A Threat From any Other Candidate Would Cut as Deep: Final Presidential Debate
After rollercoaster debate performances, the University of Nevada Las Vegas held the third and final 2016 presidential debate. Republican nominee Donald Trump was significantly more disciplined than before. His increased preparation was evident, and likely helped to clot his hemorrhaging GOP support. Learning how to pivot away from damaging topics is not an easy skill, but Trump handled those situations masterfully compared to the previous two debates. In fairness, Trump’s lowered bar (caused by previous inept debate performances), means he gets judged on a curve. Any undecided voter allegedly swayed by this performance is not offering a genuine reaction to what transpired. The topics were stale and recycled from previous debates, and the candidates offered no nuanced positions nor shed light in any place that remained dark.
Trump and Clinton have divergent plans for Supreme Court appointees and the role of the Court in interpreting the Constitution. When asked how they would fill the Court’s vacancy, Clinton stressed the importance of protection and explained that her ideal nominee would protect LGBT rights, women’s rights, and repeal Citizens United. Contrarily Trump focused on the Second Amendment, claiming his top priority was upholding the Second Amendment and ensuring gun rights. As it relates to the interpretation of the Constitution, the candidates disagree, but only minimally discussed that at the debate.
Much to the delight of citizens concerned with the epidemic of gun violence, Clinton for a third consecutive debate acknowledged her intention to pass gun safety laws. In response Trump highlighted Chicago as the rule to usurp any intention to eliminate gun violence. Chicago is generally invoked to demonstrate the 'failure of gun safety laws.' Discussing gun violence in Chicago without acknowledging the illegal trafficking of guns from Indiana is nonsensical. It’s a chicken versus egg conversation. Guns found in Chicago did not just appear – they manifested as a result of relaxed gun laws in neighboring Indiana.
Trump immediately pounced on the secretary, claiming, “Hillary wants to give amnesty [to immigrants…but] we need strong borders… We have no country if we have no border.” Clinton drew a stark contrast to Trump’s isolationist position. She took offense to Trump generalizing Hispanics as criminal evildoers, stating his plan to use a deportation force “is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are as a country.”
At this moment (just two questions in) Trump’s impulse control faltered and he slipped back into bombastic campaign rally mode by interrupting at will and making lewd comments DURING the debate, like when he called Clinton a “nasty woman.”
This section was the first time that Wallace’s journalistic integrity was truly in question. Wallace intentionally selected a short, out of context excerpt of an email released by (enemy of the state) WikiLeaks in efforts to convince Clinton to state that she prefers ‘open borders.’ Not falling for the ploy, Clinton did use her time to explain that the email Wallace read was incomplete. The very next sentence – if Wallace had read it – was in reference to energy policy. Clinton made a point to explain that energy policy should remain a global undertaking.
After Clinton’s pivot from immigration, Trump was encouraged to ridicule Clinton’s strained relationship with Russian president Vladmir Putin. Trump claimed that, “Putin has no respect for this person,” as he gestured towards his opponent. Trump’s bombast elicited an unexpected response from his Democratic rival: “It’s pretty clear that Putin would rather have a puppet in the White House.” Trump immediately replied, “No, no puppet. You’re the puppet. You’re the puppet.”
Condemning espionage ought to be routine and uncontroversial. With candidate Trump, nothing previously understood to be normal applies. When asked by Wallace, “Do you condemn foreign interference in U.S. elections?” a clear reference to Russia’s interference by the hacking Democratic National Committee accounts. Trump inexplicably replied, “I don’t know Putin,” as if that remotely answered Wallace’s question.
Moment of the Night
After the final debate, one question looms large: Will Trump accept the results of the election?
Single most embarrassing exchange in U.S. presidential debate history took place in this debate. It involved Trump refusing to say that he will accept the results of the election. Chris Wallace, the incredulous debate moderator tried to help Trump remedy his dangerous answer, by proposing, “You’re running mate Mike Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you will absolutely accept the results of the election. Do you make the same commitment?” but Trump persisted, “I will look at it at the time…I will tell you at the time, [until then] I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Suspense? This is not reality television production, Donald. Yet after 18 months of campaigning, Trump has not learned how to separate his TV persona from his political identity.
Centuries of peaceful transference of power in the U.S. are being threatened by a totalitarian idolizing, political neophyte. The ability for our union to survive for 240 years has depended on the acceptance of election results. By questioning the validity of our elections, Donald Trump risks destroying U.S. domestic stability by encouraging post-election revolution. Undermining this sacred process will have catastrophic ramifications, as Trump’s most ardent supporters seem prepared to commit acts of violence in retribution for what Trump is fabricating to be a “rigged system” conspiring against him.
According to Trump, Clinton has had ample opportunity to fix our problems and failed. Saying, ‘You’ve had thirty years of experience, but you haven’t changed the laws.’ This utter disregard for how government functions in our society, is unacceptable from an individual seeking the highest office. Considering Trump has eluded to Clinton’s ineffectiveness as a lawmaker in three consecutive debates, it is clear that Trump is completely ignorant of the concept of Limited Government.
Individual lawmakers in this country are unable to unilaterally make or change laws. By themselves, lawmakers can draft and propose law – they can’t pass them. The process of enacting laws requires the intervention of several government actors. Implying that Clinton possessed the authority as a New York Senator, to single-handedly amend tax policy, is irrational.
Fox News personality Chris Wallace was granted the honor of moderating the third and final debate, a first for him and the network. Wallace confirmed he does not believe the role of debate moderator is to involve a truth-seeking aspect. Wallace is mistaken. His place on that stage is not strictly to serve as official timekeeper. Any elementary school student can watch a clock and read a sheet a paper. Moderators are expected to assist with preserving the integrity of elections by holding candidates accountable. Otherwise journalists would not preside over every debate – any literate person could. Despite Wallace's view of his role, overall he performed well and should be considered for the honor again in four years.
There were no winners in this exercise. High unfavorables for both candidates leaves our nation more divided than it has been in years. Survivors and advocates of sexual assault victims also lost, as they witnessed a presidential candidate refer to alleged victims as "fame-seeking.'
Regardless of what folks driven by partisanship say, We Believe You!
*Thumbnail image: screenshot from C-Span debate coverage