Donald Trump complained after Monday’s debate that the organizers had given him a defective microphone. If only he were so lucky. Unfortunately for him, the audience could hear him loud and clear.
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is surely banging her head against the wall somewhere right now. Since taking the wheel last month, she has gotten Trump’s careening campaign back on the road and pointed at the White House. But when she lets Trump drive for a moment, he lurches right into the guardrail.
That small percentage of people still deciding whether to vote or for whom could not have been impressed by Trump Monday night. He was unprepared, condescending, bullying and, at times, borderline incoherent.
He started out forcefully talking about trade, and he scored points when he too briefly put the spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
The real Donald Trump emerged soon enough, though. The audience actually laughed at him when he declared his temperament might be his strongest asset. Clinton was confident, poised, serious but approachable. But Trump made himself the focus. Here are five times Conway must have gripped her armrest the tightest:
1. Voters were reminded that Trump is unabashedly sexist. Clinton pointed out that Trump had called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and said that pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers. She said he called a Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Trump (who interrupted Clinton 51 times to her 17) defended himself by saying Rosie O’Donnell deserved the mean things he had said about her. On Tuesday’s Fox and Friends, Trump doubled down, saying the Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, “gained a massive amount of weight.”
2. Confronted on the birther issue, he had no serious answer and viewers were left to agree with Clinton that it was a “racist lie.” On his refusal to rent to African-Americans in the 1970s, Trump meekly said he settled a federal lawsuit with no admission of guilt. Asked about improving race relations, he touted “stop and frisk” policing.
3. Trump essentially admitted that he paid no federal tax for several years. “That makes me smart,” he boasted. And it makes him out of step with the vast majority of voters. He had no defense for not releasing his tax returns other than to say he’s under audit. But the IRS says returns can be released while under audit. Again, viewers were left to believe Clinton that Trump has something to hide.
4. Clinton said Trump has filed for bankruptcy six times. “Do the thousands of people that you have stiffed over the course of your business not deserve some kind of apology…?” Trump responded that he was unsatisfied with the person’s work in some cases, and that by using bankruptcy to avoid paying debts he was merely taking advantage of U.S. laws.
5. Trump insisted that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq before it happened, though the record shows that’s not true. Trump’s defense? “Everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity.” That was part of a meandering non-answer that left Clinton saying, “Whew, OK.”
Conway might grab the wheel back, but it’s too late. Trump has shown, again, he can’t be trusted with the keys.