Debate #3: A light at the end of the tunnel?

Mercifully, we have reached the end of the 2016 presidential debates.

Somewhere out there on the Internet, there is a GIF of Elmo from Sesame Street dancing amid streams of confetti that I am too lazy to find. But if I had the motivation, I would insert it right here.

Seventy-one million people watched last night’s spectacle, an increase over the second debate. Never again will these two candidates have a chance to address the nation on the same platform in front of a bigger audience prior to Election Day.

And given the chaotic state of Donald Trump’s campaign — which he did nothing to remedy last night — that is a very, very good thing for supporters of Hillary Clinton.

That being said, this debate was easily the most watchable of the three, with discussions focusing largely on actual policy, thanks in large part to the stringent moderation by Chris Wallace.

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In my opinion, it was the most well-moderated debate of the last two election cycles. Wallace, a Fox News host who formerly worked for NBC, is a registered Democrat, and has voted for presidents of both parties in his lifetime, made sure both candidates stayed on topic, and asked pointed questions to each that addressed their greatest shortcomings.

But it was Hillary who prevailed. She finally got the policy debate she wanted, and was able to stay on message from start to finish, never losing her poise, while throwing in several not-so-subtle jabs towards her opponent that he really had no answer for.

Quite honestly, I don’t think Hillary could have scripted it better if she tried.

While there is plenty to dissect over what was said last night, easily the most prevailing chris-wallacetakeaway that will be remembered for years to come was Donald Trump’s flat-out refusal to confirm that he would accept the result of the election — therefore undermining the whole basis of our democracy, and perpetuating a dangerous belief among his most fervent supporters that they, too, don’t have to accept it either.

It was arguably a disqualifying moment in American politics and officially closes the book on what was very likely the worst presidential candidate in our nation’s history.

One day later, Trump doubled down on his remark (“I’ll accept the result … if I win”) and at the same time attempted to clarify by saying he wants to reserve the right to legally challenge it if it appears to be questionable.

In other words, he did what he always does —  talked himself into an even worse mess.

But anyway, now that these are done, it’s time to mentally prepare ourselves for the inevitable: President Hillary Clinton.

For many, those three words will make them gag. At best, most will shrug.

Me? I’m fine with it. And yes, I’ve read a lot of reporting on the email content that was leaked from Hillary’s aides via Wikileaks.

While there are instances of imperfect political comportment and conniving gamesmanship among her and her aides, it all amounts to one thing — Hillary Clinton is an intensely ambitious, highly studious and devoted public servant who will on occasion blur the ethical line to achieve her goal of helping people.

If that’s disqualifying to some people, then so be it.

I for one believe America will be in perfectly capable hands.

Debate #2: We’ve hit rock bottom.

After what was probably the most humiliating weekend for a presidential campaign in the history of American politics, Donald Trump entered Sunday night’s debate a dead man walking.

You’ve all seen and heard his vulgar and shameful comments from 11 years ago, in a video brought to our attention by the Washington Post. Comments that Trump has ludicrously shrugged off as “locker room banter” — despite the fact that this was not in a locker room, but in a bus surrounded by a television crew while wearing a microphone.

I’d be a hypocrite if said I’ve never objectified women while talking with my friends in private. But I have never — never — heard any one use the language that Trump did in that video. That is not locker room banter. Those are the words of a sick and disgusting man.

Republican politicians have defected en masse from supporting Trump. Robert De Niro wants to kick his ass. And his excuse of “locker room banter” was so weak that even former NFL players have come out against it. 

And that was all before Sunday night. To say his campaign was on the fritz is a massive understatement. He was like a defeated character in a Mortal Kombat battle; dazed, on his last legs and waiting for Hillary Clinton to “Finish him” with a final blow.

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Democrats tuned in, frothing at the mouth, waiting for it to happen. But it never came.

Instead, Clinton stuck to her initial game plan from the first debate of letting Donald Trump do all the damage to himself. She stayed calm and composed, while Trump sunk to new lows, bringing up her husband’s past indiscretions, and telling his political opponent that if he were president, he’d throw her in jail — a threat that undermines the whole basis of Democracy — all the while lurking menacingly behind her.

