an incredulous smile, and once she laughed like a socialite who’d heard something naughty.

In 2008, political commentator Jeff Greenfield posited a theory in Slate about two types of presidential candidates. First there are the Daffy Ducks: “He fumes, he clenches his fists, his eyes bulge, and his entire body tenses with fury.” Then there are the Bugs Bunnies: “at ease, laid back, secure, confident.” Greenfield argues that the public always votes for the candidate more like Bugs.

If you watched with the sound off, Clinton was the Bugs tonight. When she spoke, she almost never bothered to look Trump’s way, even as he interrupted her, which he seemed to do a lot. Instead, she addressed the people at home. She didn’t seem to care much about her rival. The one time she did interact with him in a physical way, she shimmied with glee—shivering her shoulders, delighting in mockery.

Meanwhile, Trump would listen with head tilted, lips pursed, eyes narrowed to slits—a sinister bearing that made him look angry, resentful, fuming like someone who’d been bested.

Is that what happened?

Sept. 26 2016 11:51 PM

The First Presidential Debate, in Sum: “Woo, OK”


The first presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle was extremely loud and incredibly unmoderated, but there was one moment Monday that will absolutely go down in the history books (or at least in Know Your Meme) as the summa of the night's proceedings, if not of the whole election. After concluding a long-winded rant about flip-flopping on the Iraq war and the nonsense of the mainstream media, Donald Trump declared that his temperament was his “strongest asset, maybe by far.”

Hillary’s response? “Woo, OK,” followed by a shimmy that will live on well past any of the mess that has been the 2016 election.

Sept. 26 2016 11:46 PM

At the Debate, Lester Holt Asked Smart, Tough Questions—Just in Time

Monday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University, billed unironically and perhaps appropriately as the debate of the century, was also talked up as a chance for journalism to (belatedly) shine. After a year of endless criticism, much of it well-deserved, the press’s reputation reached a nadir with Matt Lauer’s pathetically soft interview of Donald Trump at a recent “commander-in-chief” forum. Would moderator Lester Holt, like Lauer an NBC newsman, challenge the candidates more forthrightly?

Holt’s performance, like Hillary Clinton’s, was not a total knockout. But like Clinton’s, it was more than adequate. And in a year like this one, that counts as a victory for a beleaguered press corps.

If there was a problem with Holt’s moderating, it was his occasional inability to control the candidates—mostly one candidate. Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton numerous times, especially in the debate’s first half, and Holt struggled to rein in his exclamations. He also failed to keep either candidate from going well over the time limit on specific questions.

But keeping an ultratight lid on things is not the most important job of a moderator. Asking good and challenging questions is. So while Trump did filibuster, both candidates had plenty of time to make their cases; perhaps more importantly, their characters shined through the fog. And the questions Holt asked were very smart.

Thank Holt’s pointed questions for a debate that was about as substantive as any conversation in which Donald Trump is doing half the talking could possibly be. Holt started by bringing up the subject of manufacturing, and pushed Trump on the specifics of his plans. His question on nuclear weapons, to which Trump responded with Palin-esque gibberish, was also clear and focused. The same was true of his questions about the role of race and police violence.

When the subject was Trump, he was even better. For instance, on Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, Holt pushed him several times. He pushed Trump again on the latter’s phony claim to have opposed the war in Iraq. (His only failure in the moment was not to read Trump his own words there.)

As the debate wore on, Holt got firmer and more direct. The first sign of this was during his foray into Trump’s birtherism. The way Holt phrased the subject properly placed it in the context of race. “We are talking about racial healing,” Holt stated, referring back to the previous discussion. The implication was clear: Trump didn’t just need to explain his changing position on birtherism. He also needed to explain how he could claim to end racial problems when he had made a direct attack of the first black president’s legitimacy.

During the final two questions of the night, Holt raised other important issues. Along with racism, misogyny has been a driving source of Trump’s appeal and persona. It was thus more than proper that Holt brought up the question, nastily broached by Trump in the past, of whether Hillary Clinton had the right look to be president. Some conservatives may claim that such questions were aimed more at Trump than Clinton, and to some degree they were. But there is hardly any alternative in an election where the biggest question before voters is just what kind of man is running to be our next president, and what varieties of bigotry and hatred does he subscribe to.

Still, Holt saved his best for last. Donald Trump’s candidacy represents a threat to the democratic order in a myriad number of ways. Should he win, the cost to the country’s fabric will be severe. But the same could be true even if he loses, because Trump has hinted that if he were to “lose” it would only be because the election was stolen. (By urban minorities, naturally.) Holt’s effort to get Trump on record, in front of millions of people, was thus important: Would Trump, he asked, accept the results of the election were Clinton to win? After talking around the question for the duration of his time, Trump, pressed one more time by Holt, said he would. (He did so again after the debate.) Even if he finds an inevitable way to weasel out of it should he lose, Holt’s pursuit of the question remains important.

