Shortly before the first presidential debate of 2016 got underway, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Donald Trump ally, insisted
that the Republican candidate would "pass the test of being adequately competent" during the showdown with Hillary Clinton. The message drew swift mockery for setting the bar for Trump success at such a woefully low level.
But by the time the dust settled on the debate, Gingrich's prediction looked even worse -- because Trump didn't come close to demonstrating "adequate competence."
After the event, Trump told reporters
that debate organizers gave him "a defective mic." He quickly added, "I wonder, was that on purpose? Was that on purpose?" Of course, there was no conspiracy involving Trump's microphone, though all things considered, the GOP nominee might have been better off if his mic hadn't worked and the audience didn't hear what he had to say.
When Trump needed to be honest, he lied. When he needed to be poised, he came unglued. When he needed to appear knowledgeable, he rambled incoherently. When he needed to prove that he'd prepared for the debate, he made clear he hadn't done his homework.
When Trump needed to change the trajectory of the presidential race, he offered fresh proof that he's just not ready for prime time.
At one point, towards the end, Trump pointed at Hillary Clinton and proudly declared, "I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?" The audience laughed, which wouldn't have been especially notable, except for the fact that he wasn't trying to be funny.
It's difficult to pick out the most damaging moment of the night -- there are just so many missteps to choose from -- but from where I sat, Trump's entire performance went off the rails when moderator Lester Holt asked the Republican about his "birther" conspiracy theory. read more