In the last formal debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, here are a few things I heard:
1. Hillary thinks Trump is unqualified to be president. Trump thinks Hillary should be locked up as a criminal.
2. Trump thinks Hillary is a nasty woman. Hillary thinks Trump is a Russian puppet.
3. Hillary thinks Trump may start a nuclear war. Trump thinks Hillary is a loser who will make America vulnerable to foreign powers.
4. Trump thinks the election is rigged and that the media is firmly in Hillary's corner. Hillary thinks Trump is encouraging Russia to hack and manipulate the election.
5. Trump thinks Hillary supports the ripping of babies from the wombs of mothers (late-term abortions). Hillary thinks Trump is a serial assaulter of women.
6. Trump says all nine women who accused him of unwanted sexual advances/assaults are either opportunists seeking a few minutes of fame, or stooges in the employ of the Clinton campaign. Clinton says Trump is a tax dodger, an exploiter of immigrant labor, and an enthusiast for cheap Chinese steel at the expense of American workers.
7. Trump says Clinton is all talk and no action. Clinton says Trump is a man who never apologizes and who never takes responsibility for his actions.
Yes, it was that bad. Usually the question is "Who won the debate?" and the answer is clear: We, the American people, lost. Put on the spot, I'd say that Hillary won because of Trump's refusal to say whether he'd accept the result of the election. That refusal to accept the will of the voters is fundamentally undemocratic. To me, it made Trump look like a sore loser even before he's lost.
I can't imagine Trump or Hillary supporters had their minds changed while watching this debate. But I can guess that Hillary picked up more undecided or fence-straddling voters. Why? Because Trump's message (as well as his demeanor) was so relentlessly negative. My wife could hardly stand being in the same room with Trump on the TV: he was, in a literal sense, giving her the creeps. Something tells me many other women across America were similarly repulsed by Trump. He was more than combative toward Hillary: he was sneering, condescending, and insulting.
Image is important in debates, and Hillary came across as the fresher of the two, the more likable, the more positive, the more focused. As I watched Trump rant, I told my wife that he reminded me of the Grinch who stole Christmas, with his snarl and his hate and his withered heart.
Will the Grinch steal the election? From the Grinch's perspective, the election has already been stolen from him. That's my takeaway from the debate: that Trump is a sore loser even before he's lost.
My post-debate prediction: welcome to four more years of the Clintons, America. See you in 2020.
Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, blogs at Bracing Views.