WASHINGTON – Last night, Hillary Clinton spoke directly to the American people about real solutions to the problems facing working families.
Donald Trump didn’t speak about much of anything at all.
Instead, he repeatedly accused Clinton of being “an experienced politician,” as if this were a terrible thing to be if you want to run for President.
“We can put more money into the pockets of working people,” Clinton said. “We can build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.” She spoke about raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, making work family-friendly with paid family leave and affordable child care, ending student debt and creating jobs through rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in renewable energy.
She said the nation could afford to do all this if the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes.
Trump’s economic plan: cut taxes for the rich and eliminate regulations on business, the same policies that caused the Great Recession of 2008.
Where Clinton presented a detailed plan to create better relations between black communities and the police who are supposed to serve them, Trump called for “law and order” and described African American neighborhoods as “hell holes.”
The face-off between Clinton and Trump was billed as a “debate,” but it was more like the grade school classes we all remember. There was always a wise guy who would disrupt the class to show everyone he could defy an authority figure.
Sometimes he got others to go along.
Last night, Trump was that classroom disrupter. While Clinton was speaking, he snorted, sniffed, made faces and rudely interrupted.
There’s a big difference between teenage wise guys and Trump, though. Classroom disrupters are annoying. Trump is dangerous.
As he amply demonstrated last night, he’s trying to get voters to go along with him by appealing to and eliciting xenophobic nationalism, racism and misogyny.
Also, he lies.
His greatest lie is that he cares about American workers.
Last night, Clinton successfully called Trump out. She cited his history of “making money on the backs of ‘little’ people” by not paying workers and contractors and by using bankruptcy as a money-making tool. She reminded him that when the economy collapsed in 2008, he said it was “good” because he could buy properties cheaply.
He interrupted to say “That’s called ‘business.'”
Clinton also pointed out that he had paid “zero taxes” for many years, which meant “zero for our military, zero for our vets, zero for our schools,” zero for our country.
His retort: “I’m smart.”
To try to show that “workers, everybody” loves him, Trump described the new hotel he created out of the huge old post office near the White House.
The truth: hotel workers have been picketing almost daily because he refuses to recognize their union; his chef quit because of his anti-Mexican statements; the city tried to get him to take down a huge “Trump” sign and the ACLU is suing because he has turned public sidewalks near the hotel into private property to prevent protesters from getting too close to the place.
The “birther” movement
The debate moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt, asked Trump why for five years he promoted the lie that President Obama was not born in the U.S.
Trump never answered the question, but used “the-other-guy-hit-me-first,” whine typical of classroom bullies who get caught fighting.
He said “Hillary started it,” which is a lie.
What is true is that Trump used the “birther” movement to launch his political career by gaining the support of racists eager to paint our first African-American President as an outsider not qualified for the office.
Trump’s racism became obvious long before the “birther” stuff. Clinton pointed to the fact that in the ’70s the Justice Department sued him for refusing to let African Americans rent apartments he owned.
His “proof” he’s not a racist? He pointed to an upscale country club/golf course he built in Palm Beach, Florida, which he said is “probably the richest community in America.” He assured the audience that it is open to all people … very rich people, of course.
On the other hand, he made no effort to hide his misogyny.
He implied that being a woman, Clinton did not “look” like a President and lacked the stamina needed for the job, statements he has repeatedly made and one of the reasons his favorability rating among women is so low. Ironically, as he spoke he was visibly fading out.
Clinton challenged Trump to put in the hours she did as Secretary of State.
Toward the end of the evening, moderator Holt asked questions about the candidates’ views on national security.
The questions were obviously way over Trump’s head.
In the words of Steve Schmidt, a long-time Republican strategist and CNN commentator, Trump dissolved into “incoherent gibberish,” talking about encouraging Japan to get nuclear weapons and about pitting China against North Korea.
“I know you live in your own reality,” Clinton told Trump.
Photo: A group of friends view the first presidential debate during one of many watch parties, this one at a home in Colorado, Sept. 26. Brennan Linsley | AP