Joe Bob's America

“I’m Not Crazy, You Are”

September 27, 2016

Multiple Pages
“I’m Not Crazy, You Are”

NEW YORK—If you study Method acting at one of the great New York studios that grew out of the Stanislavsky system, the first thing they teach you is that acting is not about speaking, it’s about reacting.

“Always watch the actor who is not speaking,” the great Freddie Kareman used to tell his classes at Carnegie Hall. “If he’s engaged and focused and concentrated, that’s when you’ll see his craft.”

Or as Martin Scorsese once told me, “Pay no attention to the words. We’ll change the words. We’re looking for what’s underneath the words.”

The great thing about watching a Presidential debate with a split screen is that you get to watch the face that’s not speaking and you get to see what’s underneath the words.

And what did these two faces say?

Trump’s face, pinched, orange, topped by what can only be called a wispy ghost of a crewcut, was saying, “I can’t stand the sound of your voice. You’re annoying me. You’re a nothing.”

And Hillary’s face, coiffed, pancaked, accessorized, was saying, “I’m going to smile sarcastically, even if I hate him, so the crowd will think I don’t care.”

In other words, if you’re trying to decide which candidate is crazy, it’s not me!

“You don’t have to know how to do anything as President.”

I’m not sure who won. I used a ten-point-must scoring system, with the bout divided into 15 rounds, like professional boxing, and I had it 147-142 for Trump. I thought Trump won all the early rounds, but the referee turned on him about halfway through—Lester Holt of NBC News—trying to nail him on the birther issue and his taxes. (There were no corresponding “gotcha” questions for Hillary.) Trump let the questions get under his skin and started flailing wildly. Watching Hillary, you could tell she wanted to jump in a couple of times, then decided to rope-a-dope him. Trump recovered near the end, as both fighters were growing fatigued, and scored a couple of points when Hillary turned nasty and personal, practically accusing him of being an owner of female slaves, before the whole thing petered out in a forced “I will support the winner” hug.

Post-bout analysis was all over the lot, with Hillary loyalists claiming utter and complete demolishment of their opponent because she was “more prepared.”

I’ve got news for these Rhodes Scholars. People don’t care about who’s prepared. They care about who’s lying and, in this case, who’s lying more than the other liar. Everything else is just code words. Trump probably can’t lower taxes from 35 to 15 percent. Hillary can’t achieve her goals by taxing only the rich. Neither of them said anything particularly brilliant about police shootings. The jousting on free trade agreements and NATO was all familiar stuff that gets bandied about every day—nobody knows which course produces more prosperity.

But since this was the first and only time Trump has ever been involved in a one-on-one debate, much less a one-on-one debate that goes on for more than 90 minutes, and since he was competing against a veteran fighter who has done it 40 times, I think Trump has to be given the victory according to the Rocky principle: Sylvester Stallone didn’t win the fight, but he was still on his feet at the final bell.

People who have only seen Trump in sound bites watched him go the distance without faltering. Were his remarks long on general observation and short on detail? Yes they were. Did Hillary know more than he did? Probably. Does it matter? Only to people who think the President should be a college professor. You don’t have to know how to do anything as President. You have to have the right instincts and you have to hire the right people.

For people who don’t trust Trump because of his lack of self control, there he was being halfway restrained, especially when he got attacked personally at the end. I would imagine there were a lot of Undecideds who thought, “You know what? He’s not that crazy.

The big unexamined issue throughout this election year is the one looming so large, hovering over the nation like a toxic cloud, that no one can see it—namely, Why does the world’s most powerful nation continue to cling to a two-party system?

This is where we end up—two liars arguing over who’s the bigger liar and who’s more crazy. Trump probably wins that argument, simply because all his sins were under the rubric of surviving in a brutal business world, whereas all Hillary’s were committed while serving as an office holder. The most telling thing Trump said was, “If you care about this stuff so much, where have you been the past 30 years?”

The United States shouldn’t have a binary political system. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, wasn’t invited to the debate, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, was actually booted off the campus by Hofstra security after she showed up for an interview with MSNBC. Ralph Nader fought against this system for years, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, to no avail. What are the major parties afraid of? We’re the third largest country and by far the most diverse country. We shouldn’t have two parties, we should have twenty parties. Bernie Sanders should have a party. David Duke should have a party. Gridlock would be impossible, because getting 51 percent control would require compromise.

As it is, we have two mediocre candidates standing on an antiseptic stage at a second-rate college talking about birtherism and tax returns and—one of the Donald’s finer moments—the 33,000 emails that were deleted by Hillary Clinton’s staff. I thought Trump faded near the end when he let Hillary go on and on about how committed she was to cybersecurity and the evil Russians when—hello!—she breached the national security hundreds of times. He seemed to lose focus and dwell on the meaningless trick questions instead of pushing forward with his main message, which I would sum up as, I’m not a politician, I don’t care what politicians like this woman do, I don’t understand everything, but my instincts are right and I’m willing to blow up Washington.

If he sticks to that in the upcoming debates, I think the already narrow race will get narrower.

When his team reviews the tapes, though, I’m sure they’ll tell him, “Remember that the camera is on you even when you’re not talking. Stop with the side eye. Stop with the furrowed brow. Stop with the mugging and the pained expressions.”

He shouldn’t listen to them. His face was more honest than her face. Lee Strasberg would say he was “truthful under imaginary circumstances.” I doubt if Donald took any classes at Carnegie Hall. He may just be a natural.

Daily updates with TM’s latest