This was said to be an “ugly debate”. That is an understatement … it goes beyond ugly. In fact, I would not even call it a debate, but more of a mud-fest. After reading the transcript, I am just very thankful I did not put myself through the pain of watching it on television. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz were the moderators and, though I have only the transcript by which to judge, it seems that both did a good job, but it was a tough job, one that I would not have wanted.
I had initially planned to cover the “highlights” of the debate, a brief synopsis of each question and answer, but I soon realized that: a) it made for too lengthy a post, and b) there are some things outside the questions and answers that need to be addressed. I will, however, discuss a few of the questions and answers, such as the very first question for Donald Trump from Anderson Cooper who asked Trump about the 2005 video released last week, and Trump blew it off once again as “locker room banter”, then changed the subject, saying he’s going to “knock the hell out of ISIS”. Cooper tried to bring him back on topic, to which he replied “I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do. And women have respect for me. And I will tell you that I’m going to make our country safe.” To which I say “Bullshit!”
Trump then turns away from the next question, which is also about his videotape, and turns the conversation to Bill Clinton and his indiscretions. Wait a minute … is Bill Clinton running for president then? I thought Hillary was the one running. I am confused … if we are to overlook the fact of all Trump’s prior indiscretions with other women, and we are to overlook the fact that his current wife was a nude model, then why should we care about Bill Clinton’s infidelity? Is there a double standard here of which I am unaware?
By all accounts, Hillary Clinton was the winner of this debate, hands down. I would agree. While Trump is unraveling, coming apart at the seams, Clinton kept her composure for the most part. The Washington Post, LA Times, The Guardian, the New York Times and many others declared Clinton the winner. Let’s look at a few comments that I found interesting:
“This election will be seen as the moment that Donald Trump poured gasoline over his head and lit a match in an act of public self-immolation.” – David Gerrold
“The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers.” – Richard Wolffe, The Guardian
“Donald Trump knows he won’t be president. He’s now in full carnival-barking, network-launching, party-nuking mode — a scowling, pouting menace …” – Ron Fournier, The Atlantic
A few of the more conservative media outlets gave credit to Trump for not spontaneously combusting on stage, and for “exceeding expectations”. I suppose it is not difficult to exceed expectations when the bar has been set so low that a toddler could easily step over it. In my eyes, Hillary won the debate. She mostly answered the questions without veering off-topic, her answers were based on experience and knowledge, and for the most part her answers were thorough and comprehensive. Trump, on the other hand, did not answer a single question directly, but veered off onto whatever topic he preferred to discuss, generally pointing fingers at Hillary, at Bill Clinton, and at President Obama. His diatribe against Bill Clinton, while anticipated, was ridiculous, irrelevant and crass. First, Bill Clinton is not running for President of the United States. He served two terms and is ineligible to run again. Hillary Clinton is the one running for president, and as best I can tell, she has no marital indiscretions in her past, so Trump needs to put it to bed. He claimed that Bill Clinton abused the women with whom he had affairs, but the reality is that they were consensual relationships. Nonetheless, the main point here is that Bill is not Hillary and his conduct should not have even a minor role in this debate.
Trump did the un-thinkable when asked about Syria and informed of a statement his running mate, Mike Pence, recently made to the media about Russia’s involvement in Syria. Trump said that a) he and Pence had not spoken of this, and b) Pence was wrong. If there was ever any doubt that Trump and Pence do not share a common bond, this should clarify. Even if they disagree on any issue, it should be a private issue, not a public condemnation.
Besides Trump’s asininities, there are a few things that bothered me about this debate. The format, for one. I have never been crazy about the “Town Hall” format. I think that a more structured format such as we saw in the 1st debate, is a far better forum for viewers to actually glean some information from and about the candidates. The questions from the audience of undecided voters did not tend to lead toward enlightenment, nor did they tend to be about important issues. Debate questions need to be prepared by knowledgeable analysts in order to be of much value. The Town Hall format, which is intended to be a more intimate, less formal setting, also allows for the candidates to move around on stage, rather than being confined behind a podium. Sounds great, but on Sunday night, Donald Trump used it in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate Ms. Clinton, invading her personal space. On several occasions, he can be seen walking up behind her and standing directly behind her as she was answering a question. This was highly irregular behaviour and I think the moderators should have told him to at least return to his own side of the stage. It was distracting, and by all accounts more than a little creepy.
In all, as a debate, I think it is one of the worst ever. (I actually did break down and watch several segments in preparation for this post.) Some issues were certainly discussed, such as ACA (Obamacare), the war in Syria and the refugee crisis in Aleppo, but Trump’s bouncing off-topic, ranting, getting in Clinton’s face (and behind her back), arguing with the moderators and whining about being treated unfairly, were all such distractions that any actual discussion was lost in the melee. By no stretch of the imagination was this debate successful, and I would like to think that the Commission on Public Debates (CPD) has learned some things from it.
The third and final debate will be held on Wednesday, 19 October, in Las Vegas. It is nicknamed “Fight Night”, by the way. Appropriate, I’m sure. It will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, and will return to the more standard, structured format of the 1st debate. There will be less than three weeks until election day at that point, and frankly, nothing would surprise me from the trumpeter, as he is obviously grasping at straws in an attempt to salvage his dying campaign. His bad behaviour is escalating, and if he was bad two days ago, I can only imagine what he will be like in another week. These debates are intended to be informative, to give the candidates an opportunity to discuss the issues, spotlight their experience and qualifications. Instead, they are nothing more than a circus act, entertainment for those who like the Jerry Springer type of discourse. I find it thoroughly distracting and disgusting. One thing I would really like to see is a standard protocol to include: staying on-topic, answering the questions asked, no personal attacks, and no interruptions. If either candidate breaks protocol, the moderator should cut that candidate’s microphone, and admonish them. The third admonishment should signal the end of the debate. Period. No argument. It will never happen, but I can still wish for it, can’t I?