Notes on the Early Debates

We are now less than five weeks out from the election and we are past the first set of debates – the last debate being the VP debate on Tuesday night. I think it is quite obvious who won the Presidential debate last week – clearly Donald Trump is not a person that we should be putting anywhere close to being responsible for making decisions regarding foreign or domestic policy. His economic ideas are crackpot and his foreign policy is misguided at best, possibly a capitulation to Vladimir Putin at the worst. While Hillary stumbled a bit early in the debate (while Trump was still focused for 25 minutes or so), she took control over the last half of the debate, and finally shoved the knife in deep right at the end with the allusion to the Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, and his wildly denigrating comments after she won that title.

How Trump handled that moment, and the continuing fallout for the rest of the week, is emblematic of his attitude towards women in general. It is telling that this issue arose out of Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Pageant, which is by itself somewhat problematic as it can be seen as an exercise in objectifying women. The whole premise of the pageant is that there is some objective standard of beauty that we can (or even should) use to rate women. But to compound matters, how Trump treated Ms. Machado during the year she was the reigning Miss Universe was horrible – calling her names such as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” (which is doubly insulting because it implicates her Hispanic heritage). And during this last week, rather than apologizing like any normal candidate would have done, Trump doubled down by attaching Ms. Machado personally and implying that the Clinton Campaign pulled favors to make Ms. Machado a citizen just for this issue.

I could go on about several other times that Trump showed a complete lack of respect for women and their struggles in the economy and in the world. How any women at this time will vote for him is frankly puzzling to me. It seems that even the Bush women – all the way from the elder Barbara to the younger Barbara – are lining up to vote for Hillary, and possibly bringing some of the men with them. I think it is a long time coming, as the Republican party has been leaving the Bush family behind slowly ever since 2009. I say to those Republicans voting for Hillary because of the misogyny coming from the top of their ticket, “Welcome” and let’s work together to improve upon the gains that women have made in the past century and leave behind the rank misogyny Mr. Trump offers.
A final note on the Vice Presidential Debate – While I think that Mr. Pence did win the debate on style (and that is something that Tim Kaine needs to work on), he didn’t win on substance. His total inability to correctly answer any type of question about Mr. Trump’s statements belays the fundamental truth that the Republican party is living in an alternate reality. In the end, however, I think that Tim Kaine did right the ship at the end and gave a wonderful answer when asked how he dealt with the struggle between his faith and politics. I have a luxury to oppose capital punishment because I am not an elected leader that must make those decisions, but Tim Kaine’s answer was a great description of the struggle that people of faith go through when the need for leadership conflicts with their faith. Mr. Pence completely side-stepped the question and went on the answer only the question that he wanted to answer about his abortion stance. In the end, this debate may be remembered mostly for the impact on future elections within the Republican party, but I doubt there was any impact in this election.


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