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The Gutter And U.S. Presidential Debates

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I hate to say it but the second "presidential debate" that featured what was supposed to be a "town hall" format turned out to be a monumental flop. It fell very low on the expectation scale -- now reaching the very bottom of the pot or, dare I say it, the gutter. As I sat glued to my television set at the unfolding political theater and its two star players, a wave of involuntary depression washed over me as I suddenly faced the stark reality that American politics had finally hit and reached rock bottom. The gutter, it seems, is the new low (sorry Michelle Obama, we just can't seem to "go high") and the place for American politics.

For starters, the event was touted and spun by the denizens of the media gorging itself on the billions of "advertising dollars" and feeding at the trough of greed, as all about the "little, ordinary people." Those assembled in the small room, intimate enough for them to interact with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, ask questions, and raise genuine community concerns. But what did we get? We got a bare-knuckled mudfest, interspersed with some worn and tired issues, and an event that drowned out the voices of the people. In the end this childish political bickering turned "Reality TV Politics on Steroids" starring in the feature roles, a small-minded, prickly man, toting a monumental ego, and an articulate, petite, determined woman.

Trump shamed the very notion of a presidential debate and the very essence of informed public discourse. He cheapened it with his bullying and bombast, turning something that was supposed to be about ordinary people asking sincere questions, into a quarrelsome verbal fiasco akin to squashing a box of rotten apples with a baseball bat -- an aroma of fetid stench permeating the body politick. Such gutter-style politics, although not new to American politics, certainly reached new and dizzying heights and unprecedented lows for this informed day and age.

But beyond Trump's nauseating gropefest and the media's salivating over "he did and she did," and former US president Bill Clinton's ram goat tendencies from his days as governor of Arkansas, the debate, if you can call it that, was as uninspiring as yesterday's stale green salad. I think that most Americans, at least the sane ones, looked on at this public spectacle with mouths ajar and wordlessly saying WTF? One of these periodically sane Americans was Republican Party House Speaker Paul Ryan who ditched Donald Trump THE EVERY NEXT DAY saying that he can no longer defend his party's presidential nominee. In political speak what Ryan is saying and doing is giving up. He's thrown in the towel because he sees the writing on the political wall -- Trump is toast. Hello, President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But the verbal contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continues to be a beacon of an unadulterated, humiliating, degrading and weary crystallization of a United States presidential campaign gone horribly wrong. Indeed, two days after a 2005 recording of Donald Trump gleefully admitting to serial sexual assault was played in an endless loop on every major television network -- "You can do anything," "I moved on her like a b*tch" and "Grab them by the p*ssy" are now become part of the new political lexicon.

Still, Donald Trump and his supporters live in a parallel universe where "up is down and down is up." So challenged by moderator and CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper, to explain himself, with a straight face, the man promptly said: "I didn't say that at all." In Trumpland what he says IS the reality, facts, truth and reality be damned. But I knew things would get really crazy when Trump held an impromptu press conference an hour before the debate. He "featured" three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and a fourth woman whose accused rapist was represented in court by Hillary.

Naturally, anyone with half a brain, including The Donald himself, would ask the question as to why was this done. Undoubtedly, there was no concrete point to this exercise beyond Trump's desire to lob a flaming bottle of gasoline into the debate. This prompted MSNBC's Chris Matthews to comment: "Donald Trump is no longer running for president. He is running to be not as bad as Bill Clinton." Ouch! And from there things got progressively worse when Trump took the unprecedented step of threatening to throw Hillary Clinton in jail.

Soon the media punditocracy was all over this statement elevating it to the realm of a major news event and thus keeping Trump's name in the news. This adds to growing public opinion that these debates have degenerated to "reality TV politics." It showed just how unprepared Donald Trump is to be president of the United States and his lack of composure -- temperament -- and inability to really back Hillary Clinton in a corner. He's so thin-skinned, arrogant and egotistical that he continued to refer to the former US Secretary of State and First Lady as "she, she and she." After sort of apologizing for his groping women statement, Trump fell back into his old self, insulting, bullying and shouting at Hillary Clinton without even missing a beat.

The debate changes absolutely nothing in the race for the White House. Trump threw copious amounts of red meat to his followers that they were craving for weeks. So having gorged themselves on packaged vulgarity, innuendo, lies, insults and inappropriate pacing we eagerly await November 8. The Trump Effect has already set in and the Republican Party continues to unravel even as their standard bearer hunkers down and refuses to change course. The Clinton campaign will continue to deny Trump any path to the 270 electoral votes that he needs to win the White House.

Hey, when your opponent "goes low, we go high" is working. Trump is Trump's worst enemy. And while Trump continues to attack Trump, Hillary Clinton should be content to, well, just let "Trump be Trump."

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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