Donald Trump lost the first presidential debate. Even his own staffers have "expressed frustration and discouragement over their candidate's performance," according to The New York Times.

What went wrong? The Times reports that aides believe Trump "stopped attacking Mrs. Clinton on trade and character issues and instead grew erratic, impatient and subdued as the night went on." But there is another problem — buried in the 21st paragraph of a story by Patrick Healy, Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman — that merits further consideration:

There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump's golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.

What a scene! Just picture it: There are Trump and Ailes, longtime friends, hanging out at the golf course where they are supposed to do serious debate prep but instead lapse into conversations about Gretchen Carlson and the Nixon days.

It's no surprise, really. Friends don't always make the best study buddies. My college roommate and I spent way more time distracting each other from class assignments than encouraging each other to hit the books.

But we're not talking about putting off a term paper for "Sport in Film and Literature" — a real course my roommate and I took together. We're talking about procrastination in the weeks leading up to a debate between the two major-party candidates for president of the United States. The stakes were a wee bit higher.

Trump has two more chances to debate Hillary Clinton, and there is no doubt that Ailes's media savvy could be an asset as the real estate mogul tries to improve. But Ailes's knowledge and instincts won't do Trump any good if the two men spend all their time together cursing that darn Gabriel Sherman.

Between now and Oct. 9, when Trump faces Clinton in St. Louis, he and his team need to figure out whether Ailes is a help or a hindrance.