After the release of a video in which
On Sunday night Trump squandered that opportunity, or perhaps he just failed to show what Pence was hoping for. Even before the debate began, Trump appeared at a news conference with four women: three who had accused President
It was a sickening stunt that foreshadowed Trump’s attempt during the debate to deflect criticism of what he continued to minimize as “locker-room talk” by insisting that his comments paled in comparison to Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds (not to mention the atrocities of
Of course the former president isn't on the ballot this year, and somehow holding Hillary Clinton responsible for her husband's infidelities is ridiculous. Nevertheless, Trump attempted to tarnish Hillary Clinton with her husband's sins and accused her of some of her own, including discrediting her husband's accusers. He recycled the popular right-wing meme that she was heard laughing at the 12-year-old rape victim in a recorded interview about the case years later. (She appears to be laughing at some of the absurdities of the case, not at the victim.)
Rather than litigate that issue, Hillary Clinton invoked First Lady Michelle Obama's mantra that "when they go low, you go high." As for Trump's "locker-room talk," she effectively sought to put the comments on the tape in the context of Trump's other sexist and demeaning comments about women — and his xenophobic remarks about Mexicans and Muslims.
Trump's decision to bring up Bill Clinton's sex scandals wasn't the only example of his failure to use the debate to reverse the declining fortunes of his campaign. As he did in the first debate, he displayed peevishness toward his opponent and also accused the moderators of unfairness. Even voters who agree with him about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to transmit classified information must have been taken aback when, after threatening to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her, he said: "You'd be in jail." Candidates who promise to put their political opponents behind bars — or "open up the libel laws" to make it easier for politicians to sue newspapers — betray such a warped view of presidential power that they have no business occupying the office.
When he wasn’t hurling insults at his opponent or complaining about unfair treatment by the moderators, Trump did manage to make some substantive points about the failure of the Affordable Care Act and U.S. foreign policy in Syria (though he seemed to adopt a less hawkish posture toward intervention in that conflict than his running mate and inaccurately portrayed President
Perhaps because she realizes she now enjoys an advantage in the race, Hillary Clinton failed to respond in detail to some questions, including one about the destruction of some of her emails. She seemed to believe that, given Trump's history of distortions, it was enough to remind viewers that they could fact-check his assertions online. She brushed aside a question about a WikiLeaks document dealing with her speeches to financial institutions despite the fact that they were a significant issue in her primary contest against Bernie Sanders.
Voters don't like overconfidence, but given Trump's spectacular unfitness for office — a fact that finally has dawned on leaders of his own party — it's understandable that Hillary Clinton might want to play it safe.