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The Last Debate: How Low Will It Go?

By       Message Richard Eskow       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump
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What's worse than a political debate that fails to give voters the information they need? One that misinforms them, while at the same time demeaning the democratic process. The final 2016 presidential debate takes place Wednesday night, and expectations are low.

Donald Trump will undoubtedly disgorge more of his predictable and already tiresome tirades. Words will once again pour out in randomly shuffled stacks, like cards dealt by a drunken croupier. One imagines him under the hot lights, reeking of narcissism, Trump "Success" aftershave, and flop sweat.

Substance? If Trump manages to bring up jobs and trade, he may reprise his only strong moment from the first two debates. Otherwise he'll probably resort, as he often does, to spewing insults like a Don Rickles wannabe at a third rate celebrity roast.

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And be forewarned: There will be sniffling.

Once again, Hillary Clinton will be called upon to maintain uncanny composure while being barraged by invective so poisonous it should come with a biohazard warning. Unlike her opponent, she'll probably allude to several important issues. But she may spend far too much time belaboring the rather obvious fact that Donald Trump is a horrible human being.

"When they go low, we go high," said First Lady Michelle Obama, a statement that has already proven inaccurate. Recent Clinton ads attacking Trump have featured everyone from military veterans to obnoxious movie characters. As the New York Times reports...

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"The Clinton campaign calculates that its candidate is likelier to prevail by 'disqualifying' Mr. Trump -- using ads to make the idea of voting for him socially unacceptable in professional suburbs -- among additional well-educated voters ... than by holding on to working-class voters tempted by Mr. Trump's populism ..."

In one sense, it's hard to blame them for devoting so much effort to dissing the Donald. An old political cliche' says, "Don't interrupt your enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself." It must be tempting to take that one step further and offer a helping hand.

Tempting, but a mistake. Many voters can be persuaded to despise a privileged, bigoted, misogynistic, bullying, lying, pompous, self-regarding jackass. But Trump has undoubtedly convinced most of those voters already.

Only 12 percent of registered Republicans felt Trump should drop out after his sexual assault boasts became public. More have probably been swayed since then. But if they haven't turned on him by now, a campaign ad from Hillary Clinton isn't likely to move them.

Clinton could choose to "go high" instead, using the debate platform to offer uplifting proposals around the issues that matter most to voters -- issues like jobs, wages, growth, student debt, and criminal justice.

When it comes to uplift, moderator Chris Wallace won't be much help. Wallace made it clear that he plans to abdicate his journalistic responsibility on Wednesday night. He likened the moderator's job to "being a referee in a heavyweight championship fight," a statement that trivializes the democratic process.

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"I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad," said Wallace, apparently unmindful of the Fifth Estate's traditional role in our civic life.

Trump will shower the audience with falsehoods -- on the state of our democracy (the game is "rigged," but not in the way he says), the threats to our national security, and the patriotism of our neighbors. When the moderator won't challenge falsehoods, the candidate who lies the least must spend the most time correcting the record. Advantage: Trump.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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