Deception is a lot more fun the moment it unravels. The very second a house of cards collapses is where truth and intuition meet the satisfaction of vindication. We find amusement when party balloons, filled to capacity, meet their inevitable demise at the pricking of a pin. But the fun and comfort we feel with such destruction lies in our understanding of the truth: that card houses aren’t meant to be lived in, and eventually, the party must end.
It was during this week’s presidential debate that GOP nominee, Donald Trump, learned the painful difference between reality TV and reality ON TV. At a time when the boundaries of entertainment and real life converge in scripts that scramble for ratings, the revelation of raw truth is rare—and the concern for that truth even more scarce. But when it comes to Presidential elections, debates provide a sobering dose of reality.
Debating on live television is a unique measure of value that forces the separation of entertainment and information on display. Scripted and semi-scripted content become the result of production value that favors spectacle over standards of expectation, rumor over fact, and cursory reaction over calculated response. That’s entertainment. But debates are different. Live debates limit the influence of entertainment in their requirement that each participant have command of factual knowledge with depth, a sense of continuity, and advanced communication skills that convey an understanding of content and provide a clear articulation of ideas.
In the case of Trump, it would be hard to conclude that he had any strategy at all. Strategy would require forethought and an anticipation of one’s own shortcomings—neither upon which the Donald has any apparent grasp.
Trump’s famous proclivity for tangential repetition has become somewhat of a trademark, a vocal pattern that streams in concert with the hammered waving of a pinched index finger and thumb. The value of the mundane shines, inflated by an almost compulsive usage of top-shelf superlatives, where heavy hitters like greatest, best, and worst are the stars of his impoverished world bank. Trump’s miraculous ability to produce the most amount of words with the least amount of content is the reflection of a vocabulary and knowledge base so limited, it takes twice the volume to fill the same time slot.
His performance was nothing short of being a perfect concert of self-destruction. Believe me. In a strange display of breathless angst, Trump easily loses his composure under a deluge of facts, clarity, and complete sentences offered up by Secretary Clinton. The dance that ensues throughout the debate is between that of a parent and a toddler’s temper tantrum. The man-child, Trump, attempts to control a situation that exceeds his intellectual capacity by manipulating the emotions of the adult who challenges him. Visibly frustrated and appalled by Clinton’s discipline, the Donald puffs himself up and assumes the role of a big bad wolf whose going for blood. He huffs, and puffs, and attempts to bully for control of the debate’s clarity and direction.
Trump is like that childhood friend who screams, “It’s my house!” in protest of anyone’s board-game suggestions. It doesn’t mean anything, but it might get you to shut up and go along anyway. Or so he hopes.
Clinton manages to avoid the traps and side-steps numerous opportunities to become entangled by emotional bait. She sticks to the issues, but you can’t fix stupid. Trying to use logical reasoning with someone who doesn’t agree on the rules of logical reasoning is just fubar. Trump’s narcissism creates a powerful reality distortion that not only prevents him from being able to debate the issues Americans care about most, it also blinds him to that fact. His ego cannot fathom information that conflicts with his own self-image and worldview, and so, he becomes his own expert witness. Call this person. That person said I did a very good job. Nobody knows more about this than I do. Anecdotes without context and vague opinions by nameless nobodies become, for him, an ocean of legitimate evidence. But on that stage he stood naked and unaware that his pants had fallen.
The Donald has been revealed to everyone but himself. And so, still, he is left searching for the real Trump, a man locked up in a faraway house full of mirrors. He sits stuck and staring into the darkness of his own reflection, huffing and puffing for one last breath to bring it all down.