The media may not have caused Donald Trump, but it has abetted his rise. The most it can do now—indeed, what it must do now—is make sure he is challenged over the final six weeks of this long, dishonest campaign. Monday night Lester Holt made a good, admittedly tardy start.

Sept. 26 2016 11:45 PM

Trump’s Now “All for NATO,” Takes Credit for Fixing It

Back in July, Donald Trump suggested off-handedly that he would upend decades of U.S. national security policy when told the New York Times that NATO member countries in the Baltics could count on U.S. support only if they “fulfill their obligations to us.” This was problematic not only because it suggested he was interested in transforming America from world’s policeman to global protection racket, and also because Baltic state Estonia actually is meeting its NATO military spending target.

But during the debate Monday night, Trump suggested—sort of, kind of, maybe—that he’s coming around on the alliance:

But when you look at NATO—I was asking on a major show, what do you think of NATO. I’m a businessman. But I have common sense. I said, well, I’ll tell you, I haven’t given lots of thought to NATO but two things. No. 1, the 28 countries of NATO, many of them aren’t paying their fair share. No. 2, that bothers me, because we're defending them and they should be at least paying us what they're supposed to be paying by treaty and contract, and, No. 2, I said and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete because—and I was very strong on this, and it was actually covered very accurately in the New York Times which is unusual for the New York Times, to be honest. But I said they do not focus on terror, and I was very strong. And I said it numerous times. And about four months ago I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division and I think that’s great.
And I think we should get—because we pay approximately 73 percent of the cost of NATO, it's a lot of money to protect other people, but I’m all for NATO, but I said they have to focus on terror also. And they’re going to do that. And that was, believe me, not going to get credit for it, but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO. I think we have to get NATO to go into the Middle East with us, in addition to surrounding nations, and we have to knock the hell out of ISIS and we have to do it fast.

OK, where to begin? Trump—amazingly—seems to think that NATO is taking marching orders from his interviews, a claim PolitiFact judged “false” when he made it in August. He also seems to think that an organization that operated in Afghanistan for more than a decade—its longest mission ever—is suddenly discovering what terrorism is. (As Hillary Clinton mentioned later on, the organization’s Article 5 mutual-defense treaty has been invoked only once: after 9/11.) And while the military operations against ISIS aren’t being carried out under NATO auspices, a number of NATO members—including Britain, France, and Turkey—have also already gone “into the Middle East with us.”

Trump didn’t specify, and unfortunately wasn’t pressed, on whether he still thinks that the U.S. should ignore its treaty commitments to NATO members based on their financial contributions. But overall, Trump seems much more bullish on NATO these days. Evidently, one bureaucratic change, reported in an article that happened to mention Trump’s name was enough to make him happy.

Sept. 26 2016 11:41 PM

The First Debate Demonstrated Trump’s Incoherence—but Will It Change Any Minds?

Donald Trump attempted to bully his opponent, the moderator, and reality on Monday night. Hillary Clinton fumbled at first but grew increasingly confident as her opponent’s concentration waned. The question, then, is whether any significant number of American voters will change their minds after watching a 90-minute encapsulation of a general election that’s been dragging on for months.

Trump cleared the comically low bar set for him by his campaign and the chattering class early in the night by making sure to attach the honorific Secretary to Hillary Clinton’s name. But the GOP nominee’s relatively restrained posture began to unravel as the debate moved into its second half, with Trump stumbling to explain away his birtherism past, denying his original public position on the Iraq War, and taking an uncomfortably long time to say that he would be willing to accept a Clinton victory. By the end, a rattled Trump had gratuitously name-dropped Rosie O’Donnell, appeared to suggest that he doesn’t pay any federal taxes, and responded to a question about a federal housing discrimination lawsuit with the triumphant declaration, “We settled the suit with zero—no admission of guilt.”

In case Trump’s evident discombobulation wasn’t enough, he failed to offer a single good-faith description of any of his policy proposals, let alone a cogent argument for why they would be better for the country than his rival’s. Oh, and he lied. A lot. He lied about his climate-change conspiracy theorizing. He lied about the reason he hasn’t released his tax returns. He lied about the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk and then repeated himself when corrected by moderator Lester Holt. He also lied about his role in the birther movement and about his support for the Iraq War.

Clinton’s performance improved as Trump fell apart. Trump turned the opening segment on the economy into a conversation about NAFTA and trade, which put Clinton on her heels. The Democratic nominee was left sputtering on more than one occasion and occasionally fell back on corny turns of phrase, such as when she twice called his tax plan “Trumped-up trickle-down.” But she got under Trump’s skin after Holt pressed him about his refusal to release his tax returns. Later, Trump offered nothing but nonsense when asked to explain his bitherism past, and Clinton was ready to pounce.

