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Presidential Debate 3 – What To Watch For

 

Hot take: Television has peaked.

With Netflix and Amazon and HBO all competing with traditional cable and network television, there have never been more options, and the increasingly crowded battle for a decreasingly attentive audience has forced everyone across the market to be better, but that doesn’t mean it will last forever – MacGyver is back, they’re already running out of ideas – and it doesn’t even mean there aren’t certain things that weren’t better done 20 years ago.  Like the ‘after school special’ episode of your favorite sitcom.

Television’s current era may have Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones and Veep, but it doesn’t have have Cory Matthews learning an important lesson about alcohol after his breakup with Topanga, and it doesn’t have the Fresh Prince wondering why his father doesn’t want him, and it doesn’t have Jesse Spanos’ battle with caffeine pills – known for the legendary line “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so scared!”

Something, I think, we can all relate to as we look forward to the third and final presidential debate, and the looming likelihood of a concession speech wherein Donald Trump napalms everyone associated with American politics.

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Emails: Without a doubt, Donald Trump’s best debate moments have come while criticize and pressing Hillary Clinton on her email scandal – and he was just given a gift. The issue resurfaced again this week, as a document dump revealed that someone within the State Department offered a “quid pro quo” deal to the FBI if they would change a classification of a specific email.  It’s the worst case scenario for Clinton, because not only does it call into question her hiring practices – how does someone in the State Department actually use “quid pro quo” in an official email? – it plays into everything people either loathe, lament, or fear about the Clintons.  In the previous two debates, Clinton has given up ground but mostly been able to side step criticisms that she was either grossly incompetent or outright corrupt, but she won’t be able to avoid them Wednesday night.  These new emails will likely be the focus of the first question, and Trump will force a firm answer.  The question is, to what extent can Clinton minimize the damage?

Prevent Defense: If nothing else, minimizing the damage shouldn’t be too hard for the former Secretary of State, as it’s become the dominant strategy of her campaign.  In a lot of ways, Hillary Clinton is Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She’s curled herself into a ball to let the propeller of the slowly circling plane that is Donald Trump’s past cut his campaign to bits.  She’s closed her eyes while the awesome, horrifying power of an Access Hollywood tape melts the figurative face of the GOP bid for the presidency.

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She’s getting ahead by refusing to do anything that might put her behind, and trusting that time will eventually run out. It’s why she didn’t hammer Trump on that Access Hollywood tapes, and why I don’t expect her to do much attacking Wednesday night.

“Rigged”: For the sake of election night drama, we can pretend like Donald Trump’s campaign isn’t in trouble, but we’ve all seen the pictures, we know what the Hindenburg looks like when it’s about to come crashing to the ground.  All that’s left to do is watch it fall, and sift through the rubble for any sign of a cause – which is already clear to Trump.  Sabotage.

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In the second debate, Trump openly criticized Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, and suggested that it was “three on one.”  Since then, not surprisingly, Trump has only been emboldened, suggesting time and again that the entire election, not just the debate, is “rigged” by Crooked Hillary and the liberal media and those damn video cameras, too.  Look for him to fan the flame of the conspiracy theory Wednesday night.

Trump From The Top Rope: In each of my last two debate previews, I’ve finished with “Top Rope Trump”, because his penchant for showy, flashy attempts at a knock out blow have been the biggest and most intriguing wild card – at least to that small part of me that still loves professional wrestling.  It makes its return ahead of the third because while Clinton likely isn’t going to spend much time attacking, you can bet Trump will – wildly, aggressively, indiscriminately, and without regard for any accepted standard of how a presidential candidate conducts themselves.  Some attacks will hit,

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some will very much not,

but he’ll try them nonetheless, because much the way Clinton’s strategy has become that of an NFL team protecting a big fourth quarter lead, Trump’s has become one of wild Hail Mary’s that have almost no chance of succeeding, but muddy the game to such an extant that no one wants to keep watching anymore.  Which is fine with him, because…

Some Men Just Want To Watch The World Burn: Trump has gone Joker.  If we’re being honest with ourselves, he is no longer any major party’s presidential candidate.  He’s a chaos agent, spreading as much anarchy as he can.  Part of him, I’m sure, still thinks he can win this election, but his actions over the recent days read more like someone interested in raising his public profile rather than someone who wants to be president – someone determined to make the job impossible for whoever ends up in the Oval Office, not someone determined to get there himself.  Donald Trump wants to watch the political world burn.  And in his final debate, he’ll do everything he can to make that happen.

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Author: Mitch Cumstein

Just trying to do some night putting.