Another debate, another missed opportunity for Donald Trump

The third and (blessedly) final presidential debate was a microcosm of the entire contest since the primaries ended. Hillary Clinton was wrong on the issues, and often on the facts, and never satisfactorily answered a number of uncomfortable questions about her words, deeds and conflicts of interest.

And yet, Donald Trump managed to be worse.

Trump actually spent the first 30 minutes on stage at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas looking like a prepared and improved debater. The first question, about how each candidate would select Supreme Court justices, prompted Clinton to respond with a series of progressivist policy positions she would expect them to protect or produce; there was absolutely nothing in her answer about justices upholding, you know, the Constitution. Trump, on the other hand, immediately promised judges who would respect the Second Amendment and “interpret the Constitution the way the Founders intended.” From there, the discussion went to the D.C. v. Heller gun-control case — the facts of which Clinton totally butchered — and then to abortion. Clinton struggled to defend her votes against banning both partial-birth abortions and third-trimester abortions — two procedures on which the vast majority of Americans disagree with her.

AP Photo / David Goldman

AP Photo / David Goldman

A discussion of immigration policy went little better for her. (As an important aside, major kudos to moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who produced the most substantive debate of the entire series as he persistently challenged both candidates’ weak spots.) She tried to have it both ways, claiming she’d voted for better border security while making it clear she favors no consequences whatsoever for those who cross our borders illegally. When asked about her reference in a speech in Brazil about “hemispheric open borders,” she tried to pivot to shaming Wallace for even bringing up the subject and to slamming Trump as complicit with a Russian government interference in our elections.

That was where Trump’s good night started to go sour.

Not for the first time, Trump voiced reluctance to believe U.S. intelligence reports about Russian connections to the rampant hacking of (mostly) Democratic emails and documents. It’s not a good look for a potential president to be seen as credulous about Moscow’s denials, rather than believing our own intelligence agencies.

A segment on the economy was pretty ho-hum — Clinton made a promise “not to add a penny to the debt” that she went on to repeat and will certainly break, while Trump made a fundamentally flawed comparison between our growth rate and those of India and China — and then we got to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary tried to deflect from Wallace’s questions about her conflicts of interest with the foundation while at State by pointing to the foundation’s good works, which didn’t work because he pushed her on them. So did Trump, and he didn’t really help himself. Unable once again to leave well enough alone, Trump just had to bring up his own foundation. That prompted Wallace to ask about its reported problems, and Clinton segued into another attack on Trump for not releasing his tax returns. Another unforced error on his part.

But it was nothing compared to what came next.

Wallace asked Trump about his claims the election is “rigged,” and offered him a chance to say he would accept the result whatever it may be. Trump declined. Not once, but twice.

The way Wallace framed the question (actually, the follow-up after Trump first demurred) is correct:

“But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

To which Trump replied: “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”

This is yet another way in which Trump crosses a line from being merely “politically incorrect” toward outright recklessness. One can believe voter fraud exists, and take precautions to guard against it. It is another thing entirely to anticipate that there will be so much fraud, and that this is such a regular occurrence, that one can’t commit to accepting the results as American candidates have done for more than two centuries.

During the post-debate coverage, Fox News anchor Bret Baier noted a kind of symmetry between this moment and the very first question of the very first GOP primary debate in August 2015. That’s when Baier asked the Republican candidates if they would all commit to supporting the eventual nominee, and Trump alone refused to raise his hand. As I wrote last week, the first rule for understanding Trump is that he’s always looking out for No. 1 — not his family, not his business partners and employees, not the Republican Party, not the country, and not you. If he needs to inspire ugly behavior and even violence after the election to stroke his bruised ego, he’ll do it without a second thought or a moment of remorse.

But it won’t change the fact that, on Wednesday night as through the entire general election, Trump didn’t end up losing because of any unfair external forces, just the unfocused, undisciplined, unwise, unprepared and ultimately unserious way he has approached this entire endeavor.

Reader Comments 0

247 comments
bu2
bu2

You are wanting to see bad in Trump and exaggerating it Kyle.  You are hanging around other media people and focusing on non-issues.  I thought you were smarter than that.  Trump can do nothing if he loses.  Its like being upset because he says if the Cubs lose the World Series he will never watch baseball again.  So what?  He can't stage a coup.  All he can do is throw a meaningless fit.  Why is this important?  It simply shows what we already knew about him.  Same with the parade of women the Clinton campaign has paid to say he harassed them.  Maybe a couple of them are telling the truth.  But we already knew Trump was a pig.  We didn't know that the Clinton campaign knew and accepted massive voter fraud (we thought it was minor).  We didn't know that they were hiring people to create violence (figured it was people not directly related to the campaign like BLM).  We didn't know that she would refuse to repudiate this, but merely ignore it.  Someone who actually cared about the rule of law and free elections would.  HRC did not.  She apparently is only unhappy her people got caught.  Not that they did it.  Not that she and her people are so incompetent as to put all of this stuff in e-mails and to get hacked.

