Hacked Emails, WikiLeaks and Espionage!

 

Do you remember when Bernie Sanders, standing next to Hillary on the debate stage, waved his finger at her and exclaimed with exasperation, “The American people are sick and tired of your damn emails!  She laughed, said “Thank you, Bernie.” and extended her hand to shake his.  The audience went crazy, applauding and cheering.

That episode seems like a century ago as this fiercely fought political campaign storms into the final days. Emails surged back into the headlines when the Russians hacked thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Our intelligence agencies confirmed Russia as the perpetrator and described their aim to help Donald Trump become president. It has long been known that Trump admires Putin as “ a stronger leader than Obama” and Putin returns the compliment. He would not look forward to a Clinton presidency, since she opposed him as Secretary of State in several important arenas, including the Russian incursion into Ukraine and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

During October, a steady stream of emails from the Clinton campaign was released by WikiLeaks almost daily. Drip. Drip. Drip.  The account of John Podesta, campaign chairman, was the  main source  of the emails. They covered strategies, criticisms.  personal remarks and gossip among the inner circle of aides.  Some dated back to 2011 before Hillary Clinton ran for President when John Podesta held a leadership role in the Clinton Foundation.  Cable television covered the WikiLeaks stories during the month, with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News giving them time and discussion each day.  They appeared to use them as a counterbalance to the October Surprise of Donald Trump’s infamous “Bus Tape”.  Daily stories of his behavior and words described on the tape were the main coverage for a week. The next weeks saw eleven women coming forth, one by one, to give testimony of his physical attacks on them over the years.  Most said they were angered by his denial in the second debate that he had not done what he described on the tape.

On October 27,  The New York Times ran a front page two column, lead story,  “Concerns Over Donations Vexed Clinton’s Top Aides.”  : “New Wikileaks Release Provides Glimpse of Power Struggles at Foundation.”   The next day,   “Hacked Emails Reveal Image of Chelsea Clinton” ran inside as part of Election 2016 with a large picture of Chelsea with Bill Clinton at the second debate.   The most influential paper in the United States had decided to increase their focus on the WikiLeaks hacked emails.  As I read the story, I learned that Chelsea Clinton had three academic degrees when she became a member of the board of the Foundation, from Stamford, Oxford and Columbia University.  She had also held various jobs, including at McKinsey & Co. and Avenue Capital.  In one of her emails, she wrote, “My only objectives were to take stock, professionalize the foundation, build it for the future and build it in such a way that supported his work and my mom’s.”

As I read the detailed quotes and descriptions, I began to wonder — how interested are most Americans in the entire hacking and WikiLeaks story?   Are they following it as  intently as they followed the Bus Tape when it exploded that Friday afternoon?   I  truly doubt it. This is a story “in the weeds” as the journalists call it.  More important, why are the newspapers and cable networks concentrating on coverage that gives Russia and Donald Trump all this free publicity? I remembered Marco Rubio, Republican senator, refusing to answer a question about the WikiLeaks at a meeting In Florida.  He blew me away when he said, “I will not comment on the attempt by Russia to influence and interfere in our presidential election. Next question.”    A few days ago, Adam Schiff, Democratic Representative from CA and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, answered a similar query on cable Television.  He said,  “The motive of the Russian government in hacking Clinton campaign  emails is clear. They want Donald Trump to win the election. That is the story here. Not the emails themselves.’’

The more I thought about it, the more unhappy I became.   I decided to write a letter to The New York Times yesterday while the paradox was clear.  Here it is:  To the Editor:

“I am appalled that your two column front page story (October 27) continues emphasis on the content of the latest WikiLeaks release. Our intelligence agencies have stated clearly that Russia is responsible for the hacking that produced these leaks. Putin’s purpose is to influence our presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. I’m sure he is chuckling every day with this free publicity for Trump in newspapers and on cable television.

