Editorial: Blustering Trump sucks air out of the room

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton mixed it up at Monday night’s first presidential debate. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

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How to fix Chicago?

Donald Trump won on sound bites. He sucked the air out of the room all night long at Monday night’s presidential debate.

Hillary Clinton won on honest points, the way it works in college debates. She had the facts and the programs to address Chicago’s violence. She was informed. But Trump has been scoring with the voters — with at least alarming numbers of voters — in this presidential race all year long by blowing smoke.

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So how to fix Chicago?

Crack the whip, says Donald Trump. Stop and frisk young men on the street by the hundreds of thousands, which is “constitutional” (it is not) and brings down crime rates (there is no evidence of this). Stop-and-frisk will improve relationships between the police and African-American and Hispanic citizens (because nothing soothes hard feelings toward the cops like being stopped and searched though you’ve done nothing wrong).

Trump offered a single solution to Chicago’s violence — stop-and-frisk — and a slogan: “Law and order!” That’s all he had. He was playing with an empty hand. But he was terrific with the bluster, which apparently works at least as well in presidential elections as in poker. African-Americans and Hispanics in Chicago “are living in hell because it’s so dangerous,” like a “war-torn country.”

But what did Clinton have? Quite a bit more.

Stop-and-frisk really is unconstitutional and ineffective, she said, correcting the record, and the smarter approach is to “restore trust” between the police and communities and “take guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.”

As president, Clinton said, she would work for universal background checks on gun purchases and deny guns to anybody on a federal terrorist “no fly” list. She would address the “systemic racism” behind police-involved shootings — a racism that goes well beyond the police — divert low-level offenders from prisons and fund better police training to help them deal with challenging issues, such as people with mental illness.

As for stop-and-frisk, she said, “No one should disagree about respecting the rights of young men who live in those neighborhoods.”

So it went all night. Trump was short on fact and long on laments, putting the blame at Hillary’s feet, but he was terrific at commanding the stage. He shook his head and interjected and just, as he always does, made stuff up.

That Trump could continue the lie that he did not fan the flame of the “birther” conspiracy for years — even long after President Barack Obama produced his birth certificate in 2011 — was breathtaking in its audacity. But you know what? Maybe it worked for him. We stopped believing months ago that true facts and good poll numbers go together with Trump.

Near the end, Trump raised the question of Clinton’s stamina. We’d say she answered that one just fine. She went 10 rounds with a bruiser and held her own.

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