Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate


Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

—”Idiot Wind,” Bob Dylan

+ A few words from Mark Twain apropos of tonight’s debate (and almost any other night of the campaign): “Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”

+ Hofstra University, the site of the face-off between Trump and HRC was once a lowly Long Island tentacle of NYU. The university is named after William Hofstra, a Dutch immigrant timber baron, who made his millions whacking down the forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Thoreau’s Maine Woods. In other words, it’s the perfect venue for an evening of pre-packaged stump speeches.

+ The mystery gripping all of Washington is whether Bill Clinton’s former mistress, Gennifer Flowers, will be seated in the front row in a cheeky effort by the Trump team to distract Hillary. In 1992, Flowers infamously quipped that the twin tragedies of the Clinton family were Bill’s crooked penis and Hillary’s fat ankles. A campaign which began in the gutter has now plumbed the lower depths.

+ Apparently there’s room in the hall for Ms. Flowers, but Jill Stein was deemed too dangerous to be in the vicinity of debate. At around 2:30, Dr. Stein was escorted off campus by Hofstra University police.

+ A couple of hours before the debate, the bigoted Republican congressman from Iowa, Steve King, tweeted out that the big question was whether Hillary would be “on or off her meds tonight.” King has always been a class act. I’d have thought the question would be better posed to his buddy Trump—a sedated Trump is a domesticated Trump, a safe-space candidate for those all-important housewives of the Philly suburbs. Off the meds, he’s a trigger-warning on full automatic.

+ The pre-debate polls are all over the place. Nate Silver’s 538 reported this morning that Trump would win if the election were held today, while the Moody’s Analytic Model predicts that Hillary will secure 332 electoral votes to Trump’s 206. Meanwhile, one of my old profs in the History Department at American University, Allan Lichtman, also predicts a Trump win. About 30 years ago, Lichtman developed a demographic-economic model for forecasting presidential elections. He hasn’t been wrong yet.

+ The polls may be trending Trump’s way, but Hillary still enjoys a staggering financial advantage. While she’s lost the white blue collar workers, she’s decisively won over the billionaire class. Campaign contributions from white billionaires have favored Hillary by a 20-to-1 margin over Trump. Class traitors?

+ Combined net worth of both candidates on stage tonight: $3.11 BILLION. Trump $3 billion (give or take), Clinton $110 million.

+ Annual income of moderators for presidential debates: Matt Lauer $25 million, Lester Holt $5 million, Anderson Cooper $10 million (net worth $100 million), Martha Raddadz $1 million (net worth $8 million), Chris Wallace $1.5 million. So we have a bunch of millionaires interviewing two multi-millionaires about what’s best for the middle class. (The poor can just go fuck themselves.)

+ A new report on the insanely expensive F-35 fighter jet shows that the plane barely flies in cloudy weather. Both candidates support building a fleet of these Cold War relics, as does Bernie Sanders, who wants them based at the airport in Burlington. So should we all. Better to have expensive weapons that don’t work, than cheap ones which do. Spend more, kill less!

+ Hot off the Goldman Sachs wire: Hillary worked to secure lavish tax breaks and subsidies for the reconstruction of Goldman’s $2 billion NYC headquarters after 9/11. Later she attended the opulent Grand Opening to the sparkling new financial slaughterhouse. Sanders didn’t bring up the billion dollar courtesy, when asked in Democratic debates to cite quid pro quo for Goldman speeches. Will Trump?

+ Lester Holt is not your usual talking head.  For starters, he’s black and of Jamaican descent. Endearingly, he dropped out of Sacramento State to host a country and western radio show and never took a degree. Holt burnished his resumé by broadcasting the Westminster Kennel Club’s dog show championships twice and spent several years on the History Channel reporting on various 9/11 conspiracies and the mysterious “crystal skulls” of the Mayan culture. “Could the skulls be ancient Mayan prophecies of doom or relics from the Lost City of Atlantis?” Holt asked. “Or do they, as some believe, store the vast knowledge of a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization?” In the end, after several hours of penetrating study, Holt failed to a satisfactory answer to these troubling questions. So don’t expect much pesky fact-checking tonight.