“All WikiLeaks stories – fueled by Russian espionage—are certainly not –“news that’s fit to print.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

(See NYTimes motto in box, upper left on front page  “All the news that’s fit to print “)

Wish me luck!  Hopefully, The Times will decide to run it in their Letters To The Editor Section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Finale: Clinton vs. Trump

 

October 19,  Third Debate scheduled at University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

During the week leading up to the final debate, Hillary Clinton had been preparing as she did for the first two debates. She had also expanded  her TV ads,  ground campaign and surrogate speeches  into G.O.P. red states:  Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, even Texas.  Her poll numbers continued to rise nationally and in most swing states.  Clinton aimed to help down-ballot Senate and House Democrats in tight races win by investing her cash in their campaigns.  Donald Trump had refused to prepare for the debate, as he did before the first two– which he lost.   At rallies, he denigrated the nine women who came forth after he denied his boasts on the Bus Tape. They accused him of physical assaults in the past years. Trump repeatedly called them “liars” and implied they were not attractive enough to interest him. His main theme at rallies and on Twitter was warning in dark tones of a “rigged election.”  There is a “conspiracy” taking place. “The polls are rigged.”  “The media is rigged.”  “The entire system is rigged!”  He urged his supporters to swamp the polls on November 8.

Reaction from national and state officials and TV anchors had been swift.  They  declared on TV or in print that  in-person fraud at the ballot box is almost nonexistent.   Presidential elections are controlled by each state and poll watchers are chosen from both parties through a rigorous system.  A Loyola Law School study showed that in a billion votes cast in U.S. elections from 2000 to 2014, only 31 ballots were false in-person voting.   Trump did not retreat from his theme.  On Tuesday, October l8, at a rally in Colorado Springs, he said, “Voter fraud is all too common and they criticize us for saying that. Take a look at Philadelphia what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis . Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”  Those inner cities, of course, are populated heavily by African-Americans and other minorities.

On October l8, President Obama at a press conference in the Rose Garden rebuked Donald Trump for his attacks on our democratic elections and warnings of a “rigged election”. He said, “ I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place.”  His advice to Trump was “to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”   The New York Times front page article on  October 19 reported “ no signs of a wave of poll watchers building” among Trump supporters in the big cities he had targeted.

On the night of the Third Debate in Las Vegas,  Trump was falling behind in most national and swing state polls.  He brought guests to the debate to sit in the audience to rattle his opponent:  President Obama’s estranged half brother from Kenya,  the mother of an official killed in Benghazi, and a woman who accused Bill Clinton of assaulting her decades ago.  Hillary invited former CEO and Republican, Meg Whitman and Marc Cuban, billionaire critic of Trump. The two candidates walked to their lecterns as the audience applauded, without shaking hands.   Chris Wallace of Fox News was the moderator and he listed six topics they would discuss. He began with the supreme court, followed by guns,  abortion and immigration.

Both candidates answered with substantive answers on the supreme court.   Trump said he had already listed a number of people he would support and promised to appoint “pro-lifers”and “conservative judges” to the court.  Clnton promised to seek a court that will “stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of the powerful corporations  and the wealthy”.  When they moved to guns,  Trump stressed his endorsemen from The National Rifle Association and his support of the Second Amendment. He implied gun control laws were ineffective.   Clinton called for “reasonable restrictions on guns that are consistent with the Second Amendment like background checks.  She  spoke of the thousands of Americans who die each year from guns and gave the example of “toddlers” accidentally  killing family members with guns in the house.

On abortion, the mood changed from substance to bitter exchanges from both candidates.  Trump, who is now fiercely pro-life,  gave a graphic description of “partial birth abortion” that was completely refuted by doctors after the debate. Clinton stressed a woman’s right to make  decisions about her body with her family and doctor . She said that government should not be in charge of making those decisions.  She also shared that Trump is on record for “punishment” for women who had an abortion. When Wallace moved to Immigration and borders, Trump accused Clinton of wanting “open borders”  and “amnesty”. He warned that “we have some bad hombres here and we are going to get them out.”  Clinton rejected his charge of “amnesty”, saying  she would introduce  her plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” in her first 100 days on office.  She also  attacked his proposed “ deportation force” that would “rip families apart , knocking on doors in the middle of the night” to evict eleven million “illegal immigrants”.

