Presidential debate has morphed from educational forum to ugly clash

Mackenzie George, Editor in Chief

“I’m a gentleman, Hillary.”

It was just one of the lies exchanged on the debate stage Sunday night in St. Louis.

I was supposed to write an entertainment piece for the online Stampede this month. I was headed to “Birth of a Nation,” Nate Parker’s drama chronicling Nat Turner’s slave rebellion of 1831.  I didn’t make it to the movie theater, but there was plenty of entertainment to be had in the comfort of my own home.

The second presidential debate could have been misconstrued as a lengthy episode of some reality TV show. Moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, the 94 minutes were highlighted by interruptions on both sides and closed with an unlikely question: could the candidates name one quality they respected about the other?

It was perhaps the highest point of a debate that started extremely low and only fell throughout the night. Hillary Clinton couldn’t find a decent thing about  Donald Trump but admired his children. “His children are incredibly able and devoted,” Clinton said. “And I think that says a lot about Donald.” And for a full 30 seconds, a loudmouthed Donald Trump was replaced with someone almost sincere, complimenting Hillary’s fight to never give up.

It is troubling that a presidential debate opened with a question about whether the program was appropriate for school children to watch. What used to be an educated discussion on policy and global issues has been reduced to a finger-pointing argument of “Who’s worse?” It’s disappointing, certainly, and the debate only went downhill from there.

After tapes of Trump’s self-proclaimed “locker room talk” were released over the weekend, they were bound to be an integral part of the show. Somehow, though, instead of holding himself accountable for his actions (a then 59-year-old’s bragging about the ability to sexually assault women because he’s wealthy!) he rerouted the answer into a description of how awful ISIS was. Rather than accepting that he had said he sexually assaulted women, he ranted about what a sexual predator Bill Clinton was. Trump’s arguments might have been effective if he was running against Bill Clinton in 1993. But his opponent is Hillary, and I wish that not only had Trump focused on her, but that he had held himself accountable for those awful things he said. I cannot understand how women can be comfortable voting for someone who so blatantly disregards women’s most basic rights.

Trump couldn’t mention his plans to defeat ISIS but said they are “foolproof” and “the terrorist group will “be defeated very quickly. I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

I’ll be eagerly awaiting those blueprints, whenever he finds them and decides to share. Until then, his racist comments, terrifying attitude towards women, and insults of a gold star general have my ears completely occupied.

Trump can’t match Hillary toe-to-toe on the debate stage. She’s more poised and prepares more efficiently for these debates. She’s had to; she’s a trained politician, has been one for 30 years. So instead of attempting to outmatch her, Trump found other ways to try to level the playing field: lurking behind Hillary as she answered a question, sniffling loudly, inviting Bill Clinton’s victims to a debate and seating them directly behind Trump’s own family. I do not want a President who refuses to learn about this country and uses playground bully tactics to try to win. I do not want a misogynic racist in office. I do not want the man who goes on tweeting sprees at 3 a.m. to be entrusted with the nuclear codes. I certainly don’t want him to pick from his shortlist of white male conservative judges to decide who will fill the Supreme Court judiciary seats.

I find it sad that some people hate Clinton so much that they would prefer someone like Donald Trump as our commander in chief. Although Clinton is not the ideal candidate, I wouldn’t hesitate to take her lengthy political experience and policy over Trump’s.

Trump complained multiple times throughout the evening that the moderators were allotting him less time than Hillary. He spoke for over a minute longer than she did.

He repeated the claim that he’d been against in Iraq from the start (he wasn’t).

He admitted that he and his running mate had different opinions about the Aleppo crisis: “He [Pence] and I haven’t spoken. And I disagree,” Trump said of the Indiana governor’s idea of preparing United States military forces to strike the Assad regime in Aleppo.

Over the weekend, Trump has lost the support of several big-name Republicans. Gov. John Kasich, Sen. John McCain, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others, have said they will not vote for the GOP nominee. If I were a voting Republican, I wouldn’t either.

Trump has alienated himself from so many groups: women, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, the LGBT community, veterans and their families, that I am at a loss to explain why he is still in the running for the position of President of the United States. For those at CMR who are of voting age, I ask you to consider not which candidate you dislike more, but who is capable of leading our country.