Column: The third and final debate
“I mean, who does that?”
Sec. Hillary Clinton may have been referring to the use of Trump Foundation funds to buy a giant self portrait, but she likely spoke for many American voters tonight as they watched her opponent discover creative new ways to shoot himself in the foot.
In many ways, Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas was business as usual for this election cycle.
Debate previews promised viewers an all-out cage match, although it is unlikely that the sight of two senior citizens arguing about the merits of their respective charities satisfied the more bloodthirsty elements of the electorate. But the fact that the response to this debate as an anticlimax is distressing in more ways than one.
Most notably, one of the candidates said, “I’ll keep you in suspense,” when asked if he would concede in the increasingly likely event of defeat.
Let voters remember that in 1960, Richard Nixon conceded defeat to John F. Kennedy despite plausible and widespread rumors of actual voter fraud and general chicanery, most famously in Mayor Daley’s Chicago.
If Richard Nixon is the moral high bar in any situation, you have a problem.
Of course, it must be noted that Sec. Clinton, resplendent in a white pantsuit of armor, had to come face to face with her own issues.Mr. Trump brought up recent allegations that Democrats had paid various operatives to disrupt his events. These have yet to be confirmed, but better candidates have run effective smears on less.
Unfortunately for Team Trump, the former senator danced Astaire-like away from the charges. Other attacks on the Clinton Foundation were hastily launched and left to die mid-air.
For someone who so skillfully eviscerated the entire Republican primary field and has, in general, run a staggeringly aggressive campaign, Mr. Trump is a deadbeat debater.
Some of the most egregious examples of this can be found during the heated, semi-coherent exchange about Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Trump, constantly exploring new frontiers of grammar and syntax, replied to his opponent’s insinuation that he would be a puppet president for Putin with this gem: “No puppet. No puppet.”
And then later on: “No, you’re the puppet.”
Mr. Trump’s later “condemnation” of recent Russian cyber-attacks on Democratic systems sounded uncomfortably like his “disavowal” of David Duke.
In each case, his half-hearted rebuke was accompanied by a fervent claim to ignorance.
With this kind of debate performance, any claims that Donald Trump has fundamentally changed since he entered this race almost a year and a half ago can finally have the last layer of lime laid on them.
The truly astounding thing about Mr. Trump is his continuing refusal to even resemble a presidential candidate. The Clinton team has indulged this inclination almost from day one.
In lieu of a coherent ideology, in lieu of a basic grasp on logic, facts or science, Mr. Trump has subsisted on a combination of shrill defensiveness and an unwillingness to close his mouth for more than five minutes at a time. This is exactly the kind of candidate you want to debate.
Give him enough time, and he begins to say things like this: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” It goes without saying that this claim is off by at least several billion people.
To give Sec. Clinton her fair due, she did more than just show her opponent how to turn his necktie into a noose.
With each debate, she has gained more pathos and forcefulness on the stage, culminating on Wednesday night with a top-tier performance.
Of course there were the zingers—the puppet one seemed to be especially effective—but it was more than that.
Early on, Sec. Clinton made history by giving one of the most unequivocal defenses of a woman’s right to choose by a presidential candidate.
There is not much more that can be written about these debates since each one has essentially picked up where the previous one left off. There is one candidate who misses no opportunity to self-destruct.
The other one looks like she is going to win.
This has been a common refrain on campus in reference to the two main candidates: “Of 300 million people, this is the best we could come up with?”
In the words of St. Augustine, “We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.”
There has never been a perfect presidential candidate. As long as there have been elections in this country, there have been nasty elections. This election offers a unique opportunity, though. Many undergraduates at the UA will cast their first vote for president this year.
Very rarely is this country faced with the living embodiment of the worst of us. It happened in 1968, when the pomaded segregationist George Wallace ran under a third party banner.
It is happening now, as the carrot-colored caricature of alt-right rage and deliberate ignorance is only a stone’s throw away from the presidency. It is the responsibility of every citizen of our beloved battleground state to reject this incoherent mess of a candidate.
Follow Raad Zaghloul on Twitter.