LAS VEGAS aka WATERLOO

1. It’s Thursday, October 20, 2016. The election is 19 days away.

2. Trump really must hate America’s gambling meccas.

He wrecked Atlantic City by building massive casinos and then, amazingly, running them into the ground.

And now, with his performance in the third debate, Las Vegas has become the place where – unless something unthinkable happens in the next 19 days – his presidential ambitions rolled snake eyes.

Much is being made of his biggest gaffe of the night: His refusal to commit to the idea that the 2016 is on the up and up.

Because he’s so self-absorbed, he doesn’t realize why this scares the hell out of people.

It’s a core belief that our elections are fair and above board. We accept the results of elections – as I had to do in 1980 when Ronald Reagan won, and 2000 when, after all the mishegas  in Florida and the Supreme Court, Al Gore conceded to George W. Bush. You’re entitled to start working toward a different result next time the second after the race is declared over.

But you are not entitled to delegitimize the process in progress. It’s not only unethical, but I can’t see how it helps – if I were for Trump, why would I vote if the candidate thinks that vote won’t count?

And yet the election blunder is only one of many Trump made at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

He refuses to decouple himself from Vladimir Putin. I don’t know if he thinks Putin is a popular figure in this country. And maybe he thinks that Putin’s little footsie game with WikiLeaks has support around the nation.

But to defend the Russians against U.S. military and government security agencies time and time again makes him seem like the Siberian Candidate. He looks as though he’s in Putin’s pocket. He sounds as though he doesn’t care how anybody got a hold of the John Podesta e-mails or DNC documents, because as long as it helps him, all’s fair.

It’s a point he could mute Hillary Clinton about. All he has to say is that hacking by foreign governments is a terrible thing, no matter who does it, and that he will make certain Russia or whoever does it pays a price.

Trump can’t bring himself to do that. Maybe he’s not sucking up to Putin. But it sure looks that way.

3. There were lots of other bad moments.

He didn’t help himself with his answer about abortion, and didn’t – as he had previously – backtrack on his assertion made to Chris Matthews that women who have abortions should be punished.

He was ill advised to trot out his one word of Spanish when describing some of the people he’d deport – ‘bad hombres,” as if that’s what the core of those in the country without documentation are.

His wall of denial about women who’ve accused him of inappropriate acts resulted in him saying that he hasn’t even apologized to his wife, Melania, about his action – even though she has said that he apologized.

And, of course, proving Clinton’s point that he’s too thin-skinned to be trusted with nuclear weapons, when she got in a dig about how he would try to avoid paying additional Social Security taxes under her proposal, he interjected “What a nasty woman!”

He can dish it out, but he can’t take it. Bully, first class.

4. Clinton reminded me of Muhammad Ali.

She floated like a butterfly around questions that might have pinned her down – on whether she enabled her husband’s own misbehavior toward women, on whether she told a Brazilian bank that she advocated open borders, and more.

But she stung like a bee when she got under Trump’s skin. Calling him Putin’s puppet, attacking his use of Chinese steel, even by saying that he was hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” while she was helping President Obama nail Osama bin Laden.

Her face didn’t betray much in the way of emotion. There was none of the grimacing and constant interruption that you got from the other side of the split screen.

Is this thing over?

One would think. One would hope.

But who knows what will happen in the next 19 days?

One thing’s for sure: The faster Trump leaves our lives, the better our days will be.

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