compiled and published ongoing responses to the Second Debate by many of its writers, including Judith Shulevitz. Shulevitz thought Clinton lacking in her response to Trump. I felt something similar, and it made the debate hard to watch. There was a stifled, airless cum unreal quality about it.
That said, Trump and Clinton were playing by different rules, as Republicans and Democrats typically do. Republicans go for the kill; Democrats prefer to portray themselves as high-minded, above all that. It gets more convoluted and complicated when it's a Republican v. a female Democratic nominee, as in this unprecedented debate.
By his standards, Trump, vile and threatening though he was, in my opinion, was restrained, as he never strives to be against male opponents. But Clinton was restrained as well, unduly so — paralyzed might be the better word — unable to confront him as she might have.
She doesn't know how to express anger. She chooses condescension. So very Democratic.
The best she did was to appear unafraid, in despite of this skulking predator. And that is something.
But she didn't know how to deflate or take it to him. Didn't know how to score.
Shulevitz writes, in not the only piece of value in the Times reprise:
And yet, every time Trump lied, made a threat, or loomed behind her in a menacing way in the debate last night, she smiled. Her eyes widened with incredulity, they crinkled, and she grinned.
For Shulevitz all that crinkling and grinning and condescension is very old school.
No doubt she's right, and that Hillary's inability to come up with anything more contemporaneous expressions is a reason she doesn't enlist the young.
Crinkling, grinning and going wide-eyed is antediluvian.