+ Last week, in a pre-emptive strike Trump denounced Holt as a politically biased reporter.  As with so many of Trump’s pot-shots, this one backfired gloriously. (I don’t think ISIS has much to worry about from him.) “By the way, Lester is a Democrat,” Trump brayed. “It’s a phony system. They are all Democrats.” Holt is, in fact, one of those rarities that Trump has been trying futilely (I wonder why) to court: a black Republican.

Chris Wallace, the FoxNews reporter who vowed not to do any fact-checking, is the only registered Democrat, who will act as a designator inquisitor of the candidates. (That figures, eh?)

+ Trump is a living testimony to Napoleon’s maxim that “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”

+ Speaking of stupidity, the debate is geared at winning over “undecided voters.”

+ Holt, who landed his position as NBC Nightly News Anchor after Brian Williams fabulated his record as a war correspondent, is a relatively passive interviewer, not known to press his subjects. On the other hand, he has spent time on the ground in places like Haiti, Afghanistan and Libya, getting a first hand look at the carnage inflicted by Hillary’s “Smart Power” foreign policy. Let’s see if he can get beyond Benghazi to the corrupt heart of the matter.

+ Since the moment Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton, the Queen of Chaos has scrubbed any mention of the perils of climate change from her prepared speeches. Perhaps Lester Holt will venture to ask a question about this vexing subject tonight. He could start with a story from today’s news: “Under Obama US will fail to meet emission targets.”

+ There will be enough hot air emitted from the stage tonight to insure that September’s temperatures break August’s record for hottest month in the modern history of the Earth.

+ In related news, the Obama administration quietly announced today drastic rule changes that will substantially weaken the Endangered Species Act by placing complicated and intractable burdens on environmental groups working to protect rare species. The rule changes are deemed a huge gift to the timber, mining and oil cartels. Too bad Jill Stein won’t be on stage to highlight this betrayal.

+ In the last 30 days, Hillary Clinton has spent more than $50 million. Over that time she has dropped 10 points in the polls. So she has a choice. Suspend campaign spending now and have a chance to win or drain her bank account and lose by 15 points.

+ Hillary has scored in past debates, with Obama in 2008 and Sanders this spring, by playing the victim. This strategy is unlikely to work with Trump. She needs to knock him down, if not out on his feet.

+ Tonight Trump’s major challenge is to prove that his hands are bigger than Hillary’s.

+ In pre-debate spin, Democrats denounce press for “grading Trump on a curve,” once a staple of Democratic education policy. It’s all standardized testing now.

+ Zionist casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has just shown up to assume his role as Netanyahu’s surrogate. He seemed to be stuffing money and poker chips into politicians’ pockets.

+ Paul Begala says that Hillary must “show us her heart tonight.” No, please, no! We really don’t need to see that dark, cold, merciless organ.

+ What am I rooting for? The stage lighting to collapse.

+ Lester Holt needs to be extremely cautious tonight. Lots of police and armed security in the debate hall. No sudden movements. Holt must keep his hands firmly on the podium at all times.

+ Bill and Melania shake hands at center stage. Bill whispers something in her ear. I think it was: “Text me.”

+ No national anthem. Kaepernick wins!

+ Hillary enters, as the Woman in Red. The stains of Iraq, Libya, Honduras, Syria and Yemen.

+ Debate opens with the economy. Hillary enumerates a laundry list of policies she doesn’t believe in, while Trump goes right on the attack over the decimation of industrial economy.

+ Hillary’s first joke falls flat: “I call it Trumped up trickle-down.” No one chuckles.

+ Neither of these candidates have a sense of humor, which is an ominous quality in any leader.

+ Trump steamrolled Lester Holt and smoked Hillary on trade policy. Meanwhile, Hillary ludicrously blames the 2008 financial collapse on … tax policy!

+ Trump says he’s trying to be “semi-exact” in his numbers, which is closer than he’s ever come before.

+ Trump now looks like he’s spitting blood in his assault on NAFTA and the TPP. Perhaps he ate glass for lunch or one his awful children. Hillary squirms. So does Bill.

