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Monday, October 10, 2016

What I learned at the second presidential debate, including new Donald Trump-approved locker room talk

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The great October rap battle of the sexes

A new study on media coverage of the presidential race suggests "that the press is in the tank for Barack Obama," the Boston Globe reported yesterday. Is a "top medical journal in the tank for Obama?" reads a recent Portfolio headline. John McCain, according to a story in Thursday's Guardian, "didn't even give the press a chance, trashing it on the assumption that it would be in the tank for Obama." How did in the tank come to mean supportive (when you really ought to be impartial)?

Aquatics by way of pugilism. In the 19th century, Americans called swimming pools "tanks" and thus "go into the tank" was synonymous with "to dive." As far back as the 1920s, the phrase go into the tank became associated with intentionally losing a boxing match by diving onto the canvas and pretending you've been knocked out—a sense perfectly illustrated by this sentence from a 1928 New York Times article: "Pansy came out of jail and his manager, thinking him 'all washed up,' signed him up to 'take a dive,' or, more technically, 'to go into the tank' for a bird named Sailor Gray."

...By the mid-20th century, go into the tank, in the sense of rolling over for someone in a rigged contest, extended into political usage. Thus in 1960, syndicated columnist Robert Ruark set up a boxing metaphor to describe the run-up to that year's presidential conventions: "I am having a tiny touch of difficulty with the American news lately, having gotten it slightly mixed up with the prize-fighting business. But if I read it right, the presidential nomination conventions have been bagged in advance … with all the other competitors rigged to go into the tank for Jolting Jack Kennedy and Richard the Ripper Nixon."

While taking a dive still refers to self-sabotage, the meaning of go into the tank gradually shifted toward working on someone's behalf, often with the hint of backroom deals or at least inappropriate devotion. As such, people weren't as likely to go into the tank as they were to be found there after the fact; i.e., they'd simply be in the tank. In a 1987 Boston Globe article by David Nyhan on the Robert Bork nomination process, we get: "Will he be in the tank for Reagan? Ted Kennedy says yes, Bork says no. I'm afraid Bork hasn't convinced me." And, also from the Globe's David Nyhan, a 1983 example of the phrase applied to a journalist: "It turns out [George] Will coached Reagan in debate, privately advised him on issues, regularly praised his presidency in print and on TV, and only rarely uttered the bare minimum of criticism that decency and appearance require. As a result of the recent commotion, Will bears the Scarlet Letter of having been in the tank for Reagan."

Juliet Lapidos, “How Did ‘In the Tank’ Come to Mean Supportive?”, Slate, October 24, 2008

Last night it was co-moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper Donald Trump accused of favoring Aunt Hillary. It’s Tactic 4 from Vox’s excellent explainer, “A taxonomy of Donald Trump’s most reliable debate tactics” (10/7/16)- Rile up your Opponent.

As Vox explains it,

The debate stage, too, became a place for him to pick out an antagonist and engage in a dominance ritual with him (it was always a “him”), straining to shout him down or humiliate him.

The sole point of many of these displays seemed to be to get attention. Often, they devolved into shouting matches over who was talking, as during the fifth debate:

TRUMP: Am I talking or are you talking, Jeb?

BUSH: I'm talking right now. I'm talking.

TRUMP: You can go back. You're not talking. You interrupted me.

BUSH: September 30, you said…

TRUMP: Are you going to apologize, Jeb? No. Am I allowed to finish?

Trump would also pick out one or two antagonists during any given debate — always some combination of Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz — to try to take down. The point wasn’t to get them to concede a policy point to him, but to establish that Trump was the one who should be allowed to talk.

Trump used personal insults and accusations of interrupting. He turned attacks against him; at the 11th Republican debate on Fox News, when Rubio criticized Trump University as a scam and a fraud, Trump retorted, “He scammed the people of Florida. He scammed people. He doesn't vote. He doesn't show up for the US Senate. He doesn't vote. He scammed the people. He defrauded the people of Florida.”

Usually, nobody came out of these exchanges looking good. But Trump figured out that, in primary debates as on reality TV, the cameras love the contestant who knows how to get attention. And Trump is great at getting attention.

Early in the first presidential debate, Trump was able to pull Clinton into some of these exchanges — and the first one ended badly for her:

TRUMP: But you haven't done it in 30 years or 26 years or any number you want to...

