In a previous blog (last April) I suggested that the Democrats were pursuing the wrong strategy is trying to oppose Trump before the Republican convention. My reasoning was that other candidates were worse (e.g. Ted Cruz) in terms of what they stood for, and most would likely turn out to be stronger opponents of Clinton (who was considered the Democratic frontrunner at the time).
At least for the moment this analysis turned out to be correct. Polls showed that Clinton had a huge lead after her nomination, then that lead largely dissipated during the summer when Trump enjoyed a lot of his press attention while Clinton campaigned rather listlessly. However, many of the things Trump said were simply not subjected to much mass-media scrutiny or fact-checking. To put it simply, people were simply not acquainted with how much of a bully, liar, and general jerk he really is. Some needed to have this pointed out to them in capital letters -- which he himself, it turns out, was more than willing to do during and immediately after the first debate.
There probably is no point in going over all the things that have come out about Trump in the past few weeks. He is so obviously a fraud and embarrassment that almost every day a new newspaper has come out either endorsing Clinton or condemning Trump. These newspapers include many conservative ones that have been staunchly Republican for a century or more, such as the Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic. Here's what happened. The American Press has been very timid, even cowardly. Most papers and news shows seem to believe that "even-handedness" means either not criticizing either party or candidate, or giving equal time and equal weight to any differences of opinion or contrary assertions, even when it is possible to demonstrate actual truth or falsehood on one side. In the first confrontation between Clinton and Trump, a "Presidential Forum" in early September where the candidates did not confront each other but appeared in separate halves of the program, the "moderator" Matt Lauer of NBC was clearly cowed by Trump and refused to call him out on several well-known lies -- e.g. that Trump had "always" opposed the invasion of Iraq. Lauer's performance was roundly criticized throughout the media. It was around this time that the NY Times described some of Trump's answers as "stretching the truth" (as did other news sources). This also provoked the criticism that a lie is a lie, and is not best described as stretching the truth. Since then the Times has described Trump's lies exactly as such. Though Trump seems comfortable with Tweeting, he somehow has not absorbed the fact that digital records are kept of just about anything these days (sort of like parking lot video surveillance), and his statements can be retrieved by just about anyone and compared with his descriptions of them.
So, the criticism of Lauer raised expectations for Lester Holt (NBC news anchor) in the first actual debate. These expectations were only partially met when he followed up on a question about why Trump persisted in the "birther" myth long after Obama produced is birth certificate. However, Trump still managed to talk over Holt, though the latter did stick to his guns until he had to move on. On the other hand, Holt allowed Trump to interrupt Clinton about 50 times when she had the "floor".
What moderators need is a "kill" switch that turns off the microphone of debaters when they no longer have the floor -- especially when they are being rude. Why isn't this done? (Answer: The networks and debate "commissions" are cowards, afraid of any loud criticism.)
By this time, I think, the networks, newspapers and even the viewers were beginning to see the reality that Trump, the emperor, indeed has few clothes and rather dull teeth, through which he lies routinely. The timing for the Donald could not have been worse, since the week or so after the debate saw all sorts of facts surface about his taxes (special treatment, failure to pay any), business practices (bankruptcies, stiffing of contractors), attitude toward women (bad), and disregard for laws such as the Cuban embargo (a very sore spot for him in Florida).
If you follow polls -- say through Nate Silver's 538 -- you'll see that Trump is not faring well at all. The media, cowardly at first, are now appropriately giving the bully's treatment to the bully himself.
Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
It ain't over yet, but I'm beginning to be happier with my statements from last April...