Trump Goes Full Rage-Monster on Clintons
ST. LOUIS, Mo. It was the ugliest 90 minutes in modern American political history.At Washington University in St. Louis on Sunday night, Donald Trump leveled hit after hit at Hillary Clinton: physically looming behind her while she spoke, frequently interrupting her, and even threatening to send her to jail if he becomes president.Its a grim preview of what the final 30 days will look like: an angry street fight between one of the most practiced presidential contenders of all time and a brawling reality TV veteran with nothing to lose.The night was an hour and a half of Trumps unfettered id, spilling out in sex-obsessed suggestions and naked threats. Trump lobbed every hit Breitbart News and far-right conspiracy theorists could have dreamed of. This election is now a referendum on whether that style of politics works.At the beginning of the debate, Clinton and Trump didnt shake hands. But they did smile at each otherone of just a handful of moments where the dominant feeling wasnt one of disdain.It took just minutes for Trump to bring up Bill Clintons sexual misconduct. When moderator Anderson Cooper asked him about the audio that recently surfaced of him saying he grabs women by the pussy, Trump downplayed the comments as casual, just the common things that men will say.I am embarrassed by it and I hate it, but its locker room talk and one of those things, he said, before pivoting to a non-sequitur: I will knock the hell out of ISIS.Then he went after Hillarys husband, who was sitting in the front row. Bill Clinton did far worse than me, he said, then kicked off a stream-of-consciousness riff about the former president.Never been anybody in history of politics in this nation thats been so abusive to women, he said. So you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.Hillary Clinton didnt push back hard against the accusations, or even directly address them, instead just saying it was all lies.Everything he said was absolutely false but Im not surprised, Clinton said. ImI told it would be impossible to be fact-checking Donald all the time.But that wasnt Trumps hardest hit. A few moments later, he ripped into her over the fact that she deleted 33,000 emails after Congress subpoenaed them. Trump didnt just say the action was illegal, as many Republicans have argued; rather, he actually committed to ordering his attorney general to investigate her. And he suggested he would have her incarcerated.I didnt think Id say this, but Im going to say it, and I hate to say it, but if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, he said. There has never been so many lies, so much deception, there has never been anything like it, and were gonna have a special prosecutor.Its just awfully good that somebody with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country, Clinton retorted.Because youd be in jail! he said.It was a full-throated endorsement of the lock her up! chants that have been commonplace at Trump rallies around the country and hinted darkly at Putinesque politics. And it wasnt a gaffe. After the debate, Trump posted a picture of himself on Facebook with the caption, She would be in jail.Clinton later shot back with a snide remark about Trumps flailing support from GOP leaders: Okay, Donald, I know youre into big diversions tonight, anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way its exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you.Later, when discussing the fact that Bernie Sanders endorsed her after their primary, Trump referred to her as evil and said she had that contest rigged. And he said she has hate in her hearttwice. After the debate, Trumps surrogates were unapologetic about his accusation that she harbors hatred. Jason Miller, his senior communications advisor, pointed to Clintons deplorables comment as evidence of that hate. But Hillary Clinton wasnt the only target of Trumps rage. He complained repeatedly that he wasnt getting fair treatment from the moderators: Nice, one on three, he said sarcastically at one point.And when he was asked about Syria, and the fact that his running mate suggested last week that there needs to be a greater U.S. military presence there to counter dictator Bashar al-Assad, Trump brushed it off.He and I havent spoken, and I disagree, I disagree, Trump said glibly.It underlined Pence and Trumps estranged-couple status; Pence, by all counts, found the new Trump audio revolting, and released a statement saying he would watch the debate to see if Trump would show true remorse. So, with his running mate watching, Trump chucked him under the bus.Perhaps by the rock-bottom standards for the Trump campaign, it wasnt a disaster. And, if fact, he may have stopped the bleeding in his own party. A host of elected Republicans disavowed and un-endorsed him over the last 48 hours because of the audio, but his debate performanceaggressive, bombastic, and just barely apologetic enoughmay comfort his remaining backers. The same at least he fights! rhetoric they used to justify the 2013 government shutdown will be easily repurposed here in Trumps defense. And Republicans making that argument will be correct. In St. Louis, Trump foughtand dirty. We could have predicted the ugliness. About two hours before the debate started, he held a press conference with women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.But in a conversation after the debate, a Republican National Committee spokesman didnt seemed entirely comfortable that the event occurred. That spokesman, Sean Spicer, told reporters that the party didnt get a heads up that the event was going to happen and been in touch with the women involved. When asked if he thought the press conference was a smart move, Spicer didnt answer.Look, I think tonight was about the debate, he said. I think thats where the focus was and he did a good job.When a reporter followed up and asked if that meant the RNC had no comment on the event, Spicer said the same thing.Look, look, he said, I think thatthat tonight was about the debate, um, and, um, and thats what the focus was and thats what millions of Americans were tuning in to see.And those millions saw a political event of historic darkness: dominated by conspiratorial accusations, unflinching rage, and hints at despotism. And now those millions get to decide if that works.