CLINTON: Well, I've been a senator, Donald...

TRUMP: You haven't done it. You haven't done it.

CLINTON: And I have been a secretary of state...

TRUMP: Excuse me.

CLINTON: And I have done a lot...

TRUMP: Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.

CLINTON: Well, that's your opinion. That is your opinion.

Unable to draw Mrs Clinton into that trap again last night, with the citizen voters mute, Trump turned his ire on the moderators, tirelessly complaining that they let her talk more than he did, even though a substantial portion of nearly all her two-minute responses had to be patched together by viewers over his crosstalk and interruptions, and post-debate reports show the two were within a sniffle or two of getting exactly equal time.

It was- I thought-  an odd thing to bitch about when Trump was so clearly being screwed nine ways from Sunday by the debate format, questions, and timing. I know this is so because he’s been jabbering about it since the Dog Days.

The timing plaint was the closest he came to addressing those apparently forgotten (or just faked, to play the refs before the game) pre-debate mortal concerns and mutterings about not showing up. He’d sent up flares about Anderson Cooper in mid-September, telling The Washington Post:

"I don't think Anderson Cooper should be a moderator because Anderson Cooper works for CNN, and over the last couple of days, I've seen how Anderson Cooper behaves. He'll be very biased, very biased. I don't think he should be a moderator. I'll participate, but I don't think he should be a moderator. CNN is the Clinton News Network, and Anderson Cooper, I don't think he can be fair."

As Callum Borchers noted in that paper, before Trump didn't trust Cooper, he was a big fanboy:

I like them," he told reporters aboard his plane last Monday. "I respect the moderators. I do respect them."

During the Republican primary, Trump participated in two town hall events moderated by Cooper and did not object to the host's participation or complain about his performance. In a CNN interview after a GOP debate in March, Trump offered unprompted congratulations to Cooper for his moderation of a Democratic debate four days earlier.

"Anderson got very good ratings," Trump said. "We're very happy for Anderson. I don't know if it helps me, but he certainly got very good ratings."

You also didn’t hear a peep out of The Donald over last night’s debate overlapping NFL Sunday Night Football, an issue he whinged about for days at the end of July, threatening not to participate unless the Commission on Presidential Debates redid the schedule to suit him and the NFL.

You may also recall he claimed Roger Goodell wrote him- Citizen Trump, with none of that insider mojo Hillary uses to make things happen- to complain about the schedule.

And you might also remember the NFL said, “So did not!”, and somebody in Trump’s management team- the one two versions back-  admitted it was all just another firehose of flaming bullshit.

Nor did Donald Trump stop last night’s debate to demand a new microphone. How likely was it, outside the hermetically-sealed studios of Coast to Coast America AM and The Donald’s supporters’ fervid imaginings (remember, according to that crazy lady in Pennsylvania, Obama’s not just a Muslim and a terrorist, but a queer Muslim terrorist, set on locking up Christian Americans in oral sex comfort stations for their immaculately-turbaned overlords to come- by which I mean “arriving in the future”. Honestly. I can’t take you people anywhere since Franklin Graham okayed the Trump Talk Tape), that he’d get the same crap mic the debate commission sandbagged him with in Round 1? Especially after the commission acknowledged, “there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall."

So there he was last night, in Sniff-o-rama Surround Sound: the Tony Montana of Presidential Politics, the man who seems to put the ‘blow’ into ‘bloviate’ at every debate. Not a whimper about that mic. Just a highly audible, endlessly repeated snot snort.

I started this report with a backgrounder on the origins of “in the tank” as a political dig, explained by Slate eight years ago. The phrase kept coming to me during last night’s debate, only from a different, if still of 2008 vintage, derivation: Stephen King’s novella, “A Very Tight Place.”

In that story, first published in McSweeney’s, then collected in “Just After Sunset”, we meet

Curtis Johnson, a middle-aged gay gentleman...lured to a deserted construction site by his neighbor, Tim Grunwald, with whom he's been having legal disputes involving property rights and Curtis's beloved dog, Betsy, who was killed by Tim's electric fences. He is confronted by Tim, who forces him into a portable toilet, locks him in, then tips it over, leaving him trapped there in the heat of a Florida summer day to die. With no way to get help, Curtis must figure out how to escape or perish. Eventually, after a long night, Curtis discovers he can crawl through the toilet and into the tank, where he can unscrew the bolts using Betsy's old dog tag.

