As we look around the room and clean up the mess left by our first presidential debate, the events of Monday night conjure reflection. It must be remembered that politics is simply the institutional personification of a set of values. These values, in an ideal world, are translated into public policy. We have an upcoming national election. Perhaps the most important election in generations. On Monday we had our first opportunity to hear the two main candidates duke it out. My only response: my head hurts.
The Lester Holt orchestrated ambush that devolved into a political food fight between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was an absolute national disgrace. If spinning in a grave were a literal response, every one of our Founding Fathers is spinning like a top at this very moment. A caller to the Glenn Beck show described watching the debate from a bar in Sydney, Australia and feeling humiliated as the Aussies laughed and mocked through the entire proceedings. Personally, my hangover may last for weeks after being exposed to this much political toxicity.
Not only was the entire debate almost completely devoid of any real meat and potatoes policy discussion, the gotcha questions pre-arranged for Trump that allowed Clinton to fire from the flank in a well-coordinated personal assault were simply ludicrous. If Trump is ever to find his inner statesman, he had better look a bit harder. I never in my life thought I would hear one presidential candidate accuse another of calling a beauty contestant fat. Is this what we have come to?
It was difficult to remain in the room and watch Clinton weave a narrative of leftist nonsense, half-truths and outright lies while Trump stood nearby and squirmed like a guilty teenager as his ego was personally demeaned. If people accuse Trump of being little more than a reality show host, not a valid politician, he just found himself trapped in a reality show not of his own doing. And he reacted like a stilted contestant who peers wide-eyed into the camera wondering how they were the one kicked off the island.
But the main contributor to my morning-after headache is the nagging feeling that our entire Republic is in deep and dire trouble. I am a patriotic American, through and through. I believe we live in the greatest country in the history of this world. America is more than a nation or a people; it is indeed a noble idea. And that idea is under assault from forces difficult to confront face to face. But those forces did show two faces the other night in the debate. And neither face looked very appealing. I have to wonder if we are standing on the precipice of the end of America as we know it.
As the debate progressed, I texted a close friend saying “Greatest country in history and this is the best we can do for our top leader? We are so hosed. This debate makes my head hurt.” Several days later my head still hurts; the hangover continues.
I have written previously that this election seems to be between a crook and a clown. This first debate, unfortunately, confirmed those very epithets. If we cannot see some semblance of real leadership from someone, and soon, we are in big trouble. That is the only take I come away with from such a farce disguised as a debate. Now where did I put the Alka Seltzer?