THE UPSHOT

We may have been a little optimistic about last night’s set-to.  Our hope was civility, brain-power, clarity.

The night, although we hate to admit it, went to Mr. Pence.  Not because he was more articulate or insightful, but because he sat stolidly on his hands and denied everything.  He was calm (too calm), distant, and untruthful.  But his demeanor was solid and reasonable, for one who fibbed all the way through the ninety minutes.

Tim Kaine was so eager to get into a brou-ha-ha that he jumped the gun, interrupted, talked over and simultaneously throughout and covered whatever his messages were with speed, confusion, and – apart from a few seconds at the end of the debate – did nothing to derail Trump/Pence.

But he did have one fine moment when discussing a woman’s right to make health care decisions.  This was valuable to Mrs. Clinton, and hurtful to Mr. Trump.

What can one do when faced with an obdurate, face-making, eye-rolling stone wall?   Pence may have put himself on the map for 2020 (we certainly hope not) simply by appearing calm and adult, regardless of the content of his denials.

Both men were programmed and not only did it show, they each commented on the scripts they had been handed.

The difference between Trump and Pence was in delivery, not facts.   For worried Republicans, Mr. Pence was reassuring in a way Trump has never been, despite his fictions.   Trump’s base probably did not grow in numbers, although perhaps in confidence.  That is not a good thing.

In moments of thoughtfulness (too few), Mr. Kaine is worth listening to.

So where are we now?   Frankly, no place good.

True enough, as the days pass, Mr. Pence’s replies to Kaine’s questions will be played and replayed for all to see and understand how easily and how often he ducked the truth, how seldom he managed to break down the Clinton/Kaine structure.

And, providentially, Mr. Pence approached Mrs. Clinton’s solution for Syria.  That cannot have made Trump joyous.

Final tally?  It wasn’t even a draw.  It was theatre of the kind we’ve seen from Trump himself throughout the campaign.   Bogus, blustery, bigoted.

We’re not happy and we doubt Mrs. Clinton is.  (Putting aside for the nonce the damage done by her husband when discussing, off the cuff, the Affordable Care Act and its flaws.  This man needs rehabilitation.)

We can only hope that Mr. Trump, as he addresses the concerns of voters at the Town Hall scenario this coming Sunday, falls once more into his “Believe me” mode.

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