Where’s the beef?
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.