Millions of Americans must have shared Johnson’s disgust and horror at figuring out the only way out of last night’s debate- which was quite impossible to turn off- was through the bottom of the brimming tank.  

Trump’s coprophilic debate style- also known as Gish’s Gallop, after a creationist whose m.o. is to fling as much poo as possible, as fast as possible, leaving his debate opponents the choice of trying to respond to a shit-slimed wall of lies, or let them stand and try to make their own points from the reality-based community- would have earned the admiration of the most adept baboon troops in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

Everybody said a town hall format would sink Trump, because he’d have to be an asshole to so many regular joes sitting right next to him. He played foxy, going to New Hampshire for twenty minutes of questions read by a GOP talk radio host before an audience of his friends as prep. Oooh, that won’t work, said the pundits, none of them realizing trump intended to just ignore the town hall format altogether. His only concession to playing Judgment in Nuremberg in the round was to affect a blander, lower-keyed biliousness.

Otherwise, it was standard operating procedure. He redeployed the same old platoon: shoeless, lice-ridden and costive, to roam the debate hall in search of facts, armed only with three word phrases; unattributed horrors many people say; running out the clock with everything but an answer to the question on the table (“It was locker room talk and I regret it, so let me tell you, I will knock the hell out of ISIS”); and egomania. “I’ve spent $100 million. Why don’t you spend $20, or $30 million of your own money,” he asked Hillary, “to pay for your campaign, instead of getting $200 million from your rich friends to run attack ads on Donald Trump?”

That made me wonder if the reason 93-year-old Bob Dole sticks with The Donald is not the mystery most pundits find it, but an appreciation that Trump is the only other GOP presidential nominee to consistently refer to himself in the third person and to cause hundreds of down-ballot Republican candidates to run, screaming, for the lifeboats thirty days out from voting day.

But I digress. Back to Donald.

For Trump, everything is a disaster except his sex tape. He didn’t actually do any of those things he said he did, egged on by the elfin, patrician media whore, Billy Bush. No one respects women more than he does, he insisted, and what he said in that tape was just the sort of thing he and his New York Military Academy classmates used to jump-start circle jerks with on the long nights between the monthly arrival of Trump’s subscription to Playboy.

But those days are long gone; his classmates are grandfathers now, married (many of them, to just one woman). Trump’s new co-onanists are on the other side of the TV screen, sharing the sexual frustrations Trump shared in his Access Hollywood interview, and by Tom Cruise’s gormless sidekick in 1983’s Risky Business:

Barry: I can't believe Glenn bringing Statwiler over like that.
Joel: Why?
Barry: Because he boffed Hendricks last week!
Joel: He did?
Barry: Yes! And after the game on Saturday, he fucked her.
Joel: Barry?
Barry: What?
Joel: Boffing and fucking are the same thing.
Barry: They are?
Joel: [laughing] Yes. What did you think it was?
Barry: I thought it was something else. You're sure on this?
Joel: I'm positive.
Barry: Shit!

Trump is contrite, insisted Rudy Giuliani, who did a pre-debate full Ginsberg of the Sunday talk shows to put his master’s comments in a frame which posits that adultery is something everyone does (William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, was the first to appear on all five shows in one morning, in February 1, 1998, and so won the naming rights).

Trump said he was contrite, too, but not for long: his bucket list clearly includes acid-washing (“very expensive”) his just-installed Lifetime Achievement nameplate from the Bob Packwood Emotionally Stunted Groper trophy.

Before that, he said he was sorry to anyone who was offended:  a tiny subset of humanity entirely peopled by male Republican office holders with biologically female wives and daughters with papers to prove it.

Last night, Trump pressed his case- that Bill Clinton is the unassailable Everest of sexual assault- with vigor. The new defense to everything, cack-handedly advanced by The Donald’s astonishing volunteer social media corps of derps and twerps, gits and twits, prats and numpties, is that if you can prove someone else did whatever you did, only worser, you get out of jail free (had this defense been available to Charles Manson, he’d be a semi-retired aromatherapist on Big Sur today, sprung from a long-forgotten murder rap by a jury who, after deliberating, agreed, “He’s so right! Stalin killed way more people, and way messier!”)

Governor Pat McCrory was right, too: North Carolinians’ sexual anxieties have gone viral, hitchhiking with across the land on the backs of the fast-spawning army of creepy clowns. Now all America is asking, “What can I talk about in locker rooms, and what can I do to women there?”

