Hillary and the Donald: The Second Debate

By J.S. Porter

J.S. Porter

I’m naïve enough to believe that society will be changed by examination of ideas through books and the press, and that information can prove to be greater than the dissemination of stupidity.  Dr. Seuss 

Pre-Debate

A lot of little things have happened since the first debate between Hillary and the Donald, but the one big thing is the release by The Washington Post of a 2005 tape in which Trump is heard speaking of women in terms you might hear in a locker room for jocks or a school for sexual predators.

The general theme of his remarks are, when you’re a famous, rich, white man, you can do whatever you like with women, including hitting on married women.

Trump’s specific words are: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” He goes on to say, “Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

So far nothing has made a dent in Trump’s broad support of angry white men. Not his attempt at fat-shaming the former Miss World, not his admission of paying no taxes, not his implied threats of violence against his opponent, not his mocking of a disabled reporter, not his long history of calling women pigs and dogs and other epithets. Nothing has crossed a line.  Ever quick to judge others, particularly women, he has spent decades branding women like frozen turkeys in a supermarket: Grade A , Grade B or unworthy of grading. He has said that he could probably shoot someone in the street and his supporters would still rally behind him.

Nothing has made a difference.  Except this, perhaps.  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said this in a statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

The Debate

They take their positions without shaking hands. Trump is asked about the tape. His defense is that Bill Clinton did more, did worse.

He scowls, frowns, sniffs, skulks around the stage trying to intimidate and dominate the space, stands behind Hillary when she is answering questions, points his finger, accuses the moderators of favouring Hillary, sticks to his talking points: crush ISIS, scrap the Affordable Health Act, lower taxes for business, support the police, and the Iran deal was a bad deal. This simple message is repeated and repeated, with one new wrinkle: he’d hire a special prosecutor to uncover the truth behind Hillary’s deleted e-mails. He’d put her in jail.

Hillary looks tired, disgusted, uncomfortable.  She keeps her cool, forces a smile now and then.  She makes her points in a balanced and nuanced way. The Affordable Health Care Act needs to be kept and needs to be improved. She reminds the audience that the US has had Muslims living in the country since the time of George Washington. She reminds the audience that a well-respected American – Muhammad Ali – was a Muslim.  She makes the point that she has always worked with Republicans and respected their leaders, but Donald is different. He is temperamentally unfit to be President.

The debate ends with an exchange of compliments. Hillary says that she respects Donald’s children and Donald says that Hillary is a fighter who never quits.

They shake hands.  The winner: Hillary on content, Trump on spectacle.

Post-Debate

As with many others, I’m still processing what happened on the stage and what has happened in the last few days.  Republican congressmen and women and even Republican governors have called on Trump to step down.  Republican House Leader, Paul Ryan, will not defend Trump or campaign with him.

When I’m confused I turn to Dr. Seuss for clarity.

Everyone belongs in a Dr. Seuss rhyming story. Where does Trump belong? How about Hillary?

At first, I thought Trump was Yertle the Turtle, the ambitious and ruthless turtle who gets little turtles to stack themselves together like a living ladder for his profit and status.  He stands on top of a lot of little guys so he can be the big man. “I’m a ruler,” said Yertle, “of all that I see./But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.”

“This throne that I sit on is too, too low down.

It ought to be higher!” he said with a frown.

“If I could sit higher, how much greater I’d be!

What a king! I’d be ruler of all I could see.”

Yes, in narcissism, in hubris, in egomania, there is a resemblance between the Donald and Yertle. But the dead ringer for the Donald in Dr.Seuss is the Once-ler in The Lorax.

You remember the story of an entrepreneur who comes to town with big ideas and solutions to non-existent problems. In a short time, he takes a tree-abundant paradise and converts it into synthetic trees and smoggy air. He cons people into harvesting all the Truffula trees in order to make a useless garment called a Thneed.

I meant no harm. I most truly did not.

But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.

I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.

I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads…

I went right on biggering…selling more Thneeds.

And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

The Once-ler lives, like Trump, by the code of bigger just as Yertle lived by the code of higher. Their climbing high and their getting bigger depends of course on others. But their delusion is that everything comes back to the omniscient, omnipotent I.

So, who is Hillary?  A mother, a grandmother, an experienced and battle-tested politician, she’s the Lorax: “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” She also speaks for children and families, knowing the consequences of climate change and an economic system that favours the rich.

As The New York Times endorsement (Sept. 24, 2016) recognizes: With grit and bipartisan collaboration, she has “displayed a command of policy and diplomatic nuance and an ability to listen to constituents and colleagues that are all too exceptional in Washington.”

Her service to children, women, and families, including the establishment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program that covers more than eight million lower-income young people, spans her adult life.

Hillary has the courage to speak for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, but does the nation have the humility to listen to a woman?

While I see a warm human face, others see the incarnation of the devil. In a fascinating article entitled “Fear of a Female President” in the October 2016 Atlantic Monthly, Peter Beinart gives readers a clear sense of the anti-Clinton forces. He recalls the chants at the Republican convention of “Lock her up” and the outside merchandise on display:

 “Black pin reading DON’T BE A PUSSY. VOTE FOR TRUMP IN 2016

Black-and-red pin reading TRUMP 2016: FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS

White T-shirt reading TRUMP THAT BITCH

White T-shirt reading HILLARY SUCKS BUT NOT LIKE MONICA

LIFE’S A BITCH: DON’T VOTE FOR ONE

KFC HILLARY SPECIAL. 2 FAT THIGHS. 2 SMALL BREASTS…LEFT WING”

Hillary, like the rest of us, is a flawed human being, but infinitely more measured, more balanced, more self-aware and sensitive to the needs of families and children than her opponent.  She’s a fighter who doesn’t quit.

Trump?  Trump is full of trumpery, which The Oxford English Dictionary defines as: “Deceit, fraud, imposture, trickery…”

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