Roger L. Simon

After First Debate, 'Nobody Knows Anything'

In his Adventures in the Screen Trade, screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote of Hollywood that “Nobody knows anything.”

He was mostly right about the movie business, except that sequels of Star Wars do tend to make a lot of money (until they don’t).

But applied to politics, his words are one hundred percent correct. Nobody does know anything. Nevertheless, as in Hollywood, a lot of people are paid big bucks to pretend they do.

Goldman’s was the first phrase that came to my mind after watching the Greatest Debate That Ever Lived or whatever anyone wants to call the extravaganza Monday night that turned out not to be nearly as dramatic as some were expecting.

Who won? Beats me. Does it matter? Also beats me. (Well, I do have a suspicion, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

I do notice that as of this moment (8:20PM PT) the Drudge Report is showing Donald up 90% to 10% in its online poll.  That’s basically meaningless considering the source.  If Drudge’s poll had shown Trump winning by less that 80% it would have spelled disaster.

As for the pundits, I can’t stand watching them. They make my head explode.  And they’re basically useless. No one is more disconnected from the American public than a television pundit. When have you ever heard one say something you haven’t thought of a hundred times before? Well, maybe once in a blue moon. (You’re free to dial off me now.  I’m no better.)

But, being a good pundit, I will say the painfully obvious. Both candidates basically got what they wanted.  Hillary didn’t have a coughing fit or fall over. Donald seemed plausibly presidential. He didn’t assault Clinton or bite her head off (not that she didn’t deserve it). In the end,he may have gotten more.  (As I said, more of that in a moment)

I can’t say I’m surprised, as others have noted (okay I took a few peeks), that moderator Lester Holt asked no questions about Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, or the Clinton Foundation. That’s what the mainstream media are paid for — to be silent and practice omertà concerning anything embarrassing to Democrats. (Ironically, this leaves a big opening for one person — Julian Assange. And don’t think he doesn’t know it.)

What did surprise me is that Trump barely brought much of this up himself. He had a huge opportunity when the subject of cyber security came up but didn’t take it.  Was this deliberate or an oversight?  If the former,  and I suspect it largely is, it’s a clever strategy. Everyone knows about Hillary’s email/Foundation veracity issues. Trump didn’t have to make a big deal about them, especially if his goal was to appear presidential, to not seem crazy or mean to those few remaining independent voters who are not attracted to Hillary but want to be reassured about Trump. And we have to remember, the polls at this moment show him practically even or ahead and surging, a great position.

Interestingly, as I continue to write, Drudge has abandoned his own poll and is linking to another online poll being run by Time magazine. It is currently showing Trump ahead 60-40 with well over 540,000 votes cast. That’s a significant number with a big spread and, unlike Drudge, Time is no conservative icon.

What does this mean? Well, there was a link from Drudge and it may be his fans coming over. As I said, “Nobody knows anything.” Another round of polls will be coming out in a few days and we will be told what to think.

Meanwhile there’s this: Trump concentrated his fire on Hilary actually having done nothing of substance in her 30 (later corrected to 26) years of public service — just talk talk talk. That approach may ultimately prove more lethal than the more obvious “Crooked Hillary.” I wonder if it was poll-tested. We’ll have to ask Kellyanne.

But before I sign off, I have to comment on what I think was the most significant moment of the debate and it came at the end. Hillary had just gone after Donald on the sexism issue — the beauty contest nonsense, etc. — and it seemed for a moment that Trump was going to come back at her on her dreadful family life the whole world knows about.  But then he stopped himself.  He didn’t become the mean Donald that would turn off a whole bunch of people.

On Fox, immediately after the debate, Trump explained his decision to Sean Hannity. The candidate saw Chelsea in the audience and decided it was the wrong thing to do. Well done, Donald.  This is the moment that may resonate in the weeks to come.

So now I have one last online poll to report.  It’s from the ultra-liberal Slate and shows Trump in the lead by 9% with 42,000 votes cast. I assumed there were no Drudge links, but I checked anyway. There weren’t.

So did Trump win?  Possibly. He seems not to have lost anyway, which was all he needed.

But remember, in 2012, after the first debate, the pundits (mostly the same ones) were pronouncing Obama dead. All together now, “Nobody knows anything.”

Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His most recent book is—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.