Throughout the rest of the debate, the candidates traded bitter exchanges over significant topics. They clashed as Clinton cited Trump’s preference for Putin as a stronger leader than Obama, and the Russian hacking of our emails as attempts to influence our national election. As the last hour of the debate unfolded, Trump reverted to his sharp insults, calling Clinton a “liar” with “criminal conduct” and interrupting her often  with “Wrong” , “Wrong”  . His  “Such a nasty woman” came as she answered the last question on social security.  Clinton kept her cool, smiled at times and dismissed his allegations with “Everything you have heard is false.” Trump glowered or smirked and sniffed as he had in previous debates.

Wallace brought up Trump’s incessant threat at rallies that “The system is rigged.” “The media is rigged.” “ The polls are rigged.”   He asked both candidates if they would honor the results of the  election.  Clinton answered first,  saying she would of course honor the election results.   Trump shocked the audience and the 71 million watchers of the debate around the world when he replied,  “I will have to see what the results are at the time.” The audience reaction was instant as loud gasps reverberated from the thousands right there. Then, Wallace asked the question again and Trump replied, “I’ll tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense.”   Trump gave every American newspaper and some overseas the banner headline for October 20.

After the debate ended, the commentators on CNN,  MSNBC  and,Fox News called his response, “A death wish! ” , “Unbelievable! , “First time in our nation ‘s political history.”  No candidate has ever refused to concede when they lost the electoral college count.  Some like Al Gore in the delayed 2000 count, eventually won the popular vote but lost the electoral college.  He did not dispute the final decision by the Supreme Court to call the election for George W.  Bush.  Donald Trump had continued his entertainment, reality show of a campaign by announcing he would not make that commitment until he reviewed the results. The nation’s leaders and the American public were not amused.  They were appalled!

 

 

The 2016 October Surprise!

 

Late Friday afternoon, October 7, a shocking video tape burst onto TV cable networks. It showed Donald J. Trump and Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood”  talking and joking  during a private bus ride in 2005. Trump was bragging that, because he was “ a star”, he could do “anything he wanted with women.”  He said in explicit terms that, “ I would grab them by the Pxxxy.”  “You can do anything. “  He also confided that beautiful women were “a magnet” and he couldn’t resist kissing them as soon as he saw them.  When the bus stopped and they were greeted by a pretty young woman in a brief red dress,  he leaned over and kissed her.  She hugged Billy Bush. Trump was 59 and married to his third wife, Melania who was pregnant at the time.  The “Bus Tape” went viral across the country and beyond.  It was replayed over and over again throughout the evening into Saturday on cable.

Trump had just come through two very bad two weeks in his campaign.  The first debate on September 26 between Clinton and Trump, viewed by  84 million people, was judged by media commentators and polls as a clear Clinton victory. He had refused to prepare for the debate and taunted Hillary on stage  for being over-prepared.  She responded,  “Yes, I prepared. And, do you know what else I prepared for, Donald?  I prepared to be president.”  Forbidden applause and cheers erupted at her answer.  Trump and his surrogates were the only ones who said he had won.  He boasted that it was a “ landslide” at his post- debate rallies .

Trump was fixated for days after the debate on the Miss Universe story from l997 when the winner was Alicia Machado of Venezuela   Hillary had brought up Alicia Machado near the close of the debate as an example of his insulting behavior toward women through the years.    He had hosted the contest and later excoriated Machado for gaining “ a massive amount of weight” in the months that followed. He called her “the worst Miss Universe” and forced her to exercise on machines in public while he and other men stood watching close by and the scene was recorded.  After the debate, Machado became a Clinton surrogate and was interviewed on cable channels about the contest and her life since then.  Meanwhile, Trump refused to have mock debates in preparation for the second  debate on Sunday, October 9.  Instead, he held informal sessions chatting with Roger Ailes and other close advisers.

On Saturday, October 8,  the New York Times banner headline read: “Trump Brags on 2005 Tape of Groping Women”.   Cable talk shows were fixated all day and into the evening on his explicit lewd words and behavior.   The Bus Tape was shown over and over again.  Hillary Clinton was preparing for the second debate and waited to make a formal statement.  Rumors circulated that the Republican National Committee was meeting in D.C. to decide what action they might take to remove Trump from the ticket.  Everyone agreed the Republican campaign was in complete disarray. Trump appeared for five minutes outside Trump  Tower in New York where supporters surrounded him.  He waved and announced to the crowd that he would never quit.  In a  brief telephone interview Saturday afternoon,  he said, “I would never drop out of this race in a million years.”