While a number of former pro athletes have insisted they never heard such talk as Trump and Billy Bush go for, pre- or post game, who cares? In Donaldland, that carries as much weight as the thirty ex-congresscritters who, safely pensioned off, dumped Trump last week. And if current pros were anything but overpaid pussies, they’d’a beast the hell out of Colin Kaepernick weeks ago. There’s a Facebook meme about that.

To hear Trump tell it for the thousandth time, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are astride the land, all wearing Hillary Clinton masks. Everything is bad, even his microphone, and the drape of his $7000 suit. “The world is disgracefully managed,” a Ronald Firbank character muttered ninety years ago, “and one hardly knows to whom to complain.”

But Trump does. “You were a senator,” he demanded. “Why didn’t you fix this?” It’s a good line, and one I hope Deborah Ross will launch an ad to ask NC Senator Sockless Dick Burr.

Let’s consider cases.

Education is a disaster, doubly so for blacks. The inner cities are disasters. There are no jobs. They have the 45% unemployment there, what’ve you got to lose, I ask my vast all-white audiences? I’m going to be president of all the people: the Hispanic and the Latinos (note his manful attempts to put a Spanish pronunciation on the terms, and only a cynic would find more than a hint of a sneer in the effort; the blacks and the African-Americans; the women and the bitches. I’m going to give inner cities dwellers economics. I’m going to unleash the insurance companies and the coal miners and the oil drillers, and they will generate so much money paying less tax than ever in history that “we will pay off our tremendous national debt, which is tremendous.”

In short, Donald Trump is about energy. He wants to grab the extractive companies by their toggles and pulleys, offer them taxcut-flavored Tic-Tacs, take them shopping for new drills at Schlumberger, and frack the hell out of America. Because when you’re the president, they let you do whatever you want.

He will give us new health plans that are so great, by erasing lines Obama drew around the the states to keep health insurers from doing like the credit card companies that flocked to the come-hither laws of the Dakotas, there to saddle every American with plastic carrying 21% interest rates. Ride ‘em, cowboy!

And all that competition, made possible by whatever state offers the least regulation and laxest laws, means the insurers will be so rich, and creating jobs for so many new computers, they will give us back the bans on pre-existing coverage denials, and  coverage caps the Republican repeal of Obamacare will free them from. Because they’re just good Americans that way.

Trump’s miniscule debate prep did yield some results: when Martha Raddatz asked what the fall of Aleppo will mean, he paused, mentally checking off “Don’t ask what it is” and “Don’t say it won’t happen on your watch, in case it already has.”

Then he said it already has, and added Russia, Iran and Syria to his basket of admirables- joining the long-solitary, and dead, Saddam Hussein. They all kill terrorists, and he admires that.

Raddatz waited out a Trump filibuster on Syria, then said, “let me ask you the question again.”

As if. Regurgitating old lines like a papa penguin who keeps trying to feed a chick he’s forgotten the giant petrels had for lunch months ago, Trump went on, over and over, with the business he launched in July about how we don’t even know who the rebels are in Syria.  We don’t know who the Syrian refugees are, either, something that has fretted him since spring. So that’s why, he explained to the nice Muslim lady, we need you to step outside for some extreme vetting but no worries, she want’s a 10).

As befits a seventy-year old, Trump, who knows more about war than the generals (in 1997, discussing his miraculous avoidance of STD’s in his decades of not nailing babes, he told Howard Stern, “It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier”- nevertheless likes to keep the popular figures of his childhood alive in his apocalyptic dreams.

Having exhumed Douglas McArthur (b. 1880) last debate, he dug up George S. Patton (b. 1885) last night and set them both spinning like Erich Brenn, the Austrian multitasker, did plates on sticks on The Ed Sullivan Show- popular back when American Was Great The First Time, and young Trump was busily developing bone spurs in military school to avoid real military service in Vietnam.

Nothing, he says, says “fighting terrorists” like saying- over and over- “radical Muslim extremists,” the Beetlejuice-summoning spell Trump says Mrs Clinton won’t say (she always says “the Scottish play,” too), except-perhaps, because he knows more- The Donald citing the example of generals dead fifty and seventy-five years respectively as lodestars for winning asymmetrical wars.