All in all, it was a said night for America.

Not many people will look at Hillary Clinton and feel suddenly struck by hope and inspiration. I fully understand that. But Donald Trump will only succeed by convincing us that our country is weak and pathetic, and that we need him to save it. His words conjure nothing but despair and hopelessness.

Why in the world do we need to be subjected to this?

Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed 24 hours later — as practically every media outlet has declared Clinton the winner of the debate, and are not giving Trump credit for simply being better than his miserable performance in the first debate. A new poll also has Clinton up 11 points.

If one positive emerged from Sunday night’s spectacle, it was not from any of the candidates or the moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz (who did a nice job), but from an undecided voter in a red sweater vest who asked the nominees a question about energy.

His name is Kenneth Bone. And he is our new folk hero.

Sure, it’s a stretch to say that the entertainment provided by one folksy-looking, unfortunately-named man  was enough to cancel out the tumult of the debate, but we will take anything at this point.

#ImWithBone

I take it back. Don’t vote for Gary Johnson.

The first presidential debate may be three days old, but discussion surrounding it has not stopped.

What’s most interesting is that the chatter most prevalent in the media and among the two campaigns has nothing to do with any policy positions that came up on Monday night — but rather, a former beauty pageant contestant.

It was the final minutes of the debate, and viewers had already somehow survived 90 minutes of incessant bickering, mostly from the left side of their screen.

But that’s when Hillary Clinton laid a perfectly executed trap. And Donald Trump took the bait.

She mentioned a former Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, who Trump once insulted alicia-machadofor gaining weight. It was ingenious because it was a blemish against Trump that, somehow, we have never heard of before.

Of all the terrible, horrible things we’ve heard about Donald Trump over the past year and a half, his treatment of this woman was not one of them.

Instead of letting it go, Trump did what he does best — went on the defensive, and rather than calming the waters, he only proceeded to make the situation worse. And now, with the entire nation refocused on this election, we’re getting a full dose of Trump’s sexist, misogynistic tendencies. (Trump, for his part, appears to be retaliating by trying to turn the narrative to Bill Clinton’s past infidelities.)

Hillary is a lot of things to a lot of people. She’s definitely intelligent. But she’s also cunning. And honestly, I don’t think that’s the worst trait to have in a president.

For many, the debate probably validated their belief that they don’t want either candidate to be our president. And those people over the last couple of days may have taken a second look at the predominant third party candidate, Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico turned Independent, who’s polling at around 7 percent.

They should stop. Immediately.

And I know I endorsed the inclusion of Gary Johnson in this race, but, we shouldn’t give him credence simply because he exists as a third option. If he was a good third option, then fine. But recent history disagrees with that notion.

It’s been a rapid descent for Mr. Johnson in recent weeks, beginning with his failure to know anything about Aleppo, the city in northern Syria that’s facing the worst bombing the country has seen in its entire years-long Civil War.

And that coincides with his quirky-bordering-on-crazy behavior during interviews, like in this one last week with Bloomberg politics.

But the final nail in the coffin may have come on Wednesday, when, during a Town Hall-style interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, he was unable to come up with an answer when asked to name one single world leader that he respects. It was, in his own words, “an Aleppo moment.”

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Maybe the problem is that we should stop expecting our presidential candidates to be perfect. I mean, if you think about it, how many world leaders around the world are there right now who are universally liked?

When you’re in the public eye, people are going to look for reasons not to like you. Most of the time, they find them.

Trust me, I wish we had a leader who kept his cool every day on the job. Who was respected in the international community. Who was well-spoken. And who kept his campaign promises and who could represent our country with the proper amount of dignity.

If only that existed.

Oh wait. It does.

His name is Barack Obama.

Debate 2016: the day after — also known as: “What the heck did I just watch?”

The first 25 minutes of Monday night’s first presidential debate began like everyone thought it would.