Sunday morning, October 9, the day of the second debate dawned with the latest Times headline:  “Lewd Trump Tape is Breaking Point For Many in G.O.P.  Senator John Mc Cain who had been insulted by Trump as a  “captured” Navy flyer, thus” not a hero”  finally  withdrew his support.  “Donald Trump’s behavior this week , concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditionally support for his candidacy.”   By early  evening, 35 Republican members of Congress and governors disavowed his candidacy, including Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator  John Thune of South Dakota,  part of the Republican leadership.   The party appeared to be shifting their support and  resources to saving the down ballot senators and representatives on November 8.

The second debate took place on Sunday in St. Louis at George Washington University.  Trump planned his own “surprise” when he brought three women who claimed to have had love affairs  with  Bill Clinton  in the 1990’s to St. Louis.  They sat with Trump at a hotel for a very brief talk with reporters, followed by their attendance in the front row of the visitors section at the debate.  If his objective was to change the subject from the Bus Tape and embarrass Hillary and Bill Clinton,  it appeared to have no effect upon either one of them.   When Trump was questioned  early  by Anderson Cooper about the Bus Tape,  he dismissed it as “Locker room talk” . Cooper  then asked, “Did you do what you said you did?” Trump replied,” No.I did not.”

Clinton disagreed.  “What we all heard and saw on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it, that represents exactly who he is.”  Bitter personal comments back and forth ensued. Finally, Trump said if he won, he would appoint  a special prosecutor  to investigate  Clinton.  As she began to respond, he cut her off with “You’d be in Jail!”   This interjection drew loud cries  and boos from the audience.   Throughout the ninety minutes, Trump appeared agitated, pacing around, scowling, leaning on his chair, never sitting down when she had the floor.  At times, he walked to where she was talking to a questioner and stood, looming directly behind her.  Clinton seemed composed despite his constant taunts that she was lying.  She would wait until he finished a tirade and say to the audience, “Everything he just said was false.”  Then  she would sit down with a smile.  The CNN poll after the debate gave her the victory 57 to 34.  Trump left saying the moderators were with Clinton, three against one, and  he had won in a landslide.

During the days following the debate,   individual women began to come forth to describe their encounters  with  Donald Trump  physically  touching them against their  will .  They had heard the tape and were angered by his saying “ No. I did not! “ to Anderson Cooper who asked him if the Bus Tape descriptions were true.   By Wednesday, cable stations were carrying Jessica Leeds, a New York woman of 74 who clearly remembered sitting next to Trump in first class on an airplane in the l970’s.  After their lunch trays were removed, he lowered the arm rest and began to touch her.  “He was like an octopus.  His hands were everywhere.”  He grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hands up her skirt.   “It was an assault”, she said.  She pushed him away and ran to the back of the plane.   She told the story to  four people close to her, one of whom was sitting with her watching the debate.  When Leeds heard him lie to Cooper, she said, “I wanted to punch the screen.”

The New York Times ran her story on the front page , October 14,  along with a second woman who had come forth,  Rachel Crooks, a 22 year old receptionist in Trump Tower.   Crooks  met Trump outside an elevator in 2005 and introduced herself.  They shook hands and then he wouldn’t  let go.  She said, “He kissed me on the cheeks and then directly on the mouth.  It didn’t feel like an accident. It felt like a violation.”  In an interview, she said, “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”    By Friday, nine  women had come forth with  their vivid descriptions of unwelcome physical  abuse by Trump that matched the  lewd comments he made on the Bus Tape.   They were reported by Florida newspapers since some occurred at his resort there.  When asked why they were coming out with their stories, they said his denial at the debate   was the reason.   The accusations of the women became the focus of the entire political world.

