If you were laying bets on whether the ugliest Presidential election cycle in the recent history of American politics could get a cosmetic facelift at the third and final debate, a historically nasty exchange has probably left you much poorer on many levels.
The main takeaway is clear: Republican nominee Donald J Trump will turn the last 20 days of the campaign into a spectacle of coarseness and soreness. He laid the groundwork for that on the stage in Las Vegas. He described his opponent, Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as “crooked” and a “liar”. She returned the favour by implying that he is a Russian stooge. That they never even bothered to exchange basic pleasantries or courtesies shows that in this divisive race, civility is a casualty.
When asked whether he would support Clinton if she were to become the next President, Trump refused to provide a direct answer to that question, saying instead, “I will keep you in suspense.” Such suspense is killing whatever likelihood there was for altering the disordered dash into the final stretch to 8 November. That query, interestingly enough, was not posed to Clinton; her reply would have been interesting to consider.
In the essence of the remainder of the debate, issues discussed at previous outings were regurgitated and recapped. In fact, quite often, lines that had been used earlier were recycled. There was a stunning lack of originality of expression that underscores the reality that the outcome of these elections will be decided on rhetoric rather than reason. That’s often the case with retail politics, but this is the year that phenomenon has become all-consuming, partly of course, thanks to the presence of Trump, who has little to articulate beyond anger and apprehension.
I may have misheard but at one point, I thought Trump said the “country is stanging.” That may well have been a Trumpism born of conflating stagnation and standing still. But if that was what he said, it was again indicative of how his thought process has stalled, idling in the territory of conspiracy theories, some of which, given the nature of the Clinton machine, may even be valid but are cancelled out by his inability to address them sensibly or coherently.
Given the venue, the city of Las Vegas, known to host prizefights, there may have been the expectation that this debate would deliver a knockout blow or even a technical KO. But it didn’t come and that could be because Trump may already be on the ropes in terms of his prospects going ahead. In fact, this was his last opportunity to salvage his cratering campaign by landing some telling blows. Questions relating to the Clinton Foundation, immigration, trade, and security offered him several openings, but instead of well-directed blows, he resorted, as he often does, to flailing about. In that sense, Clinton can claim to have come off victorious in this final round.
For those in India, this was also the debate in which the country was finally mentioned. Trump did so, referring to its growth targets as he spoke of having “just left some high representatives” of the country. Obviously, such contact is unremarkable, if it did occur, since every nation has to do its due diligence and Indian officials have done so in past elections as well, with presences at both party conventions. But, if there’s a matter on which the two Presidential candidates may act alike, it is with regard to India; whether in cultivating stronger trade ties or in perpetuating Pakistan’s bad behaviour.
That was a passing reference. There were more significant matters to reflect upon and they hardly received the rational reactions they deserved.
At the beginning of the debate, its moderator sought “silence please, blessed silence.” That may very well a sentiment shared by the millions that watched this altercation after the debate had concluded.
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Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 09:49:08 IST