Presidential race winds down

The third presidential debate of the 2016 campaign has now passed, giving the American public a final look at how little respect this year’s candidates have for each other.

The JSC Student Government Association hosted a debate viewing in the Stearns cinema. When the candidates stepped onto the stage, the room was comfortably full. An hour later, nearly half of the audience had left in frustration.

Chris Wallace of Fox News moderated the debate, starting with the subject of the Supreme Court.
“I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy,” said Hillary Clinton, going on to state her support for Roe v. Wade and marriage equality.

Donald Trump had a very different outlook. “The justices that I’m going to appoint will be pro-life,” he said. “They will have a conservative bent. They will be protecting the Second Amendment.”

Moments later, he said, “I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear.” Such a statement seemed an odd thing to say following his pledge to appoint only conservatively biased judges.

The first question opened the topic of gun control. Clinton said that she wanted reasonable restrictions to cut back on the 33,000 gun-related deaths that happen each year. Trump said that Clinton got too angry about the District of Columbia v. Heller decision and also that he was proud to be endorsed by the NRA.
Sticking with the idea of the Supreme Court, the discussion moved into the territory of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood.

“Donald has said he is in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. He even supported shutting the government down to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Clinton. “I will defend Planned Parenthood. I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions.”

She also defended late-term abortions in cases of health risk for the mother, to which Trump replied with crude and misinformed language, saying that Clinton was defending the idea that it is okay to “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day.”

Not only are “partial-birth abortions” usually performed between 20 and 24 weeks — nowhere near the ninth month — Trump’s language seemed designed specifically to shock and horrify people who dislike the idea of abortion and to disregard the facts entirely.

This debate was the first of the three to bring up immigration, and the conversation went just as well as you would expect.

Trump said that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement bureau has endorsed him. In actuality, a union of immigration and customs enforcement officers endorsed him, and they do not represent the bureau as a whole.

Falling back on his argument that Mexican immigrants bring drug lords and crime, Trump said, “We have some bad hombres here.” This caused most of the audience in the Stearns cinema to break into shocked and baffled laughter as Trump, once again, displayed his lack of tact or presidential poise.

Clinton’s view on immigration does not agree with mass deportation. “He said as recently as a few weeks ago in Phoenix that every undocumented person will be subject to deportation,” she said. “I think that is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. I think it’s an idea that would rip our country apart.”

Following a question to Clinton about one of her WikiLeaked speeches, the conversation turned to Russia. If this seems like an odd and hard to follow turn, that’s because it was.

Trump denied that he had any kind of relationship with Putin — a claim that has been dragged through the wash by fact-checkers since the debate — then went on to say that it was clear Putin had no respect for Clinton.

“Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” was Clinton’s snappy reply.

“You’re the puppet,” replied Trump. (“Your mom’s the puppet,” added a few hypothetical fifth-graders.)
Clearly feeling that he had lost some control over the debate, Wallace came out with, “Mr. Trump, I’m not a potted plant here.”

At this point, it became clear that this debate was going to be no less embarrassing to our country than its predecessors. As Trump began interrupting both Clinton and the moderator to simply say, “Wrong,” and Clinton stopped trying to defend herself and started to just smile and shake her head, it became more and more difficult to take the debate at all seriously.

During yet another discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trump’s assertion that it was a “disaster,” both candidates and the moderator began to talk over each so incoherently that the NPR transcript says only “(crosstalk).”

When the topic of his predatory comments toward women came up, Trump replied, “No one has more respect for women than I do.” I would like to know what exactly “respect” means to him, because, by my definition, even some of the most sexist people I know have more respect for women than Trump does.

In the end, this third debate has just become another spectacle for people to make fun of on social media. Although the candidates did discuss some serious topics, they were never able to maintain them for very long. Despite saying in the first debate that Clinton’s attack ads were inappropriate and that he “just can’t do it,” Trump spent most of this last debate openly attacking Clinton, including a comment of, “Such a nasty woman.”

When Trump began his campaign, I was sure it was joke that would go nowhere. Now that we are on the verge of electing him, I believe everyone who is eligible to vote needs to answer an important question: “Do I really want this person to be the face of my nation?”