The third and final U.S. presidential debate of 2016 is over. No more debates…thank goodness! These debates were uncomfortable to listen to and to watch. There is such a palpable contrast between the top two presidential candidates. It has been clearly demonstrated and verified during the live one-on-one Q&A, including Wednesday’s debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, the second debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, and in the first debate, moderated by Lester Holt of NBC.
The first thing you notice is that there is a woman on stage vying for commander-in-chief: Hillary Clinton is the first woman presidential nominee of any party in American history. The second thing you notice is the stark difference in the demeanor and composure between Clinton and Donald Trump. A candidate’s “fitness” to serve as POTUS is, in part, measured by her/his soft skills–the ability to engage effectively and convey a coherent message, to listen without interrupting, and to maintain equanimity when pressure is applied (resistance to get rattled). It is obvious to the objective observer who passed the ‘soft skills’ Litmus Test and whose caustic reactions measured low on the personality pH scale. Put another way: the winner in each of the debates, when it comes to poise and sangfroid, was not the Republican nominee.
There were many topics discussed and recent (if not relevant) controversies brought up during these moderated contests. Abortion was the hot button topic brought up to start off the debate last night. More on this later.
After the debate, there was quite a bit of chatter about Donald Trump’s unwillingness to concede the presidency to Hillary Clinton if he should lose on November 8th. Even Steven Schmidt, a Republican strategist and former campaign adviser for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, was appalled by Trump’s response to Chris Wallace. The MSNBC political analyst said: “It’s a moment of clear and present danger to our constitutional order, to the republic.” He went on to say: “It’s unprecedented in this history of the country. Constitutional officers like Paul Ryan are now at an hour where they’re called to step forward, to exhibit political courage, to put the country first and to communicate very clearly that we have legitimate elections in this country and that is how we choose our leaders.”
Steve Schmidt brings up a valid point regarding the integrity of U.S. elections. However, the coverage from MSNBC, following the final presidential debate, felt like an exercise in hyperbole. What did they expect? Trump has been increasingly adamant and vociferous in his speculations that the election is rigged. His hostile and outlandish rhetoric has been ramping up as his poll numbers have declined, amid the surfacing of the ‘groping tape’ and allegations of sexual assault brought forth by several women. The Republican nominee is known for doubling down–not backtracking–on his assertions and conspiracy theories, no matter how incredulous and absurd the claims.
Back to the topic addressed at the top of last night’s debate… There are essentially two camps on abortion (a.k.a. ‘women’s right): you are either pro-choice or pro-life. Hillary Clinton is pro-choice. Donald Trump is pro-life. Democrats are traditionally the former; Republicans are traditionally the latter.
Despite Trump’s vivid description and claim that the Democratic nominee wants to rip “the baby out of the womb”, it is simply not true. Unlike Bernie Sanders, Clinton is not in full support of late-term abortions. The first female presidential nominee has long been a proponent for women’s rights and a champion for reproductive freedom. That said Clinton “does not believe that all abortion should be legal.” Instead, “she supports restrictions on late-term abortions except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life and health are in danger.”
In the debate Donald Trump said “No one respects women more than I do.” As if his statement could not be any further from the truth, in a demonstration of irony and rudeness, he later interrupted Hillary Clinton during her response to Chris Wallace’s question, by saying “What a nasty woman.”
The most distinguishable and clearly articulated moment in the debate, was when Clinton outlined her 30-year track record, juxtaposed to Trump’s endeavors in the past three decades: “…back in the 1970’s, I worked for Children’s Defense Fund, and I was taking on discrimination against African-American kids in schools. He was getting sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination in his apartment buildings. In the 1980’s, I was working to reform the schools in Arkansas. He was borrowing $14 million from his father to start his businesses. In the 1990’s, I went to Beijing and I said, ‘Women’s rights are human rights.’ He insulted a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, called her ‘an eating machine.’” When Trump interjected with “Give me a break”, she added “And on the day when I was in the Situation Room, monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’” It was simultaneously an exceptional distinction and a ‘drop the mic’ moment.