When I learned that Wikileaks had released more documents with the aim of casting more harsh light on Hillary Clinton's campaign, my first reaction was why did this latest installment have to be so strategically timed. Not only that, Julian Assange warned us it was coming, as if to presage an "October Surprise."
It's difficult for Assange to deny that with Clinton he has an axe to grind: as secretary of state she called for him to be arrested and tried. But his vehement drive to expose her seems to be undercut with deep resentment. I can't help but wonder: is it because she's a woman on the brink of ascending to the most important and powerful position in the free world?
As everyone knows, Assange is wanted in Sweden for allegedly raping two women (and is accused of other sexual assaults), but has managed to protect himself from arrest and prosecution in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has lived without leaving for the past four years. Assange denies these charges of rape just as, in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood tapes, Donald Trump denies having ever assaulted a woman. It's hard not to equate these two men, both suspected of assault and misogyny, and to see them both resorting to dirty tactics to bring down the first female presidential candidate whose downfall they've so far been unable to achieve. They have, however, played central roles in putting her as a candidate under unprecedented scrutiny by imposing a standard of conduct upon her and, in Trump's case, former president Bill Clinton, a standard to which they themselves arguably cannot live up to.
And then, of course, Assange and Trump's other commonality is their possible relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Russians. Russia is allegedly behind high-level hacking of the DNC and the release, by Assange, of the ten-year trail of Clinton-Kaine campaign chairman John Podesta's emails. While both Assange and Trump disavow any association with Putin, Assange becomes somewhat inscrutable hiding out in a foreign embassy while Trump refuses to release tax returns that might indicate an unholy business relationship with Russia. At the end of the day both might be pawns in Putin's attempt to influence the American election - or to go a bit farther, pawns in Putin's attempt to wrench the election away from a woman and deliver it to a man who just might (due to cronyism) be more easily influenced to embrace policies favorable to Russia's interests.
What I found most disturbing about the second debate was not the nasty level of rhetoric that characterized the discourse, but rather the way Trump stalked and loomed over Clinton as she tried to make contact with the folks in the town hall who were asking her questions. It was an obvious attempt to intimidate Clinton, but she smartly, and deftly, ignored him.
Could it be that the most important takeaway of the second debate was that a man couldn't help but demonstrate that he could easily take down his female opponent? Would Trump have dared to deploy this bullying tactic if Clinton has been a male? It came off like a prime-time reenactment of the painful scenario repeatedly recounted by women at crisis centers: of living with an abusive man who more often than not is the father of their children and from whom they cannot escape.