Holt: We're talking about racial healing in this segment. What do you say to Americans of color who say—
Trump: I say nothing. Because I was able to get him to produce it. He should have produced it a long time before. I say nothing. But let me just tell you when you talk about healing, I think that I've developed very good relationships over the last little while with the African American community. I think you can see that. And I feel that they really wanted me to come to that conclusion and I think I did a great job and a great service not only for the country but even for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate.

Holt then turned to Hillary for her thoughts. “Well,” she replied, “just listen to what you heard.” She went on to repeatedly characterize Trump’s birth-certificate campaign as a “racist lie” and to connect it to housing discrimination lawsuits against Trump’s real estate company.

Clinton needs to hope that viewers were listening—both to that specific answer and to the dangerous rhetoric and worldview Trump has espoused over the past year. If they weren’t, we may never know who won the first debate, but the answer to who lost it will be obvious: all of us.

Sept. 26 2016 11:41 PM

Donald Trump: I’m So Not Racist, I Let Blacks and Muslims Into My Golf Club

On Monday night, Donald Trump came up with a rather unconvincing answer for the time the Department of Justice accused Trump Management Inc., in 1973, of discriminating against minorities in its 14,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. Employees marked their applications with a "C" for colored, among other things.

"We settled the suit with zero, no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do," the candidate said. But perhaps sensing this was not the most convincing retort, Donald "I don't settle" Trump went on to marshall his best anecdote in demonstration of his tolerance and decency: that he let blacks and Muslims into Mar-a-Lago, the beloved Palm Beach golf club he purchased in 1985.

Sept. 26 2016 11:22 PM

Watch Trump Say “Sean Hannity” About 50 Times During Nonsensical Tirade About Iraq War

Presidential debate moderator Lester Holt noted tonight that Donald Trump supported the Iraq war before it began, which is true. Trump defended himself in an ... with a ... by talking about Sean Hannity a lot.

The transcript:

HOLT: You supported the war in Iraq.
TRUMP: That is a mainstream media nonsense put out by her, because she, frankly, I think the best person in her campaign is mainstream media. Would you like to hear? I was against the war—wait a minute. I was against the war in Iraq. Just so, you put it out.
HOLT: The record shows otherwise, but—
TRUMP: It does not show that. The record shows that I'm right. When I did an interview with Howard Stern, very lightly, first time anybody's asked me, I said, "who knows." Essentially. I then did an interview with Neil Cavuto. I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox, and he called me the other day and I spoke to him about it. He said, "you were, totally," because he was for the war.
HOLT: Why—
TRUMP: And that is before the war started. Sean Hannity said very strongly, to me and other people, he's willing to say, but nobody wants to call him, I was against the war. He said, "You used to have fights with me," because Sean was in favor of the war. And I understand that side also. Not very much, because we should have never been there, but nobody called Sean Hannity. And then they did an article in a major magazine, shortly after the war started. I think in '04. But they did an article, which had me totally against the war in Iraq. And one of your compatriots said, you know, whether it was before or right after, Trump was, because if you read this article, there's no doubt. But if somebody, and I'll ask the press, if somebody would call up Sean Hannity, this was before the war started. He and I used to have arguments about the war. I said it's a terrible and a stupid thing. It's going to destabilize the Middle East. And that exactly what this's done.
HOLT: My reference is to what you said in 2002.
TRUMP: You didn't hear what I said.
HOLT: Why is your judgment any different than Mrs. Clinton's?
TRUMP: I have better judgment, I also have a much better temperament than she does, you know? I have a much better—she spent, let me tell you. She spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising, you know, they get Madison Avenue into a room. Temperament, let's go after. I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not.
HOLT: Secretary—
TRUMP: The AFL-CIO, the other day, behind the blue screen, I don't know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said there's a person with a temperament that's got a problem.
HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

(More on the Neil Cavuto thing here. And here's what Trump was referring to with the "blue screen" line—it was a Clinton video appearance involving the Laborers' International Union of North America, not the AFL-CIO.)

For what it's worth, Sean Hannity says it's all true!

Ask Sean Hannity! OMG!

Sept. 26 2016 10:42 PM

The Best Burns, Worst Jokes, and Most Memorable Lines of the First Presidential Debate


Did the hullaballoo surrounding Monday night’s presidential debate drive you to distraction? Don't call your therapist yet! Whether or not you think Clinton successfully followed this advice for beating Trump—and whether or not you think Trump demonstrated that he can be remotely presidential—these are two candidates who clearly had a lot to say to one another. We've rounded up their most memorable remarks here (and praised everything holy that Clinton didn’t make a Pokémon Go joke).

