The final presidential debate (transcript here, with fact checking) provided further confirmation that neither major party candidate is fit to be president, but Hillary Clinton is a far better debater than Donald Trump. Even when Trump had a valid point against Clinton, he lacked the ability to stay on target, drifting into irrelevances and lacking a sufficient command of the pertinent facts. On the other hand, I wish the debate included a split screen–one showing Clinton delivering her public policy, and the other revealing her private policy.
It was fitting that the final debate took place in Sin City. Donald Trump reportedly invited the woman who accused Bill Clinton of groping her to the debate. He dwells too much on things that don’t matter. Who is going to vote against Hillary (that otherwise would vote for her) based upon Bill’s sexual indiscretions? It just is not relevant.
Chris Wallace, who might have done the best job of the debate moderators, did start out with real issues. Clinton was far better than Trump on abortion and guns. Trump apparently has no idea how rare late term abortions are, or the reasons they usually occur. Like many Republicans, he does not appear to realize that the Bill of Rights includes anything beyond the Second Amendment, although Clinton also has a rather poor record on civil liberties. Trump was also his usual atrocious self when the debate turned to immigration. When Trump complained about Justice Ginsberg making “statements that should have never, ever been made,” I only thought that Donald Trump is the last person to be able to complain about “statements that should have never, ever been made.”
Clinton was not as bad in terms of evading the questions as she was during the second debate, but that is largely due to the types of questions asked. When she was asked about the emails released by Wikileaks, she pivoted to attack Russia. The leaks may or may not have been due to Russia, but her attacks on Russia remind me all too much of the attacks on Saddam for imaginary WMD by Bush, and false claims by Hillary Clinton of connections between Saddam and al Qaeda. What is important is the content of the leaks, and the dishonesty they revealed about Clinton. Besides, the United States is certainly not above comparable spying and interference in other countries, and I fear Clinton is misusing this matter as part of the overall neocon view on Russia.
Clinton’s belligerence towards Russia, and the increased threat of war, should be one of the major issues of the campaign. Trump would be preferable in his desire for cooperation with Russia if he wasn’t completely incoherent on foreign policy. Instead of rationally debating Clinton on this issue, his argument consisted of “No puppet. You’re the puppet.”
Trump was right on pointing out how Clinton avoided the question of the content of the Wikileaks email, but rather than push the issue, he resorted to his usual nonsense of how Clinton refers to “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if saying the right magic words are needed to defeat them.
As the debate went on, Clinton called for equal pay for equal work, with no explanation for the huge pay gap at the Clinton Foundation which was exposed by Wikileaks. Trump was right in calling out Clinton for her flip-flops on TPP which were exposed by the fact checkers. When Trump was confronted by all the women who have accused him of assaulting them, he was the one to evade and pivot, returning to Clinton’s email.
Both candidates attacked the integrity of the other, and both were right here. Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into when she was confirmed as Secretary of State, while Trump appears to have used his far shadier for bribes. Clinton again ignored the significance of the FBI report showing considerable dishonesty on her part when this was raised, and either Wallace or Trump should have brought up the State Department Inspector General report which showed she violated the rules, failed to cooperate with the investigation, and tried to cover-up her actions.
Clinton said she was going to “continue to push for a no-fly zone” in Syria, but there was no discussion of the large number of deaths this would result in, or the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia. Initiating a no-fly zone would be a tremendous military undertaking. Just last month, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.
The sad thing about the debate, and the entire campaign, is that such major issues of war and peace are being ignored, while the media dwells on the latest stupid thing said by Donald Trump–such as whether Donald Trump will accept the election result. This statement, while imprudent and potentially ominous, is hardly unprecedented. The real story of the election is not sexual misconduct, as reprehensible as Trump’s actions were, but the fact that our democracy has devolved to a point where we are given a choice of an ignorant buffoon like Trump or a corrupt war-monger like Clinton–with alternative viewpoints not welcome.