Donald Trump at  his rallies , fired back by accusing all the women of “false smears and lies”.  He mocked their appearance  as if he wouldn’t have been interested in them. He waved his hands  and  suggested  there was a “ conspiracy against you, the American people”.  He claimed Hillary Clinton had “met in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty , in order to enrich these global financial powers,  her special interest friends and her donors.”  This  bizarre insult was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League as a historical  slur against Jews.  (‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, false anti-semitic text, l895 ) Since Trump  has slandered Muslims for many months, this was the latest  unwarranted  attack upon an entire religion.

Michele Obama spoke Thursday at a New Hampshire rally for Hillary Clinton  in dramatic,  emotional terms about what physical assault meant to her and to all women.  With her emphasis on “going high when they go low”, she captured her listeners with a speech that was praised and played over and over again on cable stations and C-span in the days that followed.  The subject was  number one in discussions and the public  consciousness among women and men.

Finally, a social media phenomenon emerged with “Tweet Me Your First Assault” . Kelly Oxford, an author, had written on Twitter on Friday, when the Bus Tape  was revealed.  “Women, tweet me your first assaults”  …I’ll go first:   Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pxxxy’ and smiles at me. I’m 12.”   By Monday, 27 million women had responded to Oxford’s request with their “First Assault.”

 

 

 

Donald Trump’s Taxes Revealed!

 

Ever since he began his presidential campaign, Trump has been asked by reporters why he hasn’t produced his tax returns.  Candidates  have always followed this ritual, some delaying as Mitt Romney did , but all coming  through.  Clinton has released 38 years of her tax returns.  Trump’s excuse for months was that he was being audited and couldn’t interrupt the process.  However,The Internal Revenue Service confirmed that an audit was no reason for not sharing his returns.  Hillary Clinton  asked at her rallies,  and during their first debate on September 26, “What  are you hiding, Donald? “  She and the 84 million people watching the debate were to learn the answer to that basic question on Saturday night , October 1, about nine o’clock when The New York Times posted a blockbuster  story they had uncovered by accident.

The revelation of Trump’s tax returns had a mysterious, dramatic beginning  in the third floor mail room of the Times where employees’ open mailboxes are stacked.  On Friday, September 23, Susanne Craig, who likes to use snail mail, was checking her box where she saw a manila envelope, postmarked New York, NY , with a return address of The Trump Organization.  She wrote later, “My heart skipped a beat.”  Craig had been writing at length about Trump’s finances and was eager to see his actual returns.  When she opened the envelope, she was amazed to find what appeared to be three pages from Trump’s   1995 tax records, with detailed figures that revealed his tax strategies.

She immediately walked over to the desk of David Barstow , her teammate in the search for Trump’s tax returns, and a three time Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter.   He was on the phone and she waved the tax documents in front of him.  He hung up and they then took two other colleagues,  Megan Twohey and Russ Buettner, into the nearby conference room.  Craig describes their battle plan. “We obsessed over the documents, the envelope, the postmark, the date .  We even checked every other mail box on the floor in case the tipster had mailed additional documents to any other reporter. Next, we set out to develop a portrait of Mr. Trump’s finances from the period on question, to see if we could support what the documents showed –that he had taken a huge loss in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades.”

The reporters were skeptical as they examined the records. They were  signed by  Marla Maples,  his wife at the time and by Donald Trump in his distinctive signature of  huge, jagged letters. They felt they needed more evidence and hired tax experts to take them through the math. They also researched the 1995 tax code. Then Barstow went to Florida to find Jack Mitnick, the retired accountant who had prepared and signed the tax returns. Mitnick  was reluctant to meet at first, but agreed to meet in a bagel shop. In conversation, he agreed that the records were authentic.  They also dug more into Trump’s finances at the time .  By Saturday,  they were ready to go to the Trump camp with their findings.  Trump, through his spokeswoman, neither  challenged  nor confirmed the tax records. Trump threatened them with legal action if they were to publish them.  They returned to The New York Times and the four reporters were in the newsroom when the story was published.

