Declaring a winner after watching a presidential debate like the one Sunday evening is in the neighborhood of crazy.
Except for some crisp policy back and forth in the second half, this was one of the most bizarre 90 minutes of political television in history.
Remember that we were just 48 hours removed from learning that the “Law and Order” candidate, Donald Trump, had lewdly demeaned women and spoken of habitually sexually abusing them on a videotape that will be replayed forever.
But wait, he told us, it was just “lockerroom” talk and certainly not as bad as the things Bill Clinton had done.
Hillary Clinton –– perhaps somewhat chilled by the prospect of having to relive any details about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions –– nonetheless seized an opportunity to make Trump squirm and own his decade-old words. If anything, she could have been harder on him.
That said, Trump is still circling the drain in this race. Whoever engineered the timing of the “Access Hollywood” tape is likely to have more embarrassing footage of Trump whose spoiled playboy image was likely well documented.
All day Saturday it seemed Trump would be disowned and defunded by the GOP. Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson cut ties with Trump, as did 15 other Republican senators and a dozen Republican members of the House. Surprisingly, some seemed to think Trump had stopped the bleeding with his performance Sunday. But that’s just spin.
Polls say Trump was in trouble before broadcasting to the world that he enjoyed forced kissing and groping of women, a prize of his celebrity. It defies political gravity to imagine Trump’s insincere apologies and fake contrition could sway anyone.
I learned nothing from the discussion of the Affordable Care Act, and was amused at Hillary Clinton’s rationalization of her husband’s assertion that the ACA was “crazy.”
I was impressed with Clinton’s detail about how to deal with Syria, and particularly Aleppo. Trump was blustery and vague on the topic.
Overall, I think Trump scored some points linking Clinton to the establishment and defining her as someone who would bring along more of the same experience afforded in the Obama years. But that worked with his base in the primary season and isn’t going to gain him much now.
This crazy evening yielded things I did not think I would ever hear:
▪ Trump calling Clinton the “Devil” and suggesting she had “hatred in her heart.”
▪ Trump promising, if he won the White House, to commission a special prosecutor to go after Clinton and perhaps put her in “jail” because of her lies.
▪ Trump dissing and disagreeing with his running mate, Mike Pence, over Syrian policy –– and sending a message that one of his most faithful supporters (who would not defend the “Access Hollywood” tape ) was not someone he talked policy with often. What?
Good grief, there is one more debate? Yes. Oct. 19.