Uchenna Omolu, my friend and one of those rare political junkies with whom you enjoy discussing the ongoing American election process any day, stole a fleeting look at me as he eased his end of the sofa slowly into a reclining position last night. At my request, he had come over to my home to watch the night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In three minutes, the battle between both candidates would be joined on stage, and now I could see Uchenna’s face wreathed in a smile that was part relaxed, part nervous. Momentarily, he leaned forward and grabbed a bottle of Guinness stout whose cap I’d knocked out of place earlier. He took a swig as the two candidates appeared on stage.
“I beg make Hillary nor kom fall for stage o,” Uchenna prayed in Nigerian pidgin English. Like every Democrat in the last two weeks, Uchenna still nursed hang ups from the sad spectacle of September 11 when Clinton was shown on national television as she suffered near-physical collapse from a pneumonia bout.
“I reject am in Jesus name, ” I countered immediately. I was thrice more nervous than he was for the same reason. No one was under any illusion that Trump would vanquish Clinton, a seasoned debater, in any substantive discussion of issues. Even if the American media decided to grade him on a curve, the true verdict would still be glaring enough for any discerning observer to see. It would be no contest. Yet, I was nervous for her. Thinking some Guinness could soothe the frayed nerves, I reached for my bottle and gulped down a quarter in one fell swoop.
The battle lasted about 96 minutes. When the two combatants finally approached each other and shared a handshake for the second time, there was not a single doubt that millions of Clinton’s supporters all over the world who had begun the evening in an attitude of nervous anticipation, were now in a state of utter relief, if not heightened euphoria.
A call came through from Nigeria. At the other end of the line was Fred Ohwahwa, former editor of the Guardian on Sunday and my friend and big brother of many years. “I told you: The election is over,” he declared, excitement and relief in his voice. Ohwahwa knows a lot more about American presidential elections than do most of its citizens who only begin to pay serious attention just weeks before voting day. Elijah Ogbeide, a bosom friend and a gifted nurse in Houston, also routed a call to me shortly after the debate to share his excitement with the two of us.
Trump often mocked his opponents as “chokers”. But on stage squaring off against Clinton last night, Trump became a personification of his pet charge. He choked endlessly. He, who derided Marco Rubio for sipping water from a bottle repeatedly during a televised speech years ago, gulped water endlessly from a glass like his own life depended on it those ninety-plus minutes. He made countless facial expressions, sniffled endlessly, and rudely interrupted Clinton a thousand times. Lacking knowledge of the issues he was asked about, he responded in endless verbal gyrations. His unpreparedness was an insult to the voters who had tuned in to listen to him explain why they should vote for him as president. In a word, Trump confirmed to over 84 million viewers that Clinton was right when she said he was temperamentally unfit for the White House.
Where Trump was pouty and petulant and boorish, Clinton was composed, unflappable and greatly knowledgeable. With charm and class, she displayed her domestic and foreign policy chops. Buoyed by relentless energy and stamina, Clinton showed remarkable vision while Trump spouted incoherence and gibberish in front of the world. Trump wasn’t just outmatched, he was ridiculously overmatched. He was pathetic to watch.
By this morning, the reviews were very awful for Trump, prompting public speculation that the man who promises to “make America great again” might tuck and run from the two remaining debates.