Oh, what a night, early October back in 2016, what a very special time for we, the people. That might be a slight re-appropriation of Frankie Valli’s original sentiments, but holy cow, was that an evening for this and any other season.
The second presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump was a gloves-off (the better not to shake each other’s hands with), mudslinging, at times even truth-bringing match of exasperated egos eager to grab America by the collar and shout, “Seriously, you’re gonna vote for them?”
As with our summary of the candidates’ first face-off, we will do our best to remain objective in this, our roundup of the five foremost takeaways from Clinton v. Trump, round two.
Man, even these guys shake hands before squaring off. But as Hillary and Donald took the stage in St. Louis last night, neither was prepared to be polite, but they were more than ready to get real. And when the final bell rung, the duo retreated to their respective camps, barely able to muster mutual respect, let alone make physical contact. (Though in fairness, given this past weekend’s revelations, it’s hard to blame her for keeping distance.) These two may be in the same sandbox for four more weeks, but playtime is over.
So Much for Town Hall
The premise of last night’s debate was that cherry-picked undecideds would ask each candidate questions that—the moderators assured us—were veritably unfiltered. Although by 30 minutes in, it was clear neither Donald nor Hillary were going to cede ground to the traditional process or decorum, which some cynics could argue is a microcosm for this election season on the whole. Hillary, to her credit, did typically come full circle back to audience members’ original questions, however circuitously. Donald, very much on the defensive after his very difficult week, stuck more closely to his mission of knocking Hillary back on her heels. But hey, at least the format gave us Ken Bone.
Trump and Pence No Likey Each Other
That much is clear, after Donald rebuked his running mate Mike Pence’s proposed intervention strategy in Syria, which itself ran in contrast to Trump’s previous patter regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin. For extra measure, Trump confirmed that he and his choice for VP haven’t privately conferred on the matter. This, of course, comes just a couple days after Pence conceded that he “cannot defend” Donald’s insta-infamous comments about imposing himself on women. Yet, officially, Pence still stands by his man. However subtly this pair’s views on LGBT protections might differentiate, it’s plainly obvious theirs is a marriage of convenience.
Bill Is Pissed
Seriously, see for yourself. There was a lot for the potential First Gentleman to endure last night, be it Trump’s accusations of his past improprieties (including rape) or references to a 1975 trial in which Hillary—having been court-appointed—helped an alleged statutory rapist strike a plea deal. The mere presence of Paula Jones, one of Bill’s past accusers, in the room was a remarkable provocation. Some might argue that dredging up Clintonian history is an act of desperation or, at minimum, false equivalency. But it’s unlikely the attacks on her—and her husband’s—character will let up any time soon, and one wonders how much longer Bill will bite his tongue.
We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For
Let’s face it: After two debates, one in the town hall mode, issues ranging from gun control to LGBT rights to ongoing conflicts abroad beyond those that entangle us with our Cold War rivals haven’t gotten a ton of air time. It’s probably fair to surmise that the typical Clinton advocate or Donald surrogate isn’t crossing party lines at this point, but what about the millions who—like our beloved Ken Bone or the genteel soul who wrapped up the debate by pleading with the candidates to summon a compliment for one another—still feel like voters without a voice? Have their concerns about, say, domestic job growth or safety and security amid virulent terrorism really been assuaged, or even adequately addressed? Fittingly, they might have a clearer sense of whether they’re willing to gamble on either candidate after the third and final debate takes place October 19 in—where else—Las Vegas. Time for Clinton and Trump to ante up.