It’s hard to believe that at this time next month, there will be a newly elected president. It’s even harder to believe that the president will be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (sorry, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein).
For ninety minutes last night, America and the world watched one of the ugliest debates in presidential history. The debate seemed to be centered on “who could insult who more in the speaking time” rather than any real clear cut issues and policies. Prior to the debate, Trump called for a press conference where he paraded women who have alleged sexual misconduct by Bill Clinton. This was an unprecedented spectacle. Not surprisingly, the tension was palpable from the beginning of the debate. Trump and Clinton did not even shake hands at the beginning of the debate, and it seemed that Donald Trump, throughout the debate, was intent on invading Clinton’s personal space on the stage. It was almost as if he was constantly looming over her in a menacing way. Any statements about policy quickly evolved into personal attacks and insults, with Trump at one point comparing Clinton to the devil and stating, “She [Hillary] has tremendous hate in her heart.”
The debate was somewhat overshadowed by the various events that occurred just a few days before it. The leaked video of Donald Trump speaking about his sexual advances on women received significant media attention. In the video, Trump seems to promote sexual assault, stating at one point, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. You can do anything.”
Trump was widely condemned for his words, losing a considerable amount of GOP support. Trump tried to apologize for his actions stating that his words were simply “locker room banter,” and that former President Bill Clinton had said much worse. Hillary Clinton went on the attack during the debate, stating that Trump needed to apologize for his vulgar words and show contrition. However, there was no real apology, just more deflection and insults.
Trump’s insults climaxed when he talked about Hillary and her private email server. Trump stated that, if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor for Clinton who would have her jailed. This eerie statement brought images of various autocratic countries, where political opponents are jailed or even executed.
Clinton appeared to grow more and more frustrated as the debate went along, and finally snapped, stating that Trump’s campaign had “exploded” and that Republicans were quickly leaving him. Trump responded by stating that “Clinton has the worst judgement ever.”
In the last five minutes, shockingly, the insults ended when a question was posed about what each presidential candidate admired about the other. While many of us expected backhanded compliments and shady insults, a moment of peace seemed to occur in the “conflict.” Hillary described her admiration for Trump’s children, while Trump stated his admiration for Hillary’s perseverance and “no-quit” attitude. The two even shook hands at the end. The scene was surreal.
With one more debate left, Clinton and Trump are ready to leave it all on the table. Whoever wins, one thing is for sure: this election season is like no other America has seen before.