Well, that was something. The first presidential debate has come to an end, and for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, it will not be a restful night. For all the lowered expectations, pre-debate spin and working the refs, when the big event finally rolled around, the real estate magnate... well, he pretty much imploded. And if you check out the video, you can actually pinpoint the exact instant it all went off the rails ― the moment Trump's presidential debate game plan fell apart, under the very slightest of pressure from Clinton.
In the run-up to the debate, there was plenty of coverage about the sharp divide between how Clinton and Trump were prepping for the big night ― namely, that Clinton was doing a deep-dig on how to push Trump's buttons, while Trump was taking a decidedly hands-off, low-preparation approach.
And when both candidates took the stage, that discrepancy showed. It's clear that Trump did have a plan, to be clear ― he started out with a slightly low, consciously repressed tone, as though he were focusing all his energy on looking and sounding calm and presidential. And if you're wondering how long that lasted, it only took about seven minutes.
In the segment embedded above, Clinton craftily slipped in reference to one of the things Trump really doesn't like being brought up ― the fact that he had a leg-up in starting his business, thanks to his wealthy father, Fred Trump. After Clinton referenced the hefty loan that Fred gave to young Donald all those decades ago, the moment Trump got a chance to speak, you could tell it was all over.
Before addressing the substance of moderator Lester Holt's question in any way, he felt compelled to flash his usual prickly defensiveness. The full debate is embedded below ― the relevant portion begins at the 35-minute mark.
Well for one thing, and before we start on that, my father gave me a very small loan in 1975 and I built it into a company that's worth many many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world, and I say that only because that's the kind of thinking that our country needs.
From that instant on, Clinton knew she had Trump dancing like a marionette. On the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, on what was likely the most important night of his life, he just couldn't let even one passing slight go, and in fact, it bothered him so much it undermined what was his obvious plan from the start ― to play it smooth, cool, and collected. Simply put, from that moment on, Trump slipped into his familiar posture, responding with blurts, shouts, and interruptions at any factual assertions he didn't like.
It was, in political terms, a spontaneous combustion, and it barely took any effort on Clinton's part to set the fire. Now, the question for Team Trump is obvious: "what now?"