During the September 26th debate,  Clinton had posed the possibility that Trump had taken advantage of real estate loop holes in the tax code to avoid paying any taxes at all.  He quickly leaned in with a smile and said, “That makes me smart.”  Clinton immediately countered by listing how federal  tax dollars are spent. “For veterans.  For infrastructure. For defense.  For education.  For the disabled.” After the debate, the “smart” line became a major topic for discussion by media commentators and Op Ed writers..  They wondered if avoiding taxes would be seen by viewers who pay their taxes as “smart”. Or as negligent and shirking civic responsibility.  And did that make them “stupid for paying their taxes?”

Sunday morning,  October 2,  Americans awoke to newspaper headlines and TV coverage of the stunning story that Donald J. Trump had paid no taxes for nineteen years.  A real estate legal loop hole was the way he was able to declare a $916 million dollar loss on his 1995 federal income tax return.  That allowed him to avoid taxes for the next eighteen years.

The Trump campaign immediately began a concerted effort to translate these facts into different positive  “spins”.   He had already said he was “smart” when he evaded taxes.  Now, his campaign issued their rationale: “  Mr. Trump had a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required.”   Legal experts scoffed at that argument. Richard Painter, professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota, said, “There is no such thing as a fiduciary duty of a business man to oneself.  That’s called greed.”

Newt Gingrich, Rudy Juliani and Chris Christie,  Trump’s favorite surrogates stormed the Sunday talk shows to proclaim that Trump was a “genius”  for using the tax code to survive almost a  billion dollars in losses so he could rebuild his businesses and create jobs for millions of people.   The three were asked by TV hosts if this would hurt Trump’s  campaign when American men and women — who had been paying taxes for years —- would see his actions as “unfair” or “not civic minded”?   They stuck to their insistence that he was a” genius” and it showed his “business acumen” .  Trump himself bragged that he was indeed “brilliant” at his rallies, and  since he knew so much about the tax code, he could “fix it”  when he became president.

Hillary Clinton  unleashed an avalanche of criticism at Trump  on Monday before a crowd of over a thousand in Toledo Ohio.  “He abuses his power, games the system he claims he will change, puts his own interests ahead of the country’s.  It’s always Trump first,  and everyone  else last.”   Her speech was targeted to the economy, thus a natural to contrast Trump’s behavior   with that of most Americans.  She began, “Toledo is the kind of place  where people work hard, look after one another and yes, pay their taxes, “  And then she referred to the defense his surrogates were giving.  “What kind of a genius loses a billion dollars  in one year?”   This, of course, struck at his claim to be a multi –billionaire.  If  Trump  ever releases his tax returns, his total financial worth would also be revealed.

By Thursday, October 6, national polls showed Hillary Clinton leading at five to ten points over Donald Trump among likely voters.  Swing states also showed her gaining ground, in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire , Michigan, Colorado and North Carolina.  The New York Times  gave Clinton an 81 % projection of winning the election on November 8 and becoming the first woman president of the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Trump v. Clinton Debate: September 26, 2016

 

Prelude: “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Once upon a time, a vain Emperor hired two weavers to create the finest suit of clothes in the kingdom for him to wear and display to his people.  They promised him a suit that would be invisible to the masses who are “hopelessly stupid.”  After the weavers report they are finished,  they pretend to dress him in the new finery.  The Emperor goes forth to parade before his subjects who appear to accept the pretense.  Suddenly, a young child in the crowd points his finger and calls out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” .  (This fable has been translated into over 100 languages.)

 Act One of the Drama.

At nine o’clock,  NBC Moderator Lester Holt introduced Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the cheering thousands in the audience at Hofstra University in New York .  They both walked in confidently  to shake hands and wave to their supporters. His hand rested lightly on her back for a moment.  Clinton was radiant in a vibrant red pant suit, hair and makeup perfect.  Trump was resplendent in a classic  dark suit with a blue tie instead of his signature red. They were smiling and appeared ready as Holt asked Clinton the first question. She won the coin toss: perhaps it was a good sign of what would follow.

