Capitol Journal: Hillary Clinton was the matador to Donald Trump’s bull in first presidential debate

The estimated audience for first presidential debate hit 84 million, according to Nielsen numbers.
The estimated audience for first presidential debate hit 84 million, according to Nielsen numbers.
(David Goldman / Associated Press)

So 84 million TV viewers — the largest presidential debate audience ever — watched Donald Trump get all flustered and act like a raging bull. I credit Hillary Clinton’s bright red suit.

A very clever choice of garment. Bold and strategic. Sure beat the traditional navy blue with striped tie.

Clinton in her solid red cape played Trump like a seasoned matador.

Yes, I know, it’s a myth that bulls charge red. They’re actually colorblind to that hue. But humans aren’t. So I’ll stick to the seeing-red theory for Trump’s undisciplined performance Monday night.


Gradually, he became a bull in a China closet, interrupting his opponent dozens of times. And sometimes he even talked over the moderator, a no-no.

Of course, Trump doesn’t need a red cape to craze him. Like the beast, he’ll ferociously charge any moving object if it irritates him or he feels threatened. He’s instinctively uncivil.

But the mere sight of the lady in red probably erased any thought of acting presidential.

What a laugh — and that was the in-house audience reaction — when he claimed: “I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know? .… I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament.”

Right, and beforehand he called himself “the Babe Ruth” of debaters. In this debate, however, he batted below the “Mendoza line.” For non-baseball junkies, that’s below a .200 batting average, rarely good enough to stick in the majors.

Does he even know how sexist some of his rants sound? He clearly doesn’t care.

Claiming that Clinton “doesn’t have the stamina” to lead the nation reeks of sexism and is plain ridiculous. “To be president of this country,” he said, “you need tremendous stamina.”

But Clinton has been campaigning across the country for more than a year, often enduring 16-hour days barnstorming and speechmaking before strangers.


And despite being diagnosed with pneumonia, she had enough stamina — mentally and physically — to do her homework for the debate. Something Trump didn’t. And it showed.

But Clinton had the best response. The former secretary of State told moderator Lester Holt:

“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

Actually when Trump was belittling Clinton’s stamina, he was dodging a question from the moderator about his comment a few weeks ago: “I just don’t think she has the presidential look.”

“You know,” Clinton said, “he tried to switch from ‘looks’ to ‘stamina.’ But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs.”

And, he once called a Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” after the beauty queen had gained several pounds, Clinton reported.


Also ludicrous was Trump’s broadside that Clinton has “been doing this for 30 years.” So why hasn’t she solved America’s problems or at least proposed the solutions?

Where to begin! Three decades ago, she was the wife of the Arkansas governor. Then she was the nation’s first lady. Not a lot of real power in those posts. She became one of 100 senators, then a president’s secretary of State.

Why hasn’t she rewritten trade agreements and revamped our energy policies, among other things? She hasn’t been president.

Has she screwed up? Yes, most prominently by using her own private email service while handling security-sensitive government information. Huge blunder. And she admits it.

“I made a mistake using private email,” she said during the debate. “And if I had to do it over again, I would obviously do it differently. But I’m not going to make any excuses…. I take responsibility for that.”

You’ll never hear Trump admit any failing. It’s always something else’s fault: the media, the microphone …


Updates from Sacramento »

Trump again acted like a spoiled brat during the debate, misbehaving like we teach our children not to. That’s my biggest gripe about the guy: He shows blatant disrespect for other people.

Clinton maintained her composure and played it smart, not allowing Trump to alter her rhythm and tone when he butted in.

Most important, the generally unpopular Clinton did something she doesn’t do nearly enough: She smiled. Especially when Trump sneered or scowled. She didn’t screech — as she has been previously accused of doing — but he snarled.

She even showed some humor.

Repeating from her Democratic convention speech, Clinton said: “A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”

Trump shot back: “That line’s getting a little bit old, I must say.”

Clinton: “It’s a good one, though.”

The audience laughed.


The Clinton rhetoric that seemed to really agitate Trump was the early mention of his silver-spoon background: “He started his business with $14 million borrowed from his father.”

Trump called it “a very small loan.”

To his credit, the Republican nominee undoubtedly scored with his core supporters by denouncing U.S. trade policies that encourage shipping American jobs abroad.

And he rang the anti-Washington bell by exclaiming after one Clinton exhortation: “Typical politician. All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn’t work.”

There’ll be two more debates giving Trump a chance to recoup his losses. Next time, he should study up.

And Clinton should again pull out that red suit.

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter


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