Public will use different standards in judging debate performance of Clinton, Trump

Posted 25 September 2016 at 9:53 pm


As a 16-year-old, I watched the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, televised in black and white. Even at that time, I was taking a keen interest in foreign affairs, stimulated, in part, by a classmate’s escape from East Germany (GDR) in the fifties. The Cuban Revolution added to that fascination.

The next day when I went to school I could not believe that the consensus was that Kennedy had “won” the debate. I later discovered that polls indicated those who watched on television tended to take that view, while those who listened on the radio felt Nixon had won.  On the radio, you were able to concentrate on content, rather than being distracted by personal appearance, body language, sweating, suit color, make up and tan.  What a joke.

I was 16 and had watched it on television. Mom was a Democrat and Dad was a Republican. I am proud to say that, to me, there was absolutely no doubt that Nixon had been more substantive, used fewer generalities and generally had a greater command of the facts. But Kennedy won the all-important packaging competition.

In tomorrow’s debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be all dolled/duded up and a lot of attention will have been made to the colors each wears. Though body language, including facial expressions, will still be factors, personal appearance likely will not. Trump will come in as one experienced in business and entertainment, the author of “The Art of the Deal”.  Clinton will come in as an experienced/ career politician and the author of “It Takes a Village”.

She will come in as a life-long Democrat. He will come in as one who has changed party affiliation numerous times. She will appear as one who has been cheated on more than once. He will take the stage as one who has done the cheating many times.

The “bar” for candidate Trump will likely be very low.  Can he be serious, respectful, and civil while sounding as if he knows what he is talking about without a teleprompter? For Clinton, the question will be whether, or not, she can get viewer-listeners to acknowledge that she is not her husband or Barack Obama and that a woman should be judged by the exact same standard as men. This has been successfully accomplished in 61 other countries.  Whether it can be here is another question.

Clinton will have to accurately portray herself as far superior to Trump to be considered the “winner”.  As Tom Toles noted in a Buffalo News cartoon last Sunday, her “defect” was discovered in her medical evaluation when her doctor checked the box next to “female”.

Though finding someone who will admit it is nearly impossible, for far too many people, that may be her most glaring flaw.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent