Going into Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs had a chance but Donald Trump had almost none.
The Cubs might win or lose to the Dodgers on Wednesday in Los Angeles, we knew, but either way they still could win the National League pennant because they are the best team in baseball.
Trump, on the other hand, might win or lose Wednesday night’s debate against Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, we figured, but either way his presidential prospects would continue to collapse. Nothing he might say could any longer salvage his nasty campaign.
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But never underestimate Trump to go even lower. He kept up his patter of lies and half-truths Wednesday night and, dangerously for anybody who cares about American democracy, he refused to say whether he would even accept or honor the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.
Repeatedly, Fox News moderator Chris Wallace invited Trump to agree that, win or lose, he would support a “peaceful transition of power.” That is, after all, what every major candidate for president has done for a century or two — even Richard Nixon in 1960, though he thought John Kennedy had stolen the election in Chicago.
But what was Trump’s noble response?
Repeatedly, he said he would “look at it at the time” — and then he launched again into a baseless claim that our nation’s election system is rigged. Against him, of course.
For that matter, Trump added with a little extra bile, this presidential election has been illegitimate all along simply because Clinton — a “criminal” in his view because of her email foolishness as secretary of state — was “allowed” to run.
Trump took every opportunity to undermine the confidence of the American people in the integrity of our national elections. It’s an outrageously irresponsible game. Without the public’s confidence — a confidence that is fully warranted, we should add — our democratic system cannot work.
Meanwhile, Clinton was tougher than in the last debate, refusing to allow Trump to talk over her (which, yes, he tried again) and backing off nothing. When Trump recalled a past criticism of her by Bernie Sanders, she noted that Sanders was campaigning for her and that he had called Trump “the most dangerous presidential candidate” in modern American history.
We find it hard to disagree.
When Trump sneered that Clinton had accomplished nothing in her 30 years in public life, she reviewed her record of service, beginning with her work with the Children’s Defense Fund in Arkansas. Then she noted that her opponent pursued other priorities in those years — fighting an anti-discrimination housing suit filed by the Justice Department, talking down Miss Universe contestants and firing people on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
It was a bad debate for Trump, capping a bad couple of weeks.
In the days before this third face-off with Clinton, Trump lashed out at the growing number of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. He implied that they were not attractive enough for him to bother. He lashed out at Republican Party leaders, especially House Speaker Paul Ryan, for abandoning him. He even lashed out at Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News who gave up trying to keep Trump focused during debate preps.
But such is Trump’s way. And anybody who predicted he would take the high road in this final debate lost that bet. Trump went low again, doing nothing to breath life into his directionless campaign.
Trump may have rallied his base, and felt pretty good doing it, but he did nothing to expand his appeal.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Cubs beat the Dodgers. Well, all right then.
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