Editorial: Trump’s attempt at damage control shameful

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton looks on during the town hall debate at Washington University in St Louis. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

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So, Mr. Trump, explain yourself.

Sunday night’s presidential debate, though it moved at times into a discussion of actual public policy, largely revolved around one explosive question: What might Donald Trump say or do to explain away how he had bragged that he was free to sexually assault women because, hey, he’s a “star”?

Trump again apologized for those comments from 11 years ago, as he did in a video late Friday night, but with even less sincerity or grace. It was, he said, “just words.”

Bragging about groping women is “just words”?

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Instead, Trump surrounded himself with ghosts of Hillary Clinton’s past, three women who claimed to have been abused by her husband Bill decades ago; he tried to trash Hillary by association.

It was the lowest of low strategies, an embarrassment to our nation. Trump succeeded only in demonstrating how utterly out of touch he is with the values of decent people. The damaged character of the man spilled forth once again, and nothing else said before, during or after this debate much mattered.

We only wish Clinton had struck back harder. Her opponent showed up unprepared and full of venom, small-minded to the end. This was Clinton’s moment to put this election away, which she did not.

Bill Clinton is not running for president, Hillary is. That was the fatal flaw in Trump’s obnoxious gambit. To try and tear down Hillary Clinton by dragging up her husband’s real and alleged misdeeds — while pretending the only issue is how she stood by her husband — is sexist. And pretty revolting.

How in the world could Trump, down in the polls, imagine that such a low blow would expand his appeal beyond his base of hard-core Hillary bashers? Bill was a bad guy, too, so vote for me? So much for presidential temperament.

We suspect legions of Americans in sometimes rocky marriages have a problem with a woman being kicked around for her husband’s sins.

Trump, who held a bizarre press conference with Bill Clinton’s three accusers right before the debate, did what he always does: He made Sunday night all about him. But this time around, he succeeded only in prolonging the national debate about just how loathsome a figure he really is.

If Trump had hoped to score points on matters of policy — or even on legitimate criticisms such as Clinton’s use of a private server to do state business — he failed. All that most Americans will remember from Sunday’s debate is that Trump positioned Bill Clinton’s three accusers right in the front row, letting everybody know before the first question was asked that Trump is beyond shaming.

Are either of these candidates “modeling appropriate behavior” for today’s young people? That was the first question of the debate.

Trump is not and Clinton is.

But, to be honest, Clinton may have walked the high road a little too long this time. There was a bully on the stage just asking for it.

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