The Final Debate

October 20, 2016

The third and final debate of Campaign 2016 is history, and most Americans are probably as relieved to have it behind them as they would a long-dreaded triple root canal. Nothing came out of it that I can see being a major game-changer (the media are feigning outrage that Trump used the word “hombres,” but they’ve feigned outrage over virtually everything he’s said so many times that they’ve become like the boy who cried “WOOOOOLF!!!!!!!!!!!” when he saw a hamster.) But it was one of Trump’s strongest performances and it offered a few points for further discussion, if the media will just focus on them instead of the distraction du jour. For instance:

Chris Wallace drew bipartisan praise for moderating the debate firmly but fairly, drilling down on both candidates with substantive, well-researched questions about actual issues rather than petty partisan gamesmanship and tabloid accusations. This is what it means when Fox News calls itself “fair and balanced.” Maybe it will encourage some of the viewers of 24/7 liberal propaganda outlets who sneer about “Faux News” without having watched it to pull their heads out of the sand, switch the channel and find out what actual journalism looks like.

The early part of the debate about the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment was a long-overdue discussion of what might be the most serious issue of this election, since the next President’s Supreme Court picks have the potential either to save the Constitution or cause serious damage to our rights for decades beyond the current election. Trump made it clear that he would nominate Justices who would uphold the Constitution as written, not rewrite it to their personal tastes. Hillary said we need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s issues and the LGBT community, and would overturn Citizens United (a case she's obsessed with yet never mentions involved an attempt to censor the showing of a movie critical of her near an election.) She said the Supreme Court “should represent all of us” and operate “in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful.” No, Congress represents Americans. The Supreme Court determines if the laws passed by Congress are Constitutional. It’s astounding that she labels Trump ignorant, yet she’s a lawyer who’s spent decades in Washington and still doesn’t know the most basic facts about the duties of the three branches of government.

Hillary’s hostility to the First Amendment also extends to the Second. Her response on the Court’s Heller decision was particularly evasive (that case affirmed, for those who weren’t clear on what the term “Bill of Rights” means, that the Second Amendment affirms an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, not a state militia’s.) Hillary’s claim that she supports the Second Amendment but just wants to prevent gun-wielding toddlers from killing people was bizarre, since Heller involved the right of a 66-year-old DC police officer to keep a gun in his home in a dangerous neighborhood in spite of a law requiring him to keep it dismantled, locked up and essentially useless against intruders. It also took some big league gullibility to swallow Hillary’s claims of caring so much about protecting innocent children when she was also defending partial birth abortion rights. News flash: late term abortions don’t kill ducks, they kill innocent children.

Another moment sparking a lot of fake “OUTRAGE!!!” was Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of the election until he sees them. I thought it was unfair that he was the only one asked this question, since I can’t imagine Hillary not going scorched earth if she loses to Trump by 51-49% in one battleground state. Considering all we’ve learned in the past week about the well-funded dirty tricks and vote fraud schemes involving the Clinton campaign, the DNC, liberal PACs and George Soros, it seems well-justified for Trump to keep his options open to challenge the results if he believes there was obvious chicanery. As for Hillary’s claim that she was horrified at the idea that any major party candidate would ever refuse to accept the results of a presidential election, may I introduce her to a guy who’s been campaigning for her recently, by the name of Al Gore? He’s the reason that every electric car purchased between 2000 and 2008 had a “Selected Not Elected” bumper sticker holding the fender on.

It’s an indicator of how divisive this election is that even at this late date, both candidates were playing more to their bases than to undecided voters (for instance, Trump calling Hillary a “nasty woman” probably revved up his base but alienated those in the middle). Overall, it wasn’t a knockout on either side, but I think Trump “won” it narrowly by sticking more to the issues than in previous debates.

He did miss some good opportunities, but I can tell you from experience that it’s a lot harder to think of the perfect thing to say when you’re standing at that podium with the TV cameras in your face than it is when you’re watching at home in your underwear. For instance, when Hillary claimed she would cover all her new spending without adding a penny to the debt by simply asking the rich to pay their fair share, I wish he’d replied that she wouldn’t be “asking” them to “contribute,” she’d be using tax laws to try to force them to cough up their money. Rich people stay rich by hiring the best accountants, tax lawyers and lobbyists to pay less in taxes. If all else fails, they’ll just pull their money out of productive investments and put it into tax shelters, which kills job creation. All of these things lead to lower-than-expected tax revenues which, combined with higher spending, balloons the debt.

Granted, that eternal truth wouldn’t make for scintillating TV, but it would be awfully nice to hear someone say it just once.

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