Hillary Clinton did her best to appear calm and composed, emblematic of her claim that she has the proper demeanor and steadiness to be our nation’s Commander in Chief.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, came out like an attack dog. He immediately released his major talking points — deriding Hillary as an ineffective career politician whose decisions on trade have severely affected the economy — in his typical loud and abrasive manner. And like in the Primaries, he showed little interest in adhering to traditional debate decorum.

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Hillary, showing no desire to get into a shouting match with her opponent, let most of his insults slide.

All the while, moderator Lester Holt stayed quiet.

For those 25 minutes, it legitimately appeared that Donald Trump might bully his way into the White House.

And then the rest of the debate happened.

Unlike the Primary debates, Trump was allotted more time to respond to questions, and therefore had to follow through with his answers. He couldn’t rely on his many sparring partners to finish his dirty work for him.

And unlike the Primaries, he was squaring off against some one who actually knew what they were doing.

As a result, America got a full dose of what Donald Trump is really like. His ignorance on practically every subject pertinent to being president was in the spotlight. He blabbered incoherently into the night, was fact-checked on multiple occasions by Holt, and repeatedly came off as a petulant child.

Polls and analysis show that Hillary won the debate handily, and thus her numbers are likely to go up. But we are just 12 days away from the next debate, and Trump has implied he may “hit harder” when the times comes.

In other words, we’ve got a long way to go.

I only hope that Americans did truly watch and actually get to see with their own eyes what these candidates are really like. Because there’s nothing worse than the person who stubbornly dismisses both candidates and ignores a golden opportunity to learn who they are.

Because if you watched the debate, and you actually care about this country, then there shouldn’t be much of a question of who you should vote for.

But then again, Trump is such a bad candidate that, in some people’s eyes, he probably brought Hillary Clinton down with him by virtue of being on the same debate stage with him.

Oh well. At least we made it through the first one.

If you feel a little disenchanted by the whole process and need a little pick-me-up, then enjoy Buzzfeed’s compiling of Trump debate quotes purposely designed to look like inspirational quotes.

It’s where you’ll see amazing material like this:

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You are welcome.

 

The first presidential debate: finally, a chance to think for yourself

Well, after a year and a half of what has been a very difficult presidential election to stomach at times, we’ve finally arrived at a day of actual importance.

The first presidential debate.

It’s funny because the average American has long had an opinion on this election. Where they got it from is anyone’s guess. Maybe they actually took the time to educate themselves and read well-reported print articles on both candidates.

Maybe they caught snippets on TV news, which, for the most part, is limited by time from telling the whole story.

Or, sadly, they probably get most of their news from Facebook memes conceived by groups that have a very specific agenda.

Because of the longevity of this race, people are probably starting to feel numb to politics at this point. And thus, they lack interest in tonight’s debate.

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But in reality, today is the first day that actually matters. And if you actually want to make an informed decision about which candidate you prefer, then tonight is not optional. It’s obligatory.

Unfortunately, most people will come in with their preconceived notions and probably will not be able to have their viewpoint changed.

America takes an astoundingly long time to choose their leader. When David Cameron resigned following Brexit, it took the United Kingdom all of five minutes to replace him with Theresa May.

You could have lived under a rock for the past 18 months. It wouldn’t matter. As long as you tune in from this point on, you will be exposed to everything you need. We have three full debates to get a measure on both candidates.

Watching a presidential debate is one of the single most effective ways to form an opinion. If you don’t care, that’s one thing. But if you’ve been making your thoughts and opinions heard, and you don’t watch — or worse, watch it with a closed mind — then, well, shame on you.

As I wrap this up, the debate is set to start in 20 minutes. It may not be pretty at times, but personally, I find it refreshing that we will finally see the two candidates in a room together, side-by-side, discussing the issues that actually matter to us.

In a 90-minute debate, there is no where to hide.

So I implore all of you to tune in, and gauge both of them by what you see and hear.

Tomorrow, we will see endless commentary over who “won” the debate. But all that truly matters is what you personally took away from it.

People will also be quick to say that there is no real winner. That the loser is us, the American people, for being stuck with those two candidates.

But the real losers, in my opinion, are the ones that remain ignorant.

Get the popcorn ready.

Let’s do this.