As Sunday night’s presidential debate began we had a red-hot loathing for both candidates, and by end the end of it we were loathing both of them even a bit more, so we’ll call it a tie. In baseball a tie goes to the runner, and in politics it goes to the candidate whose campaign has been faring worse lately, so by the rules of American sports we’d have to say that Republican nominee Donald Trump got slightly the better of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the unlikely event you’ve been lucky enough to avoid any political news for the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty much all been bad for Trump. There was a general consensus that he was rude and obnoxious and obviously unprepared and strangely sniffling and thoroughly trounced in the first debate, then he followed it up with an early morning “Twitter” war against some beauty pageant winner that gained a few pounds some time ago, along with his admonition for everyone in America to watch a sex tape “check out” what proved to be either fuzzy footage of some blanketed figures in a South American reality show or some hard-core pornography featuring another Latina actress who bore a slight resemblance to the beauty queen, and the resulting three- or four-point surge in Clinton’s average of poll numbers seemed to confirm that general consensus. His boringly traditional Republican vice-presidential running mate got good reviews for his performance in a little-watched debate a week or so later, largely by indignantly denying that that he or Trump had ever said the ridiculous things that were being alleged, but the next couple of days of news were full of undeniable videotaped evidence that Trump had indeed said all of those ridiculous things. Since our last post on Friday there has surfaced an 11-year-old videotape of Trump bragging on a hot mic to his “Access Hollywood” interviewer about how his celebrity allows him to do deplorable things to both single and married women that our old-fashoined Republican editorial standards forbid us from explaining in such obscene terms as he used, which led to a rash of high-ranking Republican’s denouncing his candidacy, and all he could offer was a rather ambiguous apology and a plausible if contestable claim that Clinton’s ex-president husband was even worse.
Given all that, Clinton’s failure to make an incontestable metaphorical out against Trump on Sunday night means that he’s at least metaphorically safe on first base and still with a chance of metaphorically making it all the way home.
The first 15 minutes or so of the debate were devoted to that appalling “Access Hollywood” videotape, but that had been preceded earlier in the day by Trump’s news conference with a woman who alleges that Clinton’s husband had raped her, another woman who won a sizable settlement after alleging that Clinton’s husband had exposed himself to her, another who claims that Clinton’s husband groped her, and yet another who was a 12-year-old rape victim whose attacker had the charges reduced because of Clinton herself’s aggressive legal defense on his behalf. Trump alluded to all of it after after apologizing for his own boasts of similar behavior, which he also described as mere “locker room banter,” and Clinton conspicuously declined defend her husband’s past but instead said she would take the advice of inexplicably popular President Barack Obama’s inexplicably popular wife that “When they take the low road, we take the high road.” This will probably hearten her die-hard supporters, and even be sufficient for those more reluctant supporters who hate Trump more, but we doubt it was persuasive to even the most reluctant supporter.
Over the next few days we expect to hear a lot about that married woman who is alleging in court that Trump attacked her in pretty much the same way he was bragging about attacking women in that videotaped “locker room banter,” and one of Trump’s two ex-wife’s allegations sworn testimony that he raped her, which was sworn into court testimony but then recanted after she signed on to a generous alimony settlement that included a “no public disparagement” clause, along with numerous beauty queens and reality show starlets alleging the same sort of boorish behavior associated with Clinton’s husband. There likely won’t be as much attention paid to the recently cleared-for-trial claims of a woman that she was raped by Trump when she was 13 years old, given that his alleged co-defendant was the convicted billionaire sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, who is also a friend and flying partner of Clinton’s husband, but in any case we’ll wind up loathing both Trump and Clinton, and expect that so will much of America. Clinton’s media allies can also call up Trump’s past claims that the impeachment of Clinton’s was a Republican mania and his disparagement of that woman who claims Clinton’s husband exposed himself to her and his past defense of both Clinton and creepy husband, and it will wind up as another disgusting tie.
The rest of it was devoted to what passes for “issues” these days, and anyone who slogged through all that boring stuff would probably call it a tie going to the runner. Secretary of State Clinton offered that ridiculously aplogetic “re-set” button with Russia that blamed any misunderstandings with the peace-loving dictator Vladimir Putin that encouraged his revanchist ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine and perhaps the rest of the former Soviet Empire, but she came off tougher on Russia than Trump, who still claims that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that dismantled the Soviet Empire is “obsolete” and clings to some hope that he and the “strong” Putin can join forces to defeat Islamic terrorism even as Russia is clearly aligned with the Iranian government that Trump rightly criticizes Clinton for helping, and he was forced to renounce his vice-presidential candidate’s more forceful stand in that supposedly winning vice-presidential debate, so we wound up loathing both all the more, and suspect that the rest of the country didn’t notice how awful both are. There was some talk about tax policy, with Clinton indignantly noting and Trump proudly admitting that he hasn’t paid much in the way of income tax since declaring a $916 million loss 20 years ago, but it was unclear if either was committed to changing that the laws that made possible.
Although the moderators did seem favor Clinton they allowed some questions about her recently-leaked big money speeches to Wall Street donors, which Clinton more or less admitted were true, and she embarrassed herself further trying to invoke “Honest” Abe Lincoln and George “I’ll Never Lie” Washington to justify it, but the coming news cycle will no doubt feature Trump’s boasts about the bribes he’s made and similar scandals he’s racked up in the private sector. In Clinton’s favor she didn’t need any laser pointers to guide her onto the stage or suffer a coughing fit or otherwise exhibit any symptoms of the imminently many fatal illnesses that have been ascribed to her, while that sniffling problem of Trump’s that was widely remarked on after the first debate seems to have gotten worse, and that “taking the high road” strategy might work out for her after the media takes the low road for her in the upcoming week.
Trump’s most ardent supporters and the more reluctant and his more reluctant Clinton-hating supporters will be delighted that he outright called her “the devil” and promised to have her imprisoned if he became president, his more die-hard supporter and the more reluctant ones who fear Trump will probably find it redolent of the South American banana republics that Trump warns we’re becoming. Clinton’s most ardent and most reluctant supporters will praise her for taking the high road, and cheer on the media as it takes the low road this week, and by the end of it we’ll be deep in the gutter. Which leaves us loathing both of these horrible people, and what we can guess are their horrible policies, which in both cases don’t even specifically address what to about the national debt and health care and a degenerate culture that has wound up offering two such spectacularly awful choices.
The good news, if you need some, is that there’s only one debate and less than four weeks left before this is all over, one way or the other.
— Bud Norman