Clinton, explaining how she intends to put money in the pockets of Americans:

We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women's work. I also want to see more companies do profit sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top. And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I've heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you're under. So let's have paid family leave, earned sick days.

Trump, identifying new landmarks:

When you look at what's happening in Mexico, a friend of mine who builds plants said it's the eighth wonder of the world. They're building some of the biggest plants anywhere in the world, some of the most sophisticated, some of the best plants.

Clinton, bringing the cringe-worthy wordplay:

The kind of plan that Donald has put forth would be trickle-down economics all over again. In fact, it would be the most extreme version, the biggest tax cuts for the top percent of the people in this country than we've ever had. I call it Trumped-up trickle-down, because that's exactly what it would be.

Trump, interrupting Clinton to explain why he said in 2006 that he hoped the housing market would collapse:

That's called business, by the way.

Trump, showing his keen mind for figures:

The Obama administration, from the time they've come in, is over 230 years worth of debt, and he's topped it. He's doubled it in the course of almost eight years. 7 1/2 years, to be semi-exact.

Clinton, speaking to Trump across the transdimensional divide:

Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but those are not the facts.

Trump, military historian:

Just go to her website: She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don't think general Douglas MacArthur would like that too much ... You're telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.

Trump, saying ... something about the Fed:

And we have a Fed that's doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the fed. The Fed is doing political by keeping the interest rates at this level.

Trump, trying to make a deal, a thing that he is, by his own admission, very good at:

I will release my tax returns against my lawyers' wishes when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release.

Trump, respond to Clinton's claim that he didn't pay any federal income tax:

That makes me smart.

Clinton, continuing to puzzle over Trump's tax returns:

I have no reason to believe that he's ever going to release his tax returns, because there's something he's hiding. And we'll guess. We'll keep guessing at what it might be that he's hiding, but I think the question is, were he ever to get near the White House, what would be those conflicts? Who does he owe money to?

Clinton, laying into Trump's business record:

I can only say that I'm certainly relieved that my late father never did business with you.

Trump, explaining why he's happy to exploit loopholes:

Now, if you want to change the laws, you've been there a long time, change the laws. But I take advantage of the laws of the nation. Because I'm running a company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies. And that's what I do.

Trump, legal scholar, on stop and frisk case history:

It went before a judge who was a very against police judge. It was taken away from her, and our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won on appeal.

Clinton, on systemic racism:

Too many young African American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses, and it's just a fact that if you're a young African American man, and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated. We've got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. We cannot just say "law and order."

Clinton, on whether "police are implicitly biassed against black people":

I think it's a problem for everyone, not just police. I think unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other.

Clinton, on what she's ready for:

I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing.

Trump, on what he has to say to those offended by his birtherism:

Well, I say nothing, because I was able to get him to produce it. He should have produced it a long time before. I say nothing.

Clinton, on Trump's "birther lie":

Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the justice department for racial discrimination. Because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans and he made sure that the people who worked for him, understood that was the policy. He actually was sued twice by the justice department. So he has a long record of engaging in racist behavior. And the birther lie was a very hurtful one.

Trump, showing sensitivity to all body types while exploring the attribution problem:

It could have been Russia. It could be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.

Trump, showing where he gets his knowledge about "the cyber" from:

I have a son, he's 10 years old. He has computers, he's so good with these computers it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very very tough. And maybe it's hardly doable.

Clinton, on the strategic cost of Trump's remarks:

We've got to do everything we can to vacuum up intelligence from Europe, from the Middle East. That means we have to work more closely with our allies. That's something that Donald has been very dismissive of. ... We're working with our friends in the Middle East, many of which, as you know, are Muslim majority nations. Donald has consistently insulted Muslims abroad, Muslims at home, when we need to be cooperating with Muslim nations and with the American Muslim community. They're on the front lines, they can provide information to us that we might not get anywhere else.

Trump, offering evidence that he has a "much better temperament" than Clinton:

[T]he other day, behind the blue screen, I don't know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there's a person where a temperament that's got a problem.

Trump, offering calm wisdom to an anxious nation:

I would certainly not do first strike. I think once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over.

Clinton, on Trump's understanding of geopolitics:

If he's going to criticize a deal that has been very successful ... then he should tell us what his alternative would be. But it's like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it's a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.

Trump, responding to a question on his earlier claim about Clinton not having a presidential look:

You have so many different things you have to be able to do, and I don't believe that Hillary has the stamina.

Clinton, on stamina:

Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities and nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.

Clinton, discussing Trump's love for beauty contests and his record on women:

And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping, because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.

This post was updated with new information after it was originally published.