But this is nothing new: in March, Trump, asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he talks with consistently about foreign policy, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."

"I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are," Trump said. “But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff."

What Donald Trump knows, he never forgets, either. Well, hardly ever:

During sworn testimony in the Trump University lawsuit [June, 2016], Donald Trump repeatedly said he couldn't recall specific claims, documents or events related to the case, prompting a lawyer for the plaintiffs to ask if the real estate mogul considered himself to have “one of the best memories in the world.”

In response, Trump said he thinks he has a “good” or a “great” memory, but doesn’t recall claiming it’s one of the world’s best, according to hours of previously unreleased testimony in which Trump was questioned by the plaintiffs' lawyer Jason Forge.

“So you don't remember saying that you have one of the best memories in the world?” Forge asked.

“I remember you telling me, but I don't know that I said it,” Trump replied.

Three weeks earlier, during a conversation about 9/11 with NBC News reporter Katy Tur, Trump had said he had “the world’s best memory,” Tur reported.

Though Trump’s concession under oath restored the sash of World’s Greatest Memory to Sir Noel Coward (“I have the memory of an elephant. In fact, elephants often consult me”), Trump's brain remains capacious enough to hold Whitmanesque multitudes, true and imagined; Ronald Reagan had nothing on this successor GOP nominee.

Donald Trump says America’s nuclear weapons are so old they can only be viewed in black-and-white film footage. Just queue up Dr. Strangelove on Netflix, and see for yourself.

Trump's birther lies needed no tarting up; they can be as threadbare as his hairpiece and the faithful swigged another Bud Lite at every mention of Sidney Blumenthal last night.

For more specialized tastes, there was a one-off when Trump said of Mrs Clinton, “There is tremendous hate in her heart”.

As one, all over America, Glennbeckistanis heard the silent Obama=Clinton dog whistle, dabbed Mentholatum sticks under their eyes, and recited their mantra, “This president, I think, has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture… I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Trump said he still wants to be president of all the Americans, not that he will give two slaps what any of us think, or want. Remember, he is the “I, alone, can fix this” man.

Pared from Trump’s list of all Americans, in that vein, are The Gays. No longer does extreme vetting include the “doncha just heart the gays?” question on his “are you a refugee who loves America?” quiz. He didn’t urge the moderators to “Ask the gays! Who’s your friend?” as he bade all Americans do last June.

There is, after all, only so much room for him to gather to his saggy man-bosom so many minority voters. And he has already promised to feed the gays to Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins after his Supreme Court nominee sets to out-argle-bargling Antonin Scalia.

The Supreme Court was the only forum in which America’s much-oppressed LGBT citizens (‘You know we’re in the same room and can hear you talking, yes?”) made a cameo appearance in America’s future: Mrs Clinton thinks overturning marriage equality would be bad.

You thought I’d forgotten Mrs Clinton was there, too, didn’t you? (Or did you suppose I’m in the tank for her?) Either way, she was a spectral presence, caught between the urge to just sit back and let Donald Trump jawbone himself out of the running in three more swing states, and the need to appear to participate without actually saying anything.

Her answers were filled with awkward, buffered pauses, like a little old lady trying to watch Netflix via her phone line and AOL browser. She’d speak a few phrases, then stop to resort the cache, always looping back through Sidney Blumenthal’s imagined pre-debate prep precis: “Just let him talk, and don’t fuck up”.

One of her lowest points was trying to deal with the latest Wikileaks data dump of Mrs. Clinton’s Wall Street speeches. One have thought she’d have prepped for the quote about having one position in public and another in private: “You have always said, Donald, you’d release your tax returns when my speeches came out. So let’s see the tax returns!”

Instead, she launched into an incomprehensible Siskel & Ebert moment in which she recalled conducting a seminar on Spielberg’s Abe Lincoln movie for the arbitrageurs of Goldman Sachs (as it happens, she was, in fact, talking about the movie, but it still sounded pretty lame).

Trump, for his part, stalked the stage, hovering in the background (he is ten inches taller than Mrs Clinton) behind her as she answered questions, like a babe he was making plans to following into the bathroom at Pat McCrory’s house. She sat during his responses. He loomed, glowering behind her, through hers.

Hypercaution has its drawbacks, though.

