Five minutes into the second lamentable presidential debate on Sunday night, a thought occurred to me. It looked like Hillary Clinton was debating a Yahoo comment section rather than her Republican rival.
The tone Donald Trump was setting was so unprecedentedly awful, so beneath the dignity of the office, it was a new tabloid level low in American presidential politics.
As Trump glowered and sniffed onstage he sounded more and more like Alec Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live sketch, a living parody of himself.
“We're going to have a beautiful health plan. Sniff. It’ll be the best ever. It’ll be beautiful believe me. Everything we have now is a total disaster. Sniff. We’re going to build a wall. Sniff. We’re going to knock the hell out of ISIS. Sniff.”
Onstage he paced and glowered behind Clinton, trailing her steps like a villain from a Roald Dahl book. It was not a very astute ploy for a man who had commented he could kiss women and grope them by their genitals without consequence because he was famous and rich.
“I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” said the former beauty queen pageant owner. But laughing about taking every opportunity to make unasked for advances on them rather undermines his claims.
Women are going to decide this election, I believe. That's the only thought that allowed me to sleep after this unwatchable debacle.
How will you be a president for all the people, an audience member asked? “Hillary lies, she lies and lies,” he replied. “The inner cities are a disaster. (It’s where black people live he suggests) What do you have to lose?”
Early in the debate moderator Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank, “You called what you said locker room banter, kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women.”
Trump defended the claim as “locker room banter.” Well, since you may never have been in a male locker room in America, let me stand in defense of every major sports star in the country that is tarnished by this claim, because it certainly is not.
It’s actually just the banter of a complacent plutocrat who thinks that laws (like taxes) only apply to the little people.
But think of the young people watching this debate. What kind of message was this self-admitted groper sending them?
When asked again if he ever assaulted a woman as he claims in the recently leaked tape Trump replied, “No, I have not. I will tell you, that I'm going to make our country safe. We're going to have borders in our country, which we don't know.”
Don't ask me about sexually assaulting women. Ask me about ISIS instead. Hey, ask me about throwing Hillary in jail maybe.
This stunt was a desperate attempt to change the subject and hoodwink the nation. The only time most of us have ever heard a candidate threatening to jail their political opponent was in places like the Congo.
Even Vladimir Putin had the sense to wait until he was elected to conduct his purges. Not our tin pot despot Trump.
“It’s not Trump’s open contempt for the norms of liberal democracy that made my blood run cold. It was the applause that came after,” wrote one terrified critic.
Political scientists across the nation were equally unnerved.
“My colleagues in comparative politics study what happens when rule of law collapses and democracy is put at risk,” one wrote. They were seeing it happen live with Trump’s appearance, he wrote.
Conservative political commentator George Will, himself a frequent target of Trump’s ire, put it succinctly. “Perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan,” he wrote. The GOP will rue the day they picked him, he added.
As if to confirm his view, Monday morning’s Rasmussen poll confirmed what the second debate and the leaked tapes have utterly ensured: Trump is toast.
The line of the night was delivered by commentator Van Jones on CNN concerning Trump’s self-admitted sexism. “If your only line is you're not as bad as ISIS then that’s a problem.”
As the debate ended the cameras fell on Trump’s wife Melania in the debate audience. She was standing by herself, a poignant image of abandonment. Twenty-four hours earlier even she had condemned her husband’s words about women.
So we have somehow gone from the Obama era of hope to the Trump era of grope. Like of a lot of Americans, I am incandescently furious with the Republican Party for foisting this fractious fool on us all and making us a laughing stock in front of the entire world. Enough.