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

He insulted every American voter by saying he'd keep us in suspense as to whether he accepts the results or not. No, Donald, that's not how it works. We don't wait for YOU to tell US whether we accept YOU.  You wait for US to tell you. You don't get to elect us. We get to elect you. Got it?

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@carterjoseph1950 Here's hoping you can muster a little umbrage for HRC, the Clinton Foundation, the DNC leadership, Democrat Operatives and the Mainstream Media.


Regardless of our politics, we should all be offended/concerned with what the stolen emails revealed about their skullduggery committed in support of dishonest efforts to undermine the political opposition (Bernie and Donald)  and enrich themselves.  


I thought the media was supposed to be objective?  Feeding HRC quesitons in advance?  NYT and Politico sending HR's campaign articles for vetting?  


How does a 30-year public servant become a multi-millionaire?  Establishing a charitable foundation seems pretty effective.  



MarkVV
MarkVV

@CardiganBoy @carterjoseph1950 We should all be concerned about irresponsible charges like yours. 

"How does a 30-year public servant become a multi-millionaire? "

Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has revealed ll her tax returns for more than a decade, providing that information.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@carterjoseph1950 Who cares if he doesn't accept it, no problem, its just another bad reflection on him. 


The country will go forward with the winner of the EC.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@CardiganBoy @carterjoseph1950 It is nor her money, her income is clearly documented.


Most any of the  undocumented workers in GA paid more in Federal Income tax last year than Trump , we know that or he would prove it different.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@MarkVV @CardiganBoy @carterjoseph1950 Point taken.  


As always with the Clintons (and the Corleones) they're legitimate until someone can prove otherwise.  


But even Dems have voiced serious concern about the appearance of influence peddling related the Foundation and HRC's tenure as Sec of State.


Huma Abedin said as much related to the Morocco blunder/scandal.


My comments aren't support of Trump; just testing the waters to see if anyone expressing continued offense to  Trump's word and deed has any issues with HRC, DNC, the NYT, Politico, CNN, Donna Brazile, et al?

There's now fire directly linked to the smoke we've been seeing for months.


We should all be concerned about that - not just what offends our chosen political sensibilities.


CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@Jefferson1776 @CardiganBoy @carterjoseph1950 Agreed.  Trump must have something else to hide (if he's hiding anything) related to his taxes.  All rich guys shelter their income.  


Taking a huge (permissible) deduction based on a huge loss, is not scandalous; but in accordance with existing tax laws.  The same laws Warren Buffet uses to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.    


Speaking of which,  Trump wants to reform the tax laws to eliminate some of these shelters.





oldpunk
oldpunk

@CardiganBoy @MarkVV @carterjoseph1950 Absolutely no proof of influence-peddling - a couple of donors asked for meetings but didn't get them, all the others were people that *should* be meeting with the State Department. Yet another nothingburger.

Ga PT3
Ga PT3

More fair and balanced commentary lol.  The internet is here now.  We have freedom of speech like never before.  People are tired of the MSM looks like your monopoly is over. Guess who the losers really are lol. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The letter President GHW Bush wrote to President Clinton is the act of a true American with dignity and class.  He said "When you (President Clinton) succeed, the country succeeds"


Pair that with the crap McConnell comes out with.  There is your road to Trump.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

I meant compare, as they are polar opposites.

bu2
bu2

@Jefferson1776 Or pair it with the trashing of the White House and vandalizing of computers that the Clinton and Gore people did when W. came into office.  Let alone the dignity and class of sticking an intern under your desk while you phone world leaders.

lvg
lvg

Trump sure made a fool out of himself at the Alfred E. Smith dinner last night. First time a candidate got non stop booed. Guiliani looked like he could strangle Hillary for greeting all the ex NYC mayors and skipping over him "by accident".

MarkVV
MarkVV

@lvg Trump's performance was disgraceful.

BinderLady
BinderLady

@lvg  Guilliani looks like a little gremlin on the attack.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@lvg 

You know your campaign is finished, when you get booed by a room full of priests.

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

What is a "partial birth"abortion? Isn't that a made up thing by the anti choice cabal?

