After all of the hype about the “Debate of the Century” between our two unpopular presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, Monday’s “debate” (if that’s what it was) was disappointing on several levels, and it didn’t change many votes.
Former Secretary of State Clinton recited her scripted and focus group-tested responses to the moderator’s questions while a strangely subdued Trump said whatever popped into his head at any given moment. Most political observers, including yours truly, believe Mrs. Clinton “won” the debate on points because she prepared for the showdown on national TV, which drew a record viewing audience of more than 80 million potential voters. Trump didn’t prepare, and that’s why he lost.
I don’t often agree with fellow political columnist Jon Ralston, a liberal Democrat who wrote that the Clinton-Trump showdown produced a “Rashomon Effect” based on the Japanese movie of the same name where “people see what they want to see when it comes to their favorite candidate.” Clinton supporters like Ralston thought she looked and sounded “presidential” while Trumptistas claimed their candidate “won” the debate based on a few spurious online polls.
Mrs. Clinton employed smart strategy by keeping Trump on the defensive. He didn’t have convincing arguments about his refusal to make his income tax returns public or his views toward women, and spent too much time spouting inanities about how many people love him, a classic response by someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.
After Mrs. Clinton, a self-proclaimed women’s rights champion married to a serial womanizer, played the female card, Trump suddenly started talking about her “stamina,” a complete non sequitur. But that’s how he talks, moving his mouth before engaging his brain. As for Mrs. Clinton, she dismissed her “extremely careless” handling of classified emails containing our nation’s most sensitive national security secrets by admitting a “mistake” and promising to do better in the future. No wonder 60 percent of the electorate doesn’t trust her to tell the truth. Trump should have pressed her on the email scandal, but he didn’t and he also failed to mention her responsibility for the Benghazi debacle that resulted in the deaths of four American diplomats including our ambassador to Libya. Although she was ultimately responsible for what occurred in Benghazi, she has blamed State Department underlings. Apparently, she was much too busy to pay attention to minor details like embassy security in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Jon Ralston wrote the Rashomon Effect will no longer matter after the election is over, “when this real-life movie comes to an end, with a truth revealed that close to half the country will find unsatisfying.” My question is how the time-tested American political system labored mightily to produce the two most unpopular presidential candidates in my rather lengthy lifetime.
Mrs. Clinton is the poster lady for the Washington Establishment Trump and her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old Socialist, fought against during the primaries. She’s been around Washington for nearly 30 years and if you like the way things are going, she’s your candidate because she represents a third term for President Obama. But if you want radical change, as I do, Trump is your deeply flawed candidate. Unfortunately, I can’t vote for him either because I’d be scared to death if his finger was on the nuclear trigger. And I certainly won’t vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, who wants to legalize dangerous drugs, or far left-winger Jill Stein of the Green Party.
Which brings us to good old “none of the above,” who’ll be on the Nevada ballot.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.