During that third debate, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were at their top form. And yet, I kept hoping for much better from her. Clearly it was Trump’s best outing, so it won’t calamitously hurt him, like the first two debates did. Except by reinforcing the impressions people already have.
(1) It was Trump’s last chance to reach for the center, but he refrained from even offering a single, centrist thread, and thus he limited himself to his base. Which he had to do! Because he is an addict to the Performer’s High. Those campaign rallies are his drug. They have habituated him to throwing right-wing meat (memes) and expecting wild applause. But outside those echo-chamber throngs, his storm of volcanic counter-factuals land with a thud. All this does and did was alienate 60% of voters – keeping his ceiling at an ineffectual, yet terrifying 40%. In Trump Isn’t Teflon, Nate Silver notes, “These events may affect Trump’s “ceiling” more than his “floor.”
(2) The take-away moment was his refusal to promise to accept the election results. It’s what people will talk about. But Clinton blew it by not demanding evidence of electoral cheating (see below). Also, she could have mentioned the nobility of Al Gore, who lost a far closer race after winning more popular votes than George Bush, but ignored those calling for him to put up a fight, instead pledging support for his new president.
Conservative business-centered Forbes called Trump’s stance “bogus.”
3) Trump said: “Nobody can believe how stupid our leadership has been.”
Clinton ignored so many ways to refute his nostrum, for example: the biggest missed opportunity for a year or more has been the standard rant of Trump and every Republican that Vladimir Putin ‘played” both Secretary Clinton and President Obama over and over. How can Clinton let such slander stand? When this obvious, drooling counterfactual can be shot down with a single word: Ukraine.
All of Putin’s “victories” have been little nibble-backs. Crimea, the Donbass, bits of Syria… seriously? These are ‘victories’ and humiliations for the U.S.? Look at those flyspecks the Russian leader has won (at cost of billions to himself and his pals, in sanctions.) Now pull up a map and compare those nibble-backs to the vast nation – Ukraine, which had been a Russian satrapy that Putin controlled through a puppet president. Until it had a popular revolution, yanking that vast nation right out of the Russian sphere of influence. The greatest loss of power by Moscow since the end of the Cold War…
…and the Russian press and Putin himself attribute that setback on guess who? They credit it to those “chessmaster” diabolical opponents, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton! It’s there in black and white. Heck, did you ever ask yourself why he hates them so? Why he is taking such risks, meddling in our elections on Trump’s behalf?
4) Trump went on to rave about our “depleted military” – an utter lie that Clinton could have, but did not, tear to shreds. The U.S. Army & reserves were demolished by George H.W. Bush and then again by George W. Bush. A perfect record, leaving not a single major unit fully combat ready. Damage that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama repaired completely, with every major unit rated combat-ready by the end of their terms. Yet Big Lies about our armed services are left standing. Shame.
5) “American industry is in decline.” False. Statistics show a steady rise in U.S. manufacturing. Why not say so?
6) And why not mention that net immigration with Mexico has gone negative in recent years, making Trump’s ravings bizarre? Side note: Did you notice how he tried to appeal to hispanics by calling Obama a guy who “deported bigly, millions of people’? Um… but didn’t you just… weren’t you just accusing Obama of lax… oh, never mind.
7) About the cheating thing. It is simply criminal to leave standing his repeated rant that “Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be…”
Why can’t she simply say the words “Prove it!” Followed by: “Let’s see any evidence for these made up stories, Don. This illustrates why Republicans have waged war on all the fact professions, especially science.”
8) Abortion: While Clinton’s main emphasis was rightly on a woman’s sovereignty over personal choice, she should have mentioned that there are no 9-month abortions. And most late term abortions are less about the ‘health of the mother” than they are about discovering the fetus is non viable. Most in fact deal with anencephaly — the fetus having no brain — which is always lethal after birth, so why make a poor woman carry it four more months?
Which brings us to the two missing elephants in the room…
9) Climate Denialism, with its underlying agenda of a treasonous War on Science. She could have won over maybe a million voters simply by hammering her support for science and the knowledge-fact professions!
Only then there was the worst lapse of all…
10) Hillary’s stunning, amazing, inexplicable inability to say three words: “The Republican Party.”
I remain boggled by her refusal to make the GOP itself an issue, via their acclaimed nominee! A party so ashamed of its past that they did not even mention any Republican leaders between Reagan and Ryan, at their recent convention; not Bush or Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld or those perverts Hastert or Ailes, Giuliani and so on. So ashamed of that horrid rogue’s gallery that they turned to a raving outsider — who nevertheless rants on with the same Limbaugh-Fox-alt-right craziness.
Trump is not some disease, he is a symptom! If she lets the GOP get away with this, holding onto the House of Representatives and putting Paul Ryan two heartbeats from the presidency, and allowing Ryan to block any legislation from happening for the good of the United States, then this lapse on her part will be remembered as catastrophic.
To be clear, her failure to connect Donald Trump with the party that nominated him will let the GOP dismiss the results of the 2016 election as an aberration, a fluke, a result of brief dalliance with Trump Madness, instead of the steady lobotomization and dogma mania of the Republican Party, as a whole.
Sure, she wants to peel a few more Republicans over to vote for her, giving them a pass to split tickets and vote for Republicans further down-ticket. But this is a mistake, as expressed by Rick Perlstein, the historian of modern conservatism: “It’s kind of tactically shrewd and strategically questionable, in that, just to put it into contemporary terms, it weakens the brand.”
She won the debate and the presidency and I am glad. But she could have come away even stronger.