Where’s the beef?

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The fact that the re­cent town hall style pres­i­den­tial 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 un­veiled 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 three 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. Hil­lary used a pri­vate email server. Trump doesn’t treat women ap­pro­pri­ately.

Hil­lary at­tacked Bill’s al­leged vic­tims’ in­tegrity.

Trump doesn’t pay taxes and feeds into Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

The town hall de­bate is usu­ally the most in­for­ma­tive of any of the can­di­date’s fi­nal ap­pear­ances in the wan­ing days of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Each can­di­date is seen at their most ca­sual stance and fields ques­tions di­rectly from vot­ers, rather than con­cocted by a mod­er­a­tor.

The town hall has given us won­der­ful mo­ments from Bill Clin­ton, who drilled home the prom­ise of his eco­nomic pol­icy to a mother in the 1992 meet­ing, and Ge­orge W. Bush, who in­spired a bit of hope with his friendly tone in 2000.

But on Sun­day night, what we saw were two can­di­dates who didn’t par­tic­u­larly care what the ac­tual ques­tions were that vot­ers were ask­ing, but rather how they could bend the topic to skewer their op­po­nent one more time. Nei­ther of 2016’s can­di­dates are in­spir­ing hope in the Amer­i­can peo­ple be­cause nei­ther are tak­ing the time to ad­dress them.

As for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Wal­ter Mon­dale fa­mously asked his op­po­nent in a 1984 de­bate, “Where’s the beef?”

We hope both Trump and Clin­ton re­turn to the third de­bate this evening armed with more facts and poli­cies than ac­cu­sa­tions to lob at each other.

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