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

So military experts are criticizing Hillary, for devulging the nuclear launch timing interval during last nights debate. Just another piece of evidence against voting for a Hillary Clinton presidency.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Philo_Farnsworth 

A vote not for Trump is a vote for Hillary. The never Trump folks need to consider that.

GaLatino
GaLatino

@SGTGrit @Philo_Farnsworth They are, and is what's scary.  Trump is so bad, people who despise Hillary would still rather see her in office than him.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Any leftists care to wager on whether your pig of a candidate keeps her promise not to add a penny to the deficit?

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

The very conservative, Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal says Hillary's plans might add billions in debt, BUT it says Trump's plan will add TRILLIONS in debt. Running up big national debt is pretty typical for the GOP, so, for once, Trump seems like a mainstream republican.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

I'll take that as a "no".

Hillary made the promise, but I get your need for deflection. Especially since Obozo added more to the debt than anyone before him.

oldpunk
oldpunk

@LilBarryBailout Reagan invented the deficit. Bill Clinton erased it. Bush II exploded it. Obama reduced the trillion-dollar-plus deficit he inherited.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

  I'll attempt to educate you one last time.  Creationism = a belief in a Creator, of which I have none.  Emergence = those properties of a system which aren't contained in any of the individual elements, they only appear in the aggregate.


Yes. Emergence. Its what the kids are calling creationism these days.


Want to know what is testable about Emergence ? Nothing


Want to know what it has added to the Scientific community ? Nothing


Its pseudo Science for fools.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

 WASHINGTON -- Three weeks after a normal election, the president-elect would already be prepared to name his top Cabinet members. The FBI would be busy doing background investigations of other potential appointees. And resumes would be stacking up in the transition team offices.



Today, however, the cavernous transition offices at 1800 G Street are empty and the keys to the front door remain in the hands of an official at the General Services Administration. The FBI as yet has no authority to interview anyone for a job in the new administration. And $5-million set aside by Congress for the transition remains untouched in the Treasury.



While most Americans remain focused on the Florida ballot counting that will eventually determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore is the next president of the United States, government bureaucrats, political scholars and campaign aides are beginning to fret that the delay in starting the transition will exact a heavy toll on the federal government over the next several years -- no matter who wins.



http://www.sptimes.com/News/112600/Election2000/Transition_delay_caus.shtml

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine If this election comes down to a few hundred votes contest away


But Trump will look foolish when he contests a landslide.

Walter_White
Walter_White

The peaceful transition of power from one President to another has been a hallmark of American democracy for over 200 years. Any candidate who does not support this tradition (… I'll wait and see if…) is undermining our democratic ideals and does not deserve our support or vote.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Democrats unwavering support for that ideal from 2000-2008 was indeed inspiring.

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

A few hundred votes in a state where your opponent's brother is governor and the Attorney General is the opposition campaign manager - yet, even with all that, counting absentee ballots that came in after the deadline and winning the popular vote, Gore conceded.

mgunter
mgunter

I have yet to talk to anyone who is voting for Clinton, no yard signs, few bumper stickers. I don't think media members, entertainers, and those on th govt. dole will be enough to put her over th top. No enthusiasm for her. Is going to be refreshing to have a non-politician running th Country!

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@RoadScholar @mgunter Protesters jumped on cars, pelted Trump supporters with eggs and water balloons, snatched signs and stole “Make America Great” hats off supporters’ heads before burning the hats and snapping selfies with the charred remains.



Undercover Footage Shows Clinton Operatives Admit To Inciting "Anarchy" At Trump Rallies

VIDEO: HILLARY SUPPORTERS VIOLENTLY BEAT WOMAN OVER TRUMP YARD SIGN


Now it's your turn, smarta**.
Good luck.

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

I had not seen any trump signs until I got to dalton, ga, least educated town in the USA.

whatsinthetaxes
whatsinthetaxes

IOne of the videos showing blacks trashing a car with Trump stickers has already been proven to have been faked. The guy wanted YouTube views. Reminds me of the girl who claimed to be attacked by Obama supporters and,she claimed, they carved his name onto her forehead. Unfortunately for her, when she was faking the attack, she used a mirror to carve her own face, so she spelled Obama as amabO with all the letters turned backwards. Oops caught (again).

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@mgunter Maybe you do not see any signs/bumper stickers for both candidates because people are fearful of retaliation! esp from Trump supporters.

bu2
bu2

@RoadScholar @mgunter You just say that because you know your side acts that way.  The Trump people aren't as low and intolerant as the HRC people.