One thing we can say for certain about Donald Trump after Sunday night’s second presidential debate; he is an excellent bully. Throughout the evening Trump glowered, stalked, and paced like a character from a Saturday Night Live skit. He frequently interrupted Clinton and talked over her while also chastising and belittling ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the co-moderators of the debate, for not bowing down before him as Omarosa, his black outreach coordinator (or whatever) has predicted all Americans will do once Trump becomes president.
The plan hatched by the Trump camp, if there was such a thing, was apparently to let Trump be even more like Trump.
This may not have been such a good idea after the release of last week’s video showing a lewd and sexually twisted side of Trump that has frequently been put on display throughout his entire career and throughout this campaign. It’s still hard to say why this particular video seems to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back after so many other straws have proved time and again how much of a racist, sexist, misogynist, and overall disgusting human being that Trump has always been, but the timing could not have been better. Or worse, depending on who you happen to be cheering for. Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have been on the rise since the first debate, and it seems likely that her expanded lead will hold after last night’s performance. Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted a video image of a mushroom cloud after the debate, with the words, “GOP at this moment”.
— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) October 10, 2016
The Me and Billy Bush Sex Talk Tape was one of the first issues Trump was confronted with on Sunday evening, and when Cooper pressed him to get a response to whether he actually understood how serious this was, and why it was so disturbing and problematic, Trump stuck with his locker room banter boys-will-be-boys defense, even though he was a 59-year-old boy when he made those comments about grabbing women between their legs and his insatiable appetite for certain married women.
But despite the damning evidence, Trump still could not bring himself to apologize. Instead, he pointed to the womanizing behavior of Bill Clinton, saying Bill was even worse. As if that made it all better. Not to mention the fact that Bill Clinton is not running for president. The criticism that Hillary Clinton defended her husband and made disparaging remarks about his accusers (until Bill Clinton came clean and admitted he lied) had more traction for Trump, but not nearly enough. The argument made by Trump supporters that this happened too long ago to be of concern is dead on arrival. Perhaps they don’t remember trying to sink President Obama for a sermon his former pastor Jeremiah Wright made years before Obama ever ran for President…?
Hillary’s weaker moments, as has already been noted by a number of other media outlets by now, came when she tried to answer questions related to the email incident and Wikileaks, which released hacked emails over the weekend of speeches she had made that she has tried strenuously to keep from the public eye. According to the New York Times, included among the emails was a compilation of excerpts from Clinton’s paid speeches in 2013 and 2014. It appeared campaign staff had read all Clinton’s speeches and identified passages that could be potentially problematic for the candidate if they were to become public.
Trump pounded Clinton relentlessly over both these issues, and it was apparent he was easing into his groove of steering the conversation toward the issues that have caused Clinton more trouble during the campaign. And had it been just about any other Republican candidate, much better use would have likely been made of those issues and caused Clinton some notable damage.
But instead, Trump insisted on setting himself on fire for the remainder of the debate. When answering a question from a Muslim woman from the audience about how to address damaging mischaracterizations of the Muslim population, Trump said that it was too bad about that, but that it was up to the Muslims to essentially act as spies on other Muslims, protecting ‘us’ from the rest of ‘them’. It was one of the most jaw-dropping, sickening responses of the evening.
But there was more. So much more.
When asked about his taxes and the near $1 billion that he claimed as a loss some years ago, information unearthed by the New York Times, Trump still continued to insist that this was evidence of how smart he was, and that Clinton’s business associates all do the same thing. So ‘they do it too’ was his defense. Priceless.
When asked about what kind of Supreme Court justices he would like to appoint, he said he would appoint justices “in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia”, showing a wonderful ability to thoughtlessly recite from the Republican playbook rather than demonstrate any original thought.
When asked about the problem of Obamacare, he used the word ‘disaster’ for the 100th time, but offered no plan for how he would fix Obamacare. Clinton conceded there were problems that needed to be addressed, but made a very strong and detailed case for why repairing Obamacare was far preferable to any effort at repeal.
And when it came to foreign policy, specifically the ongoing crisis of Syria, it really wasn’t a fair fight. Trump’s entire foreign policy prescription seems to be that ISIS is a threat, and he alone can wipe them out because, as he has said, he knows more than the generals do. Clinton, who served as Secretary of State, displayed a depth of knowledge and understanding that was what you would not only hope for but pray for in a presidential candidate.
Donald Trump should never, ever have made it this far. And the fact that he became the nominee and that the race was ever close is both disturbing and frightening. It is a searing indictment of where we are as a nation, and of where we are not.
For now, it appears that Clinton has done enough to avert the threat of a Trump presidency. But the stain of Trump’s candidacy will be with us for many years to come.