When They Go Low, So Do We: The Final Presidential Debate

Campaign 2016 Debate, Las Vegas, USA - 19 Oct 2016

I came to this final presidential debate not looking for more proof that Trump was despicable. I came looking for more reasons to feel some measure of hope about voting for Hillary. And at the beginning of the debate, I got some of that. But it didn’t last long.

You see, this is where it all falls apart for me. It’s clear to most any liberal person that Trump is a liar, an egomaniac, a fascist-dictator wannabe, a misogynist, a racist, shockingly uninformed, and a serious threat. That’s what was obvious, has been, and continues to be. So for me it’s easy to post repeatedly about the horror-show that continues to be Donald Trump.

What seems more difficult and what I wish we would also see, are those same people posting about how Hillary wouldn’t answer the direct question placed to her about the contents of the Wikileaks emails. She turned the conversation, once again and without missing a breath, to the Russians. Forget for a moment that the new Cold War rhetoric being expressed recently is disturbing in its own right and needs to be watched closely. The truth of the matter is that these are two separate conversations. The question was about the content of the emails, not their origin. If you’re willing to overlook the content and her direct refusal to address it, that’s a problem for me. No one gets a free pass because Trump is despicable. And no one – and that includes Hillary’s most devoted supporters – should be okay with it. 

This was the moment when Hillary lost me. Again. And this was the moment when Hillary became openly defensive and lost composure. Not because she was wronged or offended, but because she was confronted by the mediator on a question she didn’t want to answer, was afraid to answer. I wasn’t okay when Nixon used similar distraction tactics regarding the Pentagon Papers by accusing the New York Times of printing “stolen goods.” And I’m not ok with Hillary doing it now. “What is important about that is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans,” was Hillary’s response. No. That’s not the only thing of importance. Nor does it have anything to do with the question asked. I wish Chris Wallace had pushed Hillary harder on this. The American people deserve at least that.  And if you’re thinking about defending Hillary not answering this or you think that the source of the leak erases any credibility or importance of the leak itself and what it reveals, I would ask you to look a little closer at why exactly you would accept that.

When asked by Chris Wallace about “Pay for Play” favors surrounding the Clinton Foundation and why people should trust Hillary given these unsettling details, she ignored the question entirely and, instead, listed off all the good things the foundation does, which had nothing to do with the question. Not answering this is a problem. It’s a deep concern and it is why so many people do not trust or believe Hillary Clinton. These were direct questions that millions of potential Hillary voters needed an answer to. And deserved an answer to. This was her last opportunity to either defend her actions, place them into a different context to help us understand them, or admit they were wrong. Something. Anything rather than change the subject and avoid answering for her actions.

But she didn’t. Instead, Hillary dodging and refusing to answer these questions only added fuel to the fire. It only raised more questions, more doubt, more concerns. She was given a direct opportunity by Chris Wallace to do the opposite. She chose not to. This. Does. Not. Instill. Confidence. Make no mistake, she lost votes because of this. That was her choice. Don’t justify it, acknowledge it.

And once again, defending Hillary here by replying “But Trump is so much worse” is the same kind of distraction. It’s not the question. It’s not the problem we’re addressing. Address the issue. Why would anyone be comfortable letting ANY presidential candidate get away with this?

I don’t expect anything honest from Trump. But I need to have higher expectations of Hillary.

And remember, I’m not saying don’t vote for Hillary, I’m just saying demand honest answers from her. Don’t let her off the hook because Trump is worse. We all lose if we do that.

I keep hearing the phrase “When they go low, we go high.” But what I saw last night was a presidential candidate who chooses to occasionally stoop to Trump’s level by changing the subject or using the same distraction techniques that Trump applies on tough questions . What I saw was a presidential candidate who will make equally snide and instigating comments instead of showing more restraint. Once again, Hillary got lost in talking about what was wrong with Trump and taking every opportunity to give him back a little of the petty taunting and mocking he used on her. I’ll say it again: I expect more from Hillary and from our president than I do from Donald Trump. I’m not saying it’s easy not to get caught up in Trump’s nastiness, but this was their third debate together. I had hoped for more restraint from Hillary. So many opportunities to go high when he went low. And occasionally she did. Especially early on in the debate. But as the debate progressed, what I saw more often than I would have liked were both candidates going low simultaneously. They both tried to start the evening off differently, and ended up devolving together.

Bash Trump. He deserves it. Every ounce of it. Call him out. But I wish more people would take the high road and hold their preferred candidate accountable too. I share and believe in much of what Bernie Sanders represents and stands for. However, when he stated his position on gun-control, I had no problem publicly writing about how I felt he needed to seriously evolve on this issue. When he wasn’t able to put together any kind of foreign policy agenda during the early primaries, I was openly critical and called this out as a major problem that needed to be addressed. Even when Bernie didn’t come out in support of Apple refusing to unlock the iPhone for the government, I openly criticized his tepid, wimpy response.

It doesn’t take much for people who already don’t like a candidate to criticize them. What’s important – what is most effective and crucial – is for their biggest supporters to be able to be critical.

I have planned to vote for Hillary against Trump. As despicable as Trump is and even though she still has my vote, this debate made it that much tougher for me to cast that vote for Hillary. I know that’s a hard concept for some out there who cannot see any portion of the picture that doesn’t include Trump, but know that it is a real issue, a real concern. For millions of people. And no amount of frustration or scolding or disbelief will make it go away. However, direct answers from Hillary could have changed all that. Instead, many of us got what we dreaded: a candidate who confirmed many of our fears and showed an inability to step up and take responsibility – to answer the tough questions posed to her – at one of the most crucial moments in U.S. history.

What a sad state of affairs to have a Democratic presidential candidate who can’t make me and millions of others feel good about at least voting against Trump. Instead of walking away feeling some small measure of hope and strength, I will walk away feeling horrible, dirty, and powerless. It didn’t need to be that way.

When They Go Low, So Do We: The Final Presidential Debate

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