As our two favorite despised plutocrats met for Round Two of their Neoliberal Death Match Sunday, you didn't really expect the show to be about anyone else but themselves, did you?
Oh, sure, Hillary for the millionth time delved into that time 30 years ago when she liked children well enough to actually have taken a short-lived job devoted only to them. She stressed over and over again that those who work hard with their "god-given potential" are not in her basket of deplorables. Nor are Muslim American citizens who patriotically spy on their fellow Muslim Americans in order to keep the domestic blowback arising directly from American military aggression against Muslims abroad in check.
And between his own chronic sniffs and snuffles, Donald emitted scowling, sullen concern for "the African-Americans, the Latinos, the Hispanics" in a sort of amplified dog-whistle that he totally doesn't relate to anybody outside his own race and class. And that was about it for the empathy.
The debate results seemed to be a wash, despite many ominous predictions in the mass media that Trump would implode and die right on the stage, if not physically assault Hillary. He nearly had a Lloyd Bentsen moment, after Hillary delivered a creative history lesson equating backroom neoliberal sausage-making with Lincoln's prosecution of the Civil War. He cleverly observed that Clinton was certainly no honest Abe. (You might remember that famous debate moment when Bentsen told goofy Dan Quayle that he was no Jack Kennedy.) But the fact that Trump was still reeling from that damaging sexual assault fantasy tape kind of took the bite out of his riposte.
I am very sad to report that Donald's worst lie of the night was when he shockingly accused Hillary of being for Single Payer health care. Neither she nor the moderators bothered to burst that balloon with a fact-check. They were probably too busy thinking about crotches and the sexual predations of rich and powerful and privileged men.
And when asked at the end of the debate to name one good thing about each other, Hillary allowed that despite the awful Trump gene pool in which they are immersed, his own kids have turned out almost miraculously well. They might be grifters like their Dad, but at least they don't go around snatching at people's crotches while they're raking in their millions and cheating investors. And Donald graciously admitted that Hillary was a fighter, which almost brought a hint of a smile to her pursed lips, if not a sparkle to her glazed eyes. She obviously can't wait to establish a no-fly zone in Syria and get that direct war with Russia started.
And it won't be a minute too soon. She blamed Russia for everything from the Wikileaked emails showing she has never given up her neoliberal agenda (unfettered free trade, Bowles-Simpson safety net cuts, privatization of the public sphere), to messing with the election and secretly backing Donald Trump.
But America is great, she said several times, because America is good. See Spot Run. Run, Spot, Run. See Spot Run, Jane. I see Spot run, Dick. Hear Donald Sniff. See Hillary Cringe.
Nobody won. In fact, everybody lost, except for the corporate sponsors. And the media. The Hill emailed me the first breathtaking headline of the night: "Clinton, Trump Don't Shake Hands!" Cooties, not Crotches!
According to the Times, it was "bitter" right up until the bitter end. There were "remarkably tawdry accusations of groping and abuse," enthusiastically sniffed the Gray Lady. The Paper of Record has been acting as though it just discovered the secret porn stash in Daddy's closet, and doesn't know whether to be disgusted or turned on. It's obviously a bit of both.
Before I forget, here are my published comments on three of Sunday's Times op-eds.
Maureen Dowd managed to write a whole column about Trump going to the dogs without mentioning Hillary even one time. I think that must be a record for this election season.
The feckless fleet of GOP ships is leaving the sinking rat.
That should fool nobody. Forget about telling Trump to resign, they should all hand in their resignations.
The reactionaries clutching their pearls because Trump wants to grab female crotches are the same perverts who want to force vaginal ultrasound wands into women seeking abortions. The GOPers now demanding that the female folk be treated with respect punish women every chance they get. They refuse to pass a law requiring equal pay for equal work. They refuse to take the epidemic of rape in the military seriously. They sadistically deny expanded Medicaid health coverage to women in red states. They force poor women off the welfare rolls into low-pay, no-benefit jobs at the same time that they refuse to subsidize universal preschool and child care and affordable housing and food assistance and higher education.
Trump is only the latest, most glaring example of the institutional pathology which passes for GOP governing strategy.
It takes a loathsome, painful, unavoidable symptom to alert benumbed voters to the disease that lurks beneath. Is it too late to excise one single Trumpian metastasis and declare America cured?
Probably. There are plenty more predators lurking, and plenty more media outlets and and lobbyists and corporations and SuperPacs to give them all the air and sustenance they need.
There are unabashed hogzillas like Trump, and then there's the whole passel of pigs posing as prigs.
Frank Bruni whines about Hillary's Poisoned Prize. Even when she wins, she'll lose, because Washington is broken and the country is hopelessly divided and gridlock caused Donald Trump and if gridlock won't go away, neither will Trump. (And you thought the debate was remarkably tawdry? I mean, sniff!)
This is a very misleading column, steeped in the usual inside-the-Beltway corporate centrism. Mr. Bruni cannot actually believe that the rise of Trump has been caused by congressional partisan gridlock, a simple failure of two bickering sides to make nice and compromise.***
Trump has been paradoxically and deliberately enabled by the same media-political complex that is now feigning outrage in a feeble pretense at reining him in. Just as he has personally profited from the pathocratic system that has replaced our democracy, so too are the ruling class racketeers profiting mightily off one of their own. They are co-dependent parasites, and we everyday Americans are their food.
Bernie Sanders might have lost the battle, but the war is yet to come. He and Elizabeth Warren and soon-to-be elected down-ticket progressives (such as, I hope, Zephyr Teachout of New York) will be leading the charge. It's not the gridlock, which mysteriously disappears whenever there's a war to be fought or a bankster to be rewarded or a secretive spy agency to be funded. Because nothing unites the political and media servants of the plutocracy like the almighty dollar.
Bruni is right, though, that the ugliness won't go away with the Clinton restoration. Trump will be a constant cable TV guest, maybe even start his own media empire. He'll laugh all the the way to the banks he leverages, thanks to the laws and tax codes his lawyers have dictated to that terrible, horrible, dysfunctional Congress.
Trump has been such an integral part of New York's tabloid gossip /entertainment/high society scene for so many decades that, as Ms. Spayd acknowledges, The Times simply gave him a pass when he first started what initially was a pseudo-campaign. This entertainer certainly saved the pundits from doing much investigatory work. Writers, most notoriously Maureen Dowd, spent valuable column space just letting him go on and on and on for months and months and months. We were immediately clued in that Donnie was, if not a friend of Maureen, at least a highly accessible source. At least one of the interviews took place in an intimate dinner setting at Trump Tower. Very insider-y, especially the part where she gushed about all the little people peering in at them with awe and wonder.
Now she's finally taking him to task, once he cinched the nomination. Too, too late.
David Cay Johnston is the reporter who truly wrote the book on this character. Trump never could have gotten where he is today without the complicity of the media-political complex. New Jersey state officials, for example, gave him the green light to turn Atlantic City into another Boardwalk Empire. Trump became his own bank: too big to fail and too big to jail.
And thanks to the serial Trumpian outrageousness taking almost permanent possession of the top of the digital home page, there simply wasn't enough space to cover Bernie Sanders in any but the most condescending of terms. What a shame. Couldn't be helped.