As we watched the debate unfold, some of us remembered the very first televised presidential  debate in 1960 between Richard M. Nixon, Republican Vice President and John F. Kennedy , Democratic Senator from New York.  The debate took place in a warm television studio without an audience . The screen was black and white and  appeared grainy at times, a marked contrast with the natural bright colors of today.   The two men took turns answering questions with close-ups of their faces.   Jack Kennedy appeared at ease, handsome and confident as he spoke with his signature Boston accent.  Richard Nixon looked thin, nervous  and uncomfortable with sweat showing on his brow and upper lip.  They were photographed separately as they answered the questions. There was no split screen to see them side by side as the debate progressed.  The aftermath of the debate showed a mixed public reaction.   Those who heard it on the radio said that Richard Nixon had won with his detailed answers.  Those who saw the two men on television said that Jack Kennedy had been the winner of  the debate.  The adage that truth lies in the “eye of the beholder” was made very clear that day.

When Trump and Clinton stood for ninety minutes  before 84  million American viewers, they were also being watched across the entire world.  It was their first time together although each had been in different debate contests before.   Trump had bested sixteen opponents in the Republican primaries with his free wheeling, combative style of personal insults and headline grabbing proposals to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants, build a wall that Mexico would pay for to keep our borders free, and ban Muslims from coming to the United States.  Hillary had debated Bernie Sanders for months in spirited contests until she reached the number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination. She also had the experience of having debated Barack Obama dozens of times during the hotly contested  2008 primary election.   When he reached the needed delegate number to win the nomination, she bowed out with her “l8 cracks in the glass ceiling” speech and nominated Obama at the Democratic convention.

As we watched the September 26 Debate, the contrast between the two opponents was shown side by side on split screens. We heard each one respond to Holt’s questions while we also were able to watch the other at the same time and hear any interruptive comments.  We knew instantly that Trump avoided answering certain questions,  veering off to a different topic.   We were very aware of interruptive comments from either one during an answer.  Were they looking at each other?  What were their facial expressions?  Body language?   Trump had a greater variety of movements and facial expressions.  He fidgeted, grimaced, adjusted his mike, shook his head, pursed his lips, sniffed, squinted, smirked and took sips of water.  She turned to look at him when he spoke, appeared calm and amused at times with his statements and charges. Clinton laughed out loud once or twice and seemed energized throughout the ninety minutes.  Trump appeared to fade after the first 30 minutes, perhaps the result of having been with his primary opponents rather than one-on- one with no time to rest.  It was dramatic theater throughout as much as a debate.

Highlights of the Debate:

Holt asked Trump what he meant when he said at a rally that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look.” Trump replied, “She doesn’t have the look.  She doesn’t have the stamina.” Clinton responded, “ Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a realease of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends eleven hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”  Forbidden  applause  and cheers erupted from the audience.

Trump belittled the fact that Clinton had prepared for the debate.  She replied. “Yes, I prepared for the debate.  And do you know what else I prepared for, Donald?  I prepared to be president.”  Again,  the audience  broke into cheers and clapping.

When Trump was asked by Clinton why he hadn’t released his tax returns, he gave the false excuse that he was being audited.  He was reminded that was not a valid excuse.  She asked him if he paid any taxes at all, and what was he hiding.  He interjected, “That makes me smart.”  This became a major negative for him in the post debate commentary by the TV and news media in the days that followed.

The debate closed with Clinton bringing up the time when a young Argentine woman won the Miss Universe Pageant, a Trump event.  “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. Her name is Alicia Machado.’” Trump did not deny her charge.  He said that Rosie O’Donnell was the target of some of the epithets and  “she deserves it.”

After the Debate.

Hillary  joined Bill, Chelsea and friends in the front rows. She looked jubilant and they left for home.  Trump followed by his wife and children went to the Spin Room where he bragged that he had won the debate.  He spoke with some of the reporters and appeared to be satisfied that he had done  very well.

CNN conducted their poll and found Clinton the winner with 67 percent and Trump with 27 percent as winner.

CNN and MSNBC commentators were in agreement that Clinton had been prepared throughout and scored a complete victory with her informed answers, calm demeanor and humor.   She was “the adult in the room”  while Trump was his usual self, aggressive, rambling and interrupting her 51 times (Vox) .   It remains to be seen if his family and advisors can convince him to prepare for the next debate on Sunday October 9 in St. Louis.