The third “presidential” debate is over, thank God, and where are we?
Basically we’re no closer to selecting an adult human being to be president of the United States than we have been for eighteen months.
Remarkably, we have learned one or two new things about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.
We’ve learned that six fifteen minute segments in which to discuss important issues is a perfect fit with Mr. Trump’s knowledge and abilities. His depth and understanding of important issues the American people would like to hear more about lasts only fifteen minutes at best before he begins repeating what he’s already said. In fact, there was little he did say Wednesday night that was new or revolutionary in any way. One thing is clear: he offered no details for any of his campaign suggestions. The phrases “It’ll be great,” or “Believe me,” or even “Trust me” were hardly in evidence. As we listened and watched on CSPAN, and as Mr. Trump trod the by now familiar paths of denigration and denial, we found ourselves nodding contentedly as one by one now well-known and too-often-offered-without-evidence attacks followed each other in standard rotation.
Mrs. Clinton did the same thing. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited part of her performance was when her career devoted to children and women and families would first be invoked, when being in the Situation Room before Bin Laden’s takedown would follow, when Bernie Sanders’ name might be invoked as a magical (she hoped) talisman against Mr. Trump’s “Crooked Hillary,” when we would hear for the first time (in at least a couple of days) that people on a no-fly list should not be able to purchase handguns. She presented her all-time favorite lyrics in musical order: the Donald’s “respect” for women, than whom no one has more; wanting to keep immigrant families together rather than separating illegally resident parents from their American-born children; her new found ardor against the Trans Pacific trade deal; her newly highlighted vote for a “fence” along our southern borders, “Not a wall.”
There were, to be sure, two items of particular interest that seemed unexpected in Las Vegas. (1) Despite his entire team’s reassurance that he would abide by the results of the November vote, Mr. Trump chose to be cute with democracy and say he would think about this when the election came ’round. Until then, he would be happy to keep us in “suspense.” Mr. Trump’s refusal to calmly agree to concede the election should he lose it, the foundation of our own peaceful delivery of power from one man to another that gives our form of democracy what real legitimacy it has, seemed to have stunned the entire circus in Las Vegas, not to mention that held in D.C.
But this kind of flirtation with honesty and time-honored custom has been part of Mr. Trump’s character from the beginning of his spoiler’s campaign. We have to remember that almost nothing in the US of A is up to Mr. Trump’s astonishingly high standards, whatever they are…for he hasn’t shared this sliding scale with us. All we know for certain is that Mr. Putin is a better leader than Mr. Obama, that Mrs. Clinton has been hornswoggled by Putin and the Iranians for years, that she is responsible for Libya’s ruin. That after 30 years, the laws of banking and business seem unchanged enough to allow Mr. Trump to work his CPA’s wiles in and around them at will.
That Obamacare is a “disaster,” that NAFTA is a “disaster” (he’s actually right there), that law and order are a disaster – he’s even-handed here because he has no foot in either camp – that coal can be forced back into its former King of the Hill spot in our economy, that our GNP is so weak as to be on life-support, that our troops are led by “idiots” who know far less than he about ISIS, and that he alone can do something to help and assist our veterans as they return from foreign wars (supported by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama) (Hell! Started by them!) We have no evidence of any assistance Mr. Trump has wanted to or indeed offered to these same deserving men and women. Apparently it’s enough to mention them ritualistically every so often.
As one can tell from all the above, Mr. Trump managed once more to keep the klieg’s on his fair hair.
And that’s where the second (2) item of unexpectedness became evident. We suspect that the millions who watched this fairly vitriolic but also fairly standard (by now) debate with family members were stunned (as we were) by Mrs. Clinton’s control, sanity, resistance, and patience. How many of us turned to our friends in awe and wonder to say, “Jesus, I’d hit the bastard!”
Which of us could have resisted spitting at Donald, or swinging at him, or kicking him sharply (we hope while wearing Trump shoes). How many of us could have kept our cool and not screamed at him, shouted hysterically at him, called him out in a thousand ways for the lies and half-truths and lack of detail he peddles? How many of us could have heard his “No” or ”Not true” or ”What a nasty woman” mutterings without taking one long step to the right and slapped the hell out of him? If Nevada is a “carry and conceal” state, we’d have shot him without a moment’s guilt.
But Hillary took it all.
That takes guts and strength and inner resolve of a kind Donald will never know.
But we saw it.
It may have hurt to watch, but it was the demeanor of a competent, confident leader who won Debate Three.