On Friday, a tape surfaced of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Two days later, in the midst of the fallout, Hillary Clinton managed to lose to him in a debate. It was a historic feat of political incompetence.
What we have to understand is that Clinton, based on her own personality and skill, would at this point in her life have risen as far as the position of DMV shift supervisor. Maybe community college gender studies professor if she got the right breaks. But her actual resume is entirely the result of her fortunate (and also extremely unfortunate) marital arrangement.
She didn't get here on her own. She is not the feminist hero her supporters want so badly for her to be. She's an ill equipped, corrupt and viscerally unlikable woman whose greatest accomplishment in life was marrying a serial rapist. She's not ready for prime time, never has been, never will be, and it showed tonight.
I have no idea what the polls will say or how any of it played outside of my living room, but from where I sit, I'd say Trump not only won, but won handily (no pun intended). He put Hillary on the defensive. He forced her to give embarrassingly insufficient answers on her emails and her treatment of her husband's assault victims, among other issues. Importantly, he got her to bust out her patented "evil step mother" cackle on a number of occasions.
She fumbled and bumbled her way through most of it. At one point she delivered a line she thought was hilarious and paused for laughter that never came. It was so humiliating that it almost made me feel bad for her, which was a very confusing and uncomfortable feeling. Amazingly, she never conjured up a single compelling comeback, which is even more incredible considering she must have known and prepared ahead of time for every attack he'd launch. It was like if the New England Patriots recorded their opponents' sideline signals and then went on to lose all of their games anyway.
Again, I don't know how anyone else received this part, but I liked it when Trump promised to have Clinton arrested if he's elected president. I have to believe that was a first for modern American presidential debates — and in any other year it would have been several thousand light years beyond overkill — but Hillary is such a detestable crook that it actually worked. And besides, Trump himself is so detestable that all he can really do at this point is send the message that Hillary is even worse than he is. It's the only move he has now. And he played it tonight. And it paid off, I thought.
It should be noted that nearly all of the accusations the candidates threw at each other were true. Yes, Trump bragged about assaulting women. Yes, Trump encouraged violence at his rallies and so on. And yes, Hillary is a crook. Yes, Hillary personally attacked and destroyed her husband's rape victims. Yes, Hillary is a pathological liar. Yes, Hillary was unfit and incompetent as secretary of state and so on. They're both gross, so the only sales pitch they really have is the one Prince Humperdink proposed in the "Princess Bride": "Please consider me an alternative to suicide."
But they can only make that case if they're effective at painting the other as suicide. Tonight, Trump did a much better job in that regard. There's no getting around it, no matter how much you hate Trump. And Democrats who are apoplectic about the possibility of a Trump presidency only have themselves to blame for running Nurse Ratched against him.
All in all, tonight's spectacle, like much of the rest of this election season, reminded me of a verse from the Book of Judges: "You have forsaken me and served other gods, therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen."
We've earned this national moment. These are the gods we have chosen and that was the debate we have chosen. And Trump won it, for what it's worth.
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