+ Feebly, Hillary actually tries to counterpunch by telling people to visit her website.

+ Hillary can’t stop talking about tax policy (snooze), while Trump keeps jack-hammering on jobs and Clinton/Obama trade deals.

+ Crowd erupts as Trump says he will release he tax returns, when HRC releases her 30,000 deleted emails.

+ Trump hits hard on $6 trillion wasted in Middle East wars by Bush-Obama-Clinton.

+ Hillary hits Trump hard on stiffing his workers, but fails to mention she stiffed the ghostwriter of “her” book It Takes a Village.

+ Trump’s first joke falls flatter than Hillary’s. Cite’s building of Trump Intl. in DC for his business acumen. Says if he doesn’t get to Penn. Ave one way, he’ll get there another.

+ Weak pablum from HRC on race and police. No outrage. All white paper talk.

+ Trump goes the full-Mussolini on police policy. Calls for imposing stop-and-frisk in Chicago.

+ Call the NRA! Trump just said the police should seize guns…from blacks and Hispanics.

+ Trump claims cops “scared to do their job.” How then to explain 854 people shot by cops this year?

+ Hillary has one of her best moments denouncing the private prison system that took root after passage of Bubba’s Crime Bill of 1994. Whoops.

+ Trump shamelessly attacks HRC on super-predator comment. This from the man who led the witch-hunt against the kids wrongly convicted in Central Park jogger case.

+ Trump flubs chance to nail Syd Blumenthal on inculcating the racist myth of Obama’s birth with incoherent mumbo jumbo.

+ Commercial interruption from Hillary, who took a few moments to plug her unreadable book, Stronger Together, which, at last report, had sold fewer than 2,500 copies.

+ Breaking News From Trump: “Palm Beach, Florida is a TOUGH community.” Stop-and-frisk on the 17th green?

+ HRC’s Axis of Evil: China-Russia-Iran.

+ Trump: “We don’t know Russia hacked into the DNC. It could have been some 400-lbs guy sitting on a bed somewhere. But we do know that the emails showed how your people sabotaged Bernie Sanders.”

+ Hillary licks her lips and begins reciting her body count in the Middle East. Vows to take Al-Baghdadi’s head. Assassination politics.

+ It’s hard to see how HRC wins the debate over the exact date of when Trump announced his opposition to the Iraq war that she supported in Clinton time and Bush time, continued to prosecute as Sec of State and now wants to escalate as president.

+ Trump doubles down on looting Middle East oil. No one mentions that this is a de facto war crime.

+ Trump crumples on his opposition to NATO. Corrupting influence of the 200 generals and admirals that have endorsed his campaign.

+ Trump reaches for water glass. Big gulp. Rubio moment?

+ Bibi Netanyahu, America’s real Sec. of State, frontally embraced by both Clinton and Trump.

+ Trump quotes GW Bush: “We can’t be policemen of the world.” Rah, rah! Look how that turned out.

+ Ron Jacobs emails this assessment: “Donald Trump is a hog who has no problem killing the other pigs at the trough and then eating them.  Hillary seemed to prove that she has at least some qualms about this particular form of gluttony.”

+ Five minutes after the debate, Michael Moore launched this Tweet:”Fellow Bernie voters — admit it, there’s nothing she’s said we disagree with. In fact, she’s adopted his positions!”  Caveat: Moore confessed his sexual attraction to Hillary in his book Downsize This! Love is blind. (And, in Moore’s case, deaf and dumb.)

+ If this was a fight, Trump probably would have won on points as the aggressor. But he probably missed twice as many punches as he landed. Hillary was flat-footed most of the night, defending failed policies, offering little more than policy papers. As a debate it probably ends as a draw.

The night in summary, Hillary didn’t knock down Donald & Donald didn’t prove his hands were bigger than Hillary’s. The oh-so-dangerous dangerous Jill Stein (a civil disobedience recidivist) got dragged off of campus, Lester Holt didn’t get shot by the secret service and good old Gary Johnson probably had the best night of all, smoking a bowl without that crusty Bill Weld in the room to chill the mood. As for the country, it loses when either of these two becomes president.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3