Where’s the beef?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

The fact that Sun­day’s de­bate be­tween Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton didn’t start with a hand­shake should have sig­naled the train­wreck that would oc­cur. But who’s to blame the can­di­dates? Clin­ton had spent the last 48 hours drilling Trump over his lat­est skele­ton to come out of the closet: an 11-year-old au­dio­tape where he de­scribed vul­gar­i­ties that stop just shy of ad­mit­tance of sex­ual as­sault.

Then just min­utes be­fore the sec­ond de­bate was to be­gin, Trump un­veil his next move: per­son­ally invit­ing three of Bill Clin­ton’s al­leged sex­ual as­sault vic­tims to at­tend the de­bate. When the Repub­li­can nominee’s play to sit the three in his per­sonal booth was thwarted by de­bate or­ga­niz­ers, he held a press con­fer­ence to draw at­ten­tion to them.

Why we should ex­pect this race to crawl out of the muck and mire that it has been stuck in for nearly a year now is, per­haps, silly. This is where we are for the next four weeks. And the TV news net­works couldn’t be hap­pier. The first de­bate scored a knock­out punch with a his­toric 84 mil­lion house­holds tun­ing in across eight TV chan­nels, best­ing even Mon­day Night Foot­ball in a nearly un­heard of hap­pen­ing. It was like a car crash — even when you know you don’t want to look for fear of what you might see, you still look.

It mer­ci­fully ap­pears fewer peo­ple chose to look the sec­ond time, how­ever, de­cid­ing they had seen or heard enough.

The sec­ond de­bate scored about 63 mil­lion view­ers, falling short of the record 69 mil­lion view­ers who tuned into the sec­ond 1992 de­bate be­tween Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Bill Clin­ton and Ross Perot — although only seven net­works aired the sec­ond de­bate Sun­day, with NBC in­stead air­ing Sun­day Night Foot­ball per its NFL con­tract. Pun­dits also pointed out that much of the south­east was ei­ther un­able or un­likely to watch the de­bate in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Matthew. So why did Amer­ica be­gin to tune out? Be­cause even with break­ing sto­ries play­ing into the sto­ry­line of Sun­day’s de­bate, we were served pip­ing hot left­overs.

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