There are at least two things we know about Hillary Clinton as a politician: that she built a reputation as a good listener, and that she’s unflappable. Those two qualities were on full display last night at the presidential debate between her and Donald Trump.
But it was her quiet ability to withstand the blows without so much as flinching, let Trump go at her, again and again, without once taking the bait, without once withering in the heat, that proved she has the qualities befitting a president. And man, did that seem to irritate Trump.
It started from the get-go. When Trump patronizingly asked Clinton how he should refer to her: “Secretary Clinton, yes? Is that okay? I want you to be very happy,” she seemed amused. When Trump hammered her about her position on major trade deals, accusing her of flip-flopping, she calmly shut him down: “Donald, I know you live in your own reality.”
Trump’s affinity for drama is well-documented, dating way back to his 'Apprentice' days, when he’d make contestants effectively dance for their supper.
Trump’s affinity for drama is well-documented, dating way back to his Apprentice days, when he’d make contestants effectively dance for their supper. Trump presided over that fake boardroom table as those wannabe Trumpkins went toe-to-toe with him — after all, it made for such entertaining TV — encouraging them to throw people under busses while pleading for their TV lives.
He’s deployed the same formula over the past year to nab the GOP nomination, pummeling his fellow Republicans with juvenile epithets and drawing them into his game.
He dubbed Rubio “Little Marco,” and the two famously got into a spat — at a primary debate no less — over the size of their, ahem, hands. Later Rubio expressed regret: "My kids were embarrassed by it. My wife didn’t like it…That’s not who I am," Rubio told Megyn Kelly.
Hillary Clinton long ago learned to let the insults roll off her back. And in doing so, she’s uncovered Trump’s Achilles' heel.
Clinton’s ability to listen and roll with the punches all culminated in the winning moment of the night. When moderator Lester Holt tried to ask Donald Trump about his judgment, specifically with regard to his stated support of the Iraq invasion, Trump cut him off.
Her next move should have been familiar to every parent in America who’s weathered the storm of a child’s tantrum. Clinton paused, shimmied her shoulders, and laughed. 'Woo! Okay!'
When it was over, Clinton seemed pleased. She’d let Trump’s top spin and spin, until, weary and out of momentum, he finally stopped. Even the audience took a breath, taking in the blowhard’s rhetorical salad of riled-up, inchoate jabber from this, the GOP candidate for president. Her next move should have been familiar to every parent in America who’s weathered the storm of a child’s tantrum. Clinton paused, shimmied her shoulders, and laughed. “Woo! Okay!” Yep.
Say this for Clinton: She figured out what Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and nearly a dozen more couldn’t all those months ago. There’s power and even triumph in stepping back and letting your opponent talk himself into a hole. The more Trump flashes that temperament, the more presidential Clinton looks.
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