By Jaime Fuller, Ezekiel Kweku, and Julie Zeilinger
After the last debate, Donald Trump said that he had chivalrously avoided bringing up Bill Clinton’s history of sexual assaults and would not make the same mistake next time.
On October 7, the Washington Post released a 2005 video of Donald Trump talking about a failed attempt to seduce a married woman and bragging that his fame was a license to kiss and grope women without their permission. On the same day, KFile released several hours of tapes of his appearances on “The Howard Stern Show.” Among other things, Trump discussed his daughter Ivanka’s body and gave Stern the OK to call her “a piece of ass.”
Trump responded to the ensuing furor by releasing two separate non-apologies, one by video and one by public statement, in which he brushed off being a serial sexual predator as “locker room talk,” and attacked Bill Clinton for saying and doing “much worse.”
Before the debate, Trump appeared at a press conference and photo-op with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment or rape. Also in attendance was a woman who was raped as a 12-year-old child. Her rapist was represented by Hillary Clinton, who was assigned to the case by a judge. Trump then announced that the women would be attending the debate by his invitation. During the debate, he doubled down on his descriptions of sexual assault as “things that people say” and “locker room talk” — in the same breath as purporting to support survivors of sexual assault and rape, no less.
The fact that rape and sexual assault have been turned into fodder for political gamesmanship should disgust us all. The fake concern being paid to the very real pain and anguish of these women is an indictment of our culture. The only reason we’re hearing from or about any of these women is that their stories are convenient weapons in political skirmishes. This is rape culture, and we’re drowning in it.
Immediately after brushing off bragging about sexual assaults as “locker room talk,” Trump pivoted by saying that those things pale in comparison to ISIS “chopping off heads” and “drowning people in steel cages.” This wasn’t just the standard “my past is a distraction from serious issues” gambit that politicians use: Trump was invoking the specter of torture and death as a rationale for why the country should overlook the fact that he was a sexual predator, and it made for queasy viewing. It was just the first time he took a page out of Fascist Rhetoric for Inarticulate Clowns, too. During an exchange about Clinton’s emails, Trump said that he’d appoint a special prosecutor to “look into” her “situation.” A moment later, when Clinton said that she was glad a man with Trump’s temperament wasn’t in charge of the law, Trump shot back, “Because you would be in jail.”
Most disturbingly, Trump responded to a Muslim voter’s fears about Islamophobia by saying that Muslims should report suspected terrorist sympathizers, allowing viewers to draw the easy implication: Islamophobia is justified by terrorism. While doing this, he lied that “many people saw the bombs all over the apartment” of the San Bernardino terrorists. Not only is this a total fabrication, but it bears noting that Muslims do report suspected terrorists already. Trump’s response to Islamophobia was to stir up more of it, and to do so based on lies. This is what leaders of fascist states do to get and hold power.
Getting All Your Steps on Fitbit
Based on how much Trump was pacing around the stage, it seems like he had a lot of catching up to do on the exercise front. He must not have had enough time to do his “waving arms at rally” reps this week.
He also found time for some lip curls …
… and “creepily standing behind my opponent” squats.
In response to a question about whether she could be a good president to all Americans, Clinton invoked an Ethiopian child named “Felix” who was watching TV one day and “said” to his “mother,” “Will he send me back to Ethiopia if he gets elected?” This marked the first time in this campaign that a woke child has been invoked onstage at a debate, and it really was a proud moment. In fact, immediately after, my toddler turned to me, her face shining angelically, and said, “Father, the candidates are capable of empathy! How wonderfully encouraging!”
In perhaps his finest moment of the debate, Donald Trump mounted a 100-percent factual defense of Twitter. “Now, tweeting happens to be a modern-day form of communication. I mean, you can like it or not like it,” Trump said, reasonably. “It’s a very effective way of communication. So you can put it down but it is a very effective form of communication. I’m not un-proud of it, to be honest with you.” As someone who is also “not un-proud” of their Twitter account, I empathized with Trump and deeply appreciated this stirring defense of that embattled website. Inspiring.
