America, we have peered into the abyss, and it has stared us right back in the face, pursed its lips, sniffed — and grabbed us, by our very worst and most base fears.
If we do not hand him the keys to the soon-to-be-plated-gold White House, Donald J. Trump might campaign for president for the rest of recorded time.
The takeaway from the third and final debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the man who did not win an Emmy for the most recent season of “The Apprentice” is not that they did not talk about much about climate change, income inequality, or prison reform.
And while it’s disappointing that cannabis reform was not addressed, in a city that is poised to become the international hub of marijuana-friendly tourism if Nevada voters choose to legalize recreational cannabis next month, at least least nobody was accused of being on drugs — aside from a despondent public, self-medicating with whatever’s closest by (which would be slightly easier to do if marijuana is rescheduled, as Hillary says she’d do, or just as easy or had as it is now under Trump, who says he is opposed to legalization.)
The biggest take-away from the final presidential debate was that Trump is planning — possibly, probably, because who can really say with him — to not accept his inevitable defeat on Election Day in less than three weeks’ time.
With oddsmakers at Five Thirty Eight and in Las Vegas — where the two candidates launched an offensive of quips, one-liners, and “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” rhetorical flourishes, not far from where a wall of taco trucks blockaded one of Trump’s brassy skyscraping hotels —projecting Clinton a near 9-to-1 favorite, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he’d in fact end his campaign and accept the results if he lost.
And he refused to say.
“What I’m saying now is I will tell you at the time,” he said, contempt dripping from every hair on his head. “I will keep you in suspense, OK?”
Suspense. Suspense! Suspense, the name of the horror-themed suite at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Suspense, the name of the red-eyed, yellow-fanged hellhound who would patrol the south lawn of the pink-marbled White House, should Trump be allowed within tweeting distance of the Oval Office.
That an American political candidate would constantly and repeatedly voice disgust and disdain for the democratic process is indeed “horrifying,” as Hillary said in her riposte.
Then again, in a year when one of the two major parties’ nominees has been caught on tape boasting about sexual assault, enjoined his gun-toting followers to take a shot at the other candidate — OK, just joking, ha-ha — and egged on Russian hackers to find the rest of the emails missing from Hillary Clinton’s personal server, “horrifying” has been par for the course all year long.
Clinton, for her part, stayed on her feet and kept poking “The Russian Bear.” The Donald, dissing him for being on reality TV while she was orchestrating Osama Bin Laden’s assassination, joking that he thinks the Emmys are also rigged against him (which: he does), and, generally, finding herself being dragged down a notch after enduring months of elementary-school level attacks.
And — oh no dear Gaia why, who is prepping this guy please make it all go away.
Watch: Chris Wallace had to shush the crowd after they laughed when Trump said "nobody has more respect for women than I do." pic.twitter.com/bkathsU3Lu
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) October 20, 2016
What else was there for us? New words and phrases. Reinventing the language. Bad hombres (also the title of a new cop buddy flick starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and whichever Mexican actor is allowed across the border). The real debate soon became whether Trump thinks our problems are big league or bigly, which, possibly, is the only thing America would prefer to discuss after this last exchange.
I Don't Know Putin
You're the Puppet
Radical Islamic Terrorism
You'd Be in Jail
Build a Wall
— Andrew Katz (@katz) October 20, 2016
And for those of you who still cling to the notion that anti-government, pro-austerity, geopolitically-challenged former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is a palatable third choice, he was in Las Vegas, too — throwing a chest-thumping temper tanturm for a VICE News reporter who had the temerity to ask him which of the candidates who actually stand a chance of winning he prefers.
If a professional politician so abjectly and cartoonishly loses his cool when being asked a question he’s been asked a hundred times before — by a television reporter working for a program that caters, supposedly, to his wheelhouse demographic — the thought of how he’d handle the latest provocation from Vladimir Putin, let alone Paul Ryan, is bigly disturbing.
Did you watch the debate? What did you think?