Well, we are only a few hours away from what could be the first of three "Super Bowl of Politics" events: The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The Internet is buzzing with all sorts of analyses about how each candidate can win, what their respective strengths and weaknesses are, whether debate moderator Lester Holt will be fair, yada yada yada....
Like so many other developments in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, tonight's debate may play out completely differently than anyone had imagined. Maybe it will be boring and low-key. Or maybe it will be so angry and raucous, both candidates will have damaged themselves (or so Gary Johnson & Jill Stein hope). Perhaps viewers will discover a new aspect or angle to one or both of the candidates. This seems likely, since millions of likely voters haven't been paying a lot of attention until just the past few weeks. Those of us who live and breathe politics find it unbelievable, in light of the stakes for our nation's future, that millions of people don't care much about the political scene.
I wonder if I should bother making a prediction, since predictions (even by the most vaunted of soothsayers) have more often than not proven laughably inaccurate. Nevertheless, I will take the plunge. I believe this debate will be, on balance, a draw. However, I think there's a better chance Trump comes out on top than Hillary.
Hillary can practice and rehearse and study and obsess until the cows come home, but she can never, ever shed the accurate impression that she is a self-serving, mendacious, corrupt harridan. To use an analogy, back when I was a dorky teenager, I used to say that I could lift weights and go to the batting cages until I am blue in the face, but I would never have the talent to play Major League Baseball. Each of us has some limitations, and even if we have a massive cheerleading squad trying to paint us in the best light, there comes a point when people assess -- accurately -- that the emperor has no clothes.
I suspect that Hillary will repeatedly emphasize her experience and the variety of positions she has held. But this is, in reality, a slow pitch over the middle of the plate for Trump. All he has to do is sum up what that experience has resulted in: the Middle East is aflame; ISIS is menacing with vicious cruelty and bloodlust; Benghazi was a massive failure and the blatant lies that attempted to cover it up were shameful and pathetic; the Clinton Foundation takes donations from odious, oppressive regimes; Hillary has shown gross carelessness and incompetence with her handling of classified materials, and lied repeatedly to cover up her ineptitude. What it boils down to is this: Experience is worthless if it means experience at failure, and a dismal track record at learning from and rectifying mistakes.
What will be interesting is to gauge the reactions (PLURAL!) during and after the debate. Dramatically unlike the paradigm of 32 years ago, when incumbent President Ronald Reagan debated challenger Walter Mondale, we have a disparate, fragmented and widespread "peanut gallery" willing and able to hold forth. The old expression, "Opinions are like a**holes: Everybody's got one" never was truer.
The old media -- ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, AP, Reuters, et al -- still delusional about their degree of influence -- may try to portray Hillary as the winner or at least as having debated Trump to a draw even if she gets her butt kicked. But talk radio, social media, conservative blogs, political forums, text messages between friends, co-workers and acquaintances -- all of these may tell a different story. It would be asking too much to expect some media organization to sort it all out and come up with an accurate score-keeping regimen.
The old media is nothing if not shameless. They will try to do what they do. But I suspect their cynical bullshit will be blatantly exposed, so much so that they will unwittingly drive more nails into their despicable coffin.