The Last Remaining Shred of Empathy in This Election
The last question of the debate forced Trump and Clinton to say something nice about each other. Shocker: They both thought of things and didn’t simply ignore the question! Clinton likes Trump’s kids (OK, maybe Clinton completely failed at not sort-of dodging this question), and Trump likes that Clinton never gives up. Someone please bottle this sliver of kindness, and save it for posterity. We didn’t know that such emotions still existed in this presidential election, and although they might not be able to survive long in 2016, if we store it in a time capsule along with a gift basket of pumpkin spice–flavored snacks and this Vine, someone in the future will be able to plant it in a far more suitable climate.
This debate had a town-hall format, and the questions were supposed to come from audience members who were undecided. Which made everyone wonder: How is it possible that you’re still undecided between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? What piece of new information could a person need in order to make up their mind? Have they been asleep for the past nine months? How do they get their news on Mars?? It’s like carefully deliberating between drinking a cold glass of water and getting a bucket of warm urine poured on your head — perhaps you prefer the urine, but in any case it shouldn’t take you long to decide.
Fortunately, none of the people who asked questions at the debate actually seemed legitimately undecided. Cheers broke out when the candidates tossed red meat to their respective bases, and all of the questions fell into recognizable partisan frames, too. (It’s hard, for instance, to imagine that a Muslim woman asking a question about Islamophobia is undecided.)
One of these “undecided” voters was Ken Bone. Here is a picture of Ken Bone. Glory in it. Bask in it. In fact, let’s let Ken Bone be a cipher for ordinary, plainspoken human dignity — which means it’s important that the media not interview him or find out anything about him. Who knows what he’ll say when he’s not reading from a card? Who knows what’s in his past? Let Ken Bone be the hero we need right now.
I mean, look at this beautiful man. Let him live in our imaginations, where he can be pure and unsullied.
“He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.” —2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on 2016 Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence and his views.
Sure, buddy. You may be standing next to Trump. But he sure ain’t standing next to you.
This probably hasn’t been the greatest weekend to be Trump’s running mate.
Our So-Called Changed Trump
On Thursday night, Trump went to New Hampshire for a town hall. It had a very similar setup to the debate on Sunday night. That is, if debates featured questions like, “What is your favorite childhood memory? Go Donald!” and let Trump spend much of his time explaining why he only talks about his good poll numbers. The Republican nominee insisted the event was not debate prep, and it was so much like a community theater performance of his rallies that it was easy to believe him at first. But then the debate happened, and it became clear that doing a cabaret of his greatest hits was exactly what he needed to do to prep for the debate and every other event for the rest of the election. His debate performance was like if a 3-D-printed Twitter egg made America a mixtape of its favorite tweets or comment-section finds. Who needs to practice or process new information when your entire brand depends on being the same person you’ve always been, telling it like you always have?
It’s all Trump has been capable of his entire presidential campaign: recycling the same amalgamation of noises and disappointed squishy faces that got him attention in the first place. After the primary ended, everyone expected him to start talking about different issues, or that he would talk about the same issues in gentler ways. It never happened. The “many people” he has been citing for ages were saying the same untrue things. After the Access Hollywood video came out on Friday, Trump said, “I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me.” Trump hasn’t changed. He may have spoken in more measured tones at the second debate, but he was using that calm voice to note that he wanted to put his opponent in jail.
The man tweeted this after he “apologized” for bragging about sexual assault.
Anyone Who Thinks That This Debate Means That Donald Trump’s Campaign Is in Fine Shape
More than two-dozen Republicans unendorsed their nominee in the lead-up to the debate. FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 81 percent chance of winning the election. The betting markets have abandoned Trump.
The former head of the Republican Party tweeted this during the debate:
Anyone Who Wanted the Candidates to Actually Address Reproductive Rights
While Clinton briefly mentioned Roe v. Wade and the right to choose in her description of an ideal Supreme Court nominee, the moderators didn’t ask about abortion. Even though this year saw a surge of attacks on abortion providers, a significant increase in abortion bans, and one of the most important abortion-related Supreme Court cases in over a decade, the topic apparently only warranted a throwaway mention in a wide-ranging response to a completely unrelated question.
Women — who are the majority of American voters — noticed.
Also, Anyone Who Wanted to Hear About Climate Change
Reminder: Carbon dioxide levels officially passed 400 ppm recently. That’s bad. It’d be nice if we could talk about that at some point, hearing either how we should deal with it, or, if necessary, a more involved explanation of why some people think global warming is a hoax started by China. Maybe the next debate? Thank god it will be the last debate. Not the last one ever, just of this presidential election. We hope.