Why We All Lost the Debate

6 minute read

If you only read one thing: Donald Trump arrived in St. Louis with the singular task of stopping the bleeding after a devastating 48 hours in his campaign. His no-holds-barred performance did just that, as he attempted to keep the GOP focused on its common enemy, his rival Hillary Clinton. For that, Trump’s team was calling his showing a historic victory. But here’s the thing: Yes, the debate was historic, but it wasn’t a victory for anyone. We all lost. With our politics descending deeper into factlessness and the gutter of personal attacks, Sunday night’s showdown set a modern presidential record for how low our debates can go. Most of this was Trump’s fault, who went full-Breitbart on Clinton as he threw the kitchen sink, the bathtub and the fridge at her and her husband, including bringing three women who have accused the former president of sexual impropriety into the debate hall and essentially threatening to jail her. Clinton seemed off-put by the attacks, and struggled to mount her own defense of the charges, instead directing her supporters to her website.

Already down in the polls nationally and in the swing states he needs to have even a chance of winning on Nov. 8—and that was before Friday’s bombshell—Trump won over no converts, as he catered to those who already support him. Clinton certainly missed opportunities and her uneven performance didn’t do her any favors, but she did no harm to her campaign. The food fight may likely be among the most memorable moments of this agonizing campaign, but it will certainly not be the most effective.

Hillary Clinton’s best moment: Refusing to let Trump off the hook for his comments about sexually assaulting women, and tying them to his litany of insults and attacks against the Khan family, Judge Curiel, and President Obama. “He owes the president an apology, he owes our country an apology, and he needs to take responsibility for his actions and his words,” she said.

Donald Trump’s best moment: Responding to Clinton’s deflection to a question about her private speeches to banks with a reference to Abraham Lincoln, Trump drew laughs as he questioned Clinton’s honesty. “Look, now she’s blaming — she got caught in a total lie,” he said. “Her papers went out to all her friends at the banks, Goldman Sachs and everybody else, and she said things — WikiLeaks that just came out. And she lied. Now she’s blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln. … OK, Honest Abe, Honest Abe never lied.”

Hillary Clinton’s worst moment: Her deflection on why she boasted about saying one thing to one group of people and another to others, as revealed in a Wikileaks hack of her campaign chairman. “And I was making the point that it is hard sometimes to get the Congress to do what you want to do and you have to keep working at it. And, yes, President Lincoln was trying to convince some people, he used some arguments, convincing other people, he used other arguments. That was a great — I thought a great display of presidential leadership.”

Donald Trump’s worst moment: When he continued to cast his comments as “locker room banter,” while proving to be unable of making a display of contrition. “It was locker room talk, as I told you,” he repeated over and again. “That was locker room talk.”

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Why Donald Trump Went Nuclear in Sunday’s Debate
A desperate bid to rally the base [TIME]

Donald Trump’s Lewd Comments Leave the GOP Scrambling
A cascade of congressmen and women asked Trump to end his campaign [TIME]

What the Town Hall Debate Showed About Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s Campaigns
Both struggled in the more casual setting [TIME]

Why Donald Trump’s Call for a Special Prosecutor Is Different
A historic promise [TIME]

How Donald Trump Turned 2016 Into a Referendum on Gender
He’s running as a man more than Clinton is running as a woman [TIME]

Sound Off

“It tells you that he’s insecure. He pumps himself up by putting other people down. Not a character trait that I would advise for somebody in the Oval Office.” — President Obama at a Democratic fundraiser on Trump’s comments

“He said last night very clearly that that was talk, not actions. And I believe him. And — and I think the contrast between that and what the Clintons were involved in 20 years ago, the four women that were present last night, was pretty dramatic for most Americans. I mean I remember those days… I’m a — I’m a little bit older than you and I remember the extraordinary avalanche of scandals that came out of — of President Bill Clinton’s despicable behavior. Even with a 23-year-old intern name Monica Lewinsky.” — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence following his running-mate in attacking Bill Clinton

Bits and Bites

What You Missed While Not Watching the Second Presidential Debate [TIME]

Donald Trump Meets With Bill Clinton Accusers Before Debate [TIME]

Watch Hillary Clinton Criticize Donald Trump Over Lewd Video at the Debate [TIME]

Watch Donald Trump Explain the Lewd Video at the Second Debate [TIME]

Watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Decline to Shake Hands at the Second Debate [TIME]

Read the Transcript of the Second Presidential Debate [TIME]

Donald Trump Forced Hillary Clinton to Play Defense at the Debate [TIME]

Here’s the History Behind Hillary Clinton’s Abraham Lincoln Defense at the Debate [TIME]

Donald Trump Defended Early-Morning Tweeting at the Debate [TIME]

Donald Trump Openly Disagreed With His Running Mate on Russia [TIME]

President Obama: Donald Trump’s ‘Degrading’ Comments Reveal He’s ‘Insecure’ [TIME]

Exclusive: Anti-Clinton PAC Adding TV Commercials [TIME]

Paul Ryan Finds Wisconsin Event in Trouble With—or Without—Donald Trump [TIME]

More Must-Reads from TIME

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