I remember something very wise that Maya Angelou once wrote (I'm paraphrasing here): When you meet someone, trust your first impressions.

It wasn't so long ago when Donald Trump's serial lies and his appalling remarks were being dismissed as something he had to say to win the Republican nomination. We would see a more "presidential" Trump emerge from the manhole cover once he secured that goal, just like Esther Williams rose up out of the water on a golden pillar in those old MGM movies.

It was, I suppose, ridiculous to hope that anything he might say or do during his first face-to-face confrontation with Hillary Clinton might provoke any kind of serious reevaluation by his die hard supporters, who have thus far either condoned or blithely ignored the massive displays of ignorance and arrogance that have been the hallmarks of his campaign

There is only one demographic he hasn't managed to offend or alienate, but you have to wonder how these guys are going to feel when Trump trains his sights on middle-aged white men who haven't even managed to scrape a million dollars together. Where are they going to run for refuge and reassurance, these people who have so tragically mistaken being used for being understood?

Despite losing nearly a billion dollars in 1995 alone, he still passes himself off as a businessman without peer. He brought that pose to a cheesy television "reality" program that really had nothing to do with Trump as a phenomenally successful businessman. It was all about selling him as the image of a phenomenally successful businessman. The shining light of his newfound celebrity status effectively eclipsed the string of bankruptcies, the barrage of lawsuits, his long record of stiffing workers, and the shuttered casinos still bearing a faint outline of the name "Trump" on their gaudy facades.


All he had to do on "The Apprentice" was show up, draw from a treasure trove of contorted faces that would evoke envy from Lon Chaney, and bluster his subjects into submission. Between the incessant sniffling, water drinking, and constant interrupting, he tried to unleash all three tactics on Mrs. Clinton during the debate. None of them worked.

If you listen closely to what Trump is actually saying when he assumes his statesman posture, you are reminded not so much of a potential leader as a slightly dim middle-schooler trying to bluff his way through a civics talk he hasn't prepared for.

His coterie of hired enablers claimed that Mrs. Clinton was "over prepared" for the debate, as if that somehow excused Trump for being so abysmally uninformed. Every response he stumbled through revolved around the reigning god of his universe: Money.

The concepts of honor, allegiance, and commitment don't exist in Trump's world unless they generate money. According to him, America's bond with our NATO allies amounts to nothing if the member countries aren't "paying their fair share," while he glides around in private jets and limos very likely without having paid a cent in taxes for years. That's just "smart," he sneered at Mrs. Clinton.

It is estimated that his solution to the abject state of this country (a refrain he endlessly reiterated) would add more than $5 trillion to the national debt. It would also be a boon to the same people who benefitted so lavishly when George W. Bush made tax cuts for the rich his first priority as president.

Throughout Mrs. Clinton's articulate, informed responses to Lester Holt's intelligent questions, we were treated to the familiar Trump sideshow of facial expressions, ranging from the head slightly tilted, lips pursed, seriously contemplative face to that creepy, self-satisfied grin that is probably as indicative of the man's character as anyone will ever witness.

When the scope of his failure in the debate became apparent, he fell back on his usual blame game routine. It was Mr. Holt's unfair questions. It was Mr. Trump's inherent kindness, as exemplified by his not bringing up the subject of Bill Clinton's infidelities, as if he himself had just climbed down the hill from a monastery.

As far as the sound system goes, the problem wasn't that we couldn't hear what Mr. Trump said. The problem was that we could.

— Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist.

The opinions of this columnist do not necessarily reflect those of the Bennington Banner