Thomas E Dewey was so sure he was the 1948 shoo-in- the Democrats had, after all, split into three parties- he limited his rich baritone to visions like “The future lies before us,” and next thing he knew, there was Harry Truman waving that goddam newspaper for the first few seconds of eternity.  And a hundred years ago, when the GOP raided the Supreme Court for their nominee, Charles Evans Hughes (the one Teddy Roosevelt called “the bearded lady”) the Justice was so sure he’d lit a big ol’ can ‘o whoop-ass under Woodrow Wilson, he left his valet strict orders not to disrupt his his hard-earned election night sleep. When the first reporters arrived for comment on the results, Hughes’ man told them, “The President cannot be disturbed,” the reporters replied, “When he gets up, tell him he ain’t President.”

(Hughes politicked his way back to the Court as Chief Justice, where he led the justice’s long march of the 1920s/30s to overturn every law that offended Jim Crow and the freedom of contract. Karma then bitch-slapped him with having to swear in President Franklin D. Roosevelt three times.)

I did learn three new things last night.

Donald Trump told Hillary Clinton he is going to appoint a special prosecutor and put her in jail. The triumph of post-factualism was foretold years ago by the pioneering South Carolina GOP smear master (and Bush family wet work man) Lee Atwater: “It’s not what you say. It’s what people think they hear.”).

Trump will jail her. She is guilty of stuff. He has no idea what. Just guilty. Of stuff. Lots of stuff. So much stuff, you just can’t imagine it all, and it’s the worst stuff that anyone has ever done.

Imprisoning rivals is a global commonplace (see,e.g., Republic of Egypt vs Mohamed Morsi, appeals pending in the Secretariat of the Grand Mufti), but a new concept in the United States. The last time it was tried was under President Nixon. It boomeranged.

Another thing I learned is that a town hall debate format isn’t worth a damn when the candidates opt for Jerry Springer’s. One of the 42 meat puppets onstage last night emailed The Diane Rehm Show today, complaining she felt reduced a prop.

She and the others deserved little better, when the best of the questions they give Cooper and Raddatz included Rodney King bromides like these:

James Carter: Do you believe you can be a devoted president to all Americans?

Karl Becker: Regardless of the current rhetoric, would each of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?

They were from St Louis, for God’s sake, and no one thought it worth asking about race and law enforcement?

Donald Trump is not happy with Mike Pence, either. That’s the third thing I learned. Asked about his running mate’s call for American airstrikes on the Syrian military, Trump backhanded the #2 Senator Kelly Ayotte is writing in for #1 (her campaign denies she has a newly discovered medical condition, “Electoral Dyslexia Gravis”).

“I haven’t talked to him but I disagree with that,” Trump said said of his Hoosier hanger-on.

That’s what calling Trump’s sex tape indefensible gets you.

First your schedule vanishes from the campaign website.

Then you start hearing about the fates of past Indiana vice presidents (Dan Quayle, passed over for the presidency of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, and Woodrow Wilson’s No. 2, Thomas Marshall, who said, “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea, the other was elected Vice President, and nothing was ever heard of either of them again.”)

While Pence pondered a new career as an opera castrato, Trump invited Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broadrick to the debate. They are discarded, embittered women Bill Clinton didn’t offer a stick of furniture, not even when he looted the White House to kit out his bachelor pad in Chappaqua. Before the debate, they had a press conference which was billed, to lure the press, as debate prep.

Clearly there was some sort of Trumpian Yardstick of Sex being applied, given that Jones, Willey and Broadrick got tickets and Monica Lewinsky didn’t: something like the Helen of Troy Scale, which assesses beauty on the basis of how many ships one’s face could launch (for readers inclined to cavil, it is true that Helen’s actual rating is not 1000, but 1.186, based on the census of ships in Book II of The Iliad])? But that’s all I can contribute. I imagine Kellyanne Conway will explain it.

The three women, who haven’t had any media oxygen in twenty years, flowered like desert plants after a storm. They didn’t explain the difference between Clinton pickup lines- which are very, very bad- and Trump pickup lines, which- as thousands of Franklin Graham Facebook fans explained over the weekend (and Trump himself explained last night) were just words.

Overnight news stories have it Team Trump’s plan was to invite the ladies into the family box for the debate, then turn them loose on the stage for the post-event hugs and air kisses with President Clinton. The Republican president of the Debate Commission said if that happened, he’d have the three forcibly removed by security guards.

Gennifer Flowers didn’t attend this debate, either. She was brought up right.

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