Debate Scorecard: Previewing Presidential Performance

Experience tells us the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. So debate stresses can crack the code on candidates' put-on personas, giving voters glimpses of how each would make decisions if elected to the most stressful job imaginable. For example:

Rigorous, private, intense debate preparation and rehearsal suggest as President Hillary Clinton will research, analyze, and study her options in cloistered consultation with trusted advisers. When time is ample, this will serve her well as decisions will be thoughtful and nuanced. When time is short, analysis paralysis may overextend the time it takes to decide and act. Yes, at least she will have thought it through, and will not have acted rashly. Once done deliberating, she's got her game plan ... yet reality comes with unexpected twists and turns. She may be slower to adapt to ground conditions and less able to improvise when needed. If elected, she'd benefit from close, trusted advisers who can pump out creativity and speed up decision-making when the clock is ticking, expediting the time it takes to go from analysis to action.

In stark contrast, Donald Trump's distraction and lack of preparation are likely to be repeated in the Presidency with its many nuanced, complex issues. He's not going to be the great analyzer/deliberator, but rather decisive and action-oriented, which will speed things right along, even as it's more likely he will skip or miss something crucial that he could have known early on. Concerning also is that when the outcomes go against him, which any President faces with regularity, his pattern is to blame others for his behavior, disregard data, express paranoia and persecution, and change the subject. Coming from POTUS, these habits would intensify tensions inside and outside of the U.S., even as he absolves himself from responsibility for the unintended consequences. It will be "Syria's fault" or "Congress is rigged," etc. It also makes it far less likely the people around him will tell him what's truly going on when it's bad news (which is when a leader most needs to hear the truth). If elected, it will be important that Mr. Trump has an amazing communications team and some bold "truth-tellers" around him who can demonstrate crucial candor in the face of failure.

So what? Does deliberate or audacious make a better 2016 President--which one do we most need now? That's up to the wisdom of the voters to decide. In addition to the many other issues of character, experience, smarts, and successes/failures, we know then that each decision-making approach has merits and weaknesses, which will no doubt be tested by world events.

Watch the final debate--the most stressful moments of it will show you what's most likely to be tested in the Presidency. Consider: What do you notice in the worst moments for each? What does that suggest about which person we need to lead? Then vote your conscience!