September 27, 2016


How the Split Screen Framed Trump and Clinton (JAMES PONIEWOZIK, SEPT. 27, 2016, NY Times)

The split screen told the story at the first 2016 presidential debate, and it was not kind to Donald J. Trump.

At the right was his opponent, Hillary Clinton, a practiced one-on-one debater, who held long, studied gazes on her opponent, delivered calibrated attacks and turned to the audience to smile incredulously at his responses.

At the left was Mr. Trump, the volatile presence who alpha-dogged a season of Republican debates. Now he grimaced, squinted, nodded, pursed his lips, sniffed, huffed and interrupted, becoming, over the night, an agitated man in a box.

This seemed to be by Mrs. Clinton's design. She had reportedly prepared to face two different versions of her opponent. There might be a reserved Mr. Trump, ready to reassure voters about his self-control. Or there might be the raging, ranting Mr. Trump of the primaries.

Turns out they both showed up. The quiet Mr. Trump took the first shift, presenting a general-election version of his forceful campaign persona minus the bluster, insults and defenses of his anatomy. He pushed his case firmly, hitting his campaign's focal points on the economy and trade.

But it didn't take long for Mrs. Clinton to find the other Mr. Trump under that thin second skin. Her needling began immediately. She referred to her opponent as "Donald," where he pointedly called her "Secretary Clinton." ("Yes, is that O.K.?" he asked at his first reference to her.) She referred to his starting a business with a "$14 million" loan from his father, which Mr. Trump preferred to call a "very small loan."

The digs targeted Mr. Trump's status and founding mythos, triggering his image-protection reflex. He became combative and rattled, letting his opponent lead him down rhetorical detours (at one point he revived an old feud with Rosie O'Donnell) knowing that he would follow his ingrained ABCs: always be counterpunching.

Posted by at September 27, 2016 6:22 PM