Presidential race shows just how low US politics can go

Published 15/10/2016 | 00:00

IF Hillary Clinton succeeds in her bid to shatter the glass ceiling and take the White House it will be fitting that in doing so she will have seen off the challenge of one of the greatest misogynists to ever grace the global political stage.

Sunday night's debate was a new low in American politics with Trump - reeling after the release of recordings of his vile 'locker room' banter with Billy Bush - resorting to bully-boy tactics in a desperate bid to get his floundering campaign back on track.

Early in the debate, Trump was asked to explain his despicable comments about using his star power and wealth to prey on women. The belligerent billionaire offered a mealy-mouthed non apology before almost immediately reverting to type.

Stalking the stage and looming over Clinton, Trump offered his usual tirade of ill-informed racist and misogynistic rhetoric, spewing out claim after claim with little basis in fact.

The Democratic team were no doubt prepared for a backlash from the wounded animal but Hillary Clinton appeared genuinely taken aback by just how far Trump was willing to go.

Indeed, it looked as if the usually unflappable Clinton had been shaken by the pre-debate press conference in which Trump sat side by side with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and rape.

Bill Clinton's past is Trump's trump card and in the face of public outrage, unlike any he had previously encountered, he opted to play it. It was the nuclear option and it seemed to work.

Still, despite all of Trump's bullying bravado, Clinton still probably just managed to shade the win.

Her composure and professionalism was in marked contrast to the aggressive, hectoring manner adopted by Trump.

Trump had previously demurred from raising Bill Clinton's history with women in the debates, claiming he did not want to cause hurt to Clinton's daughter Chelsea.

Now, with his chances of reaching the Oval Office in serious jeopardy, Trump obviously decided Chelsea's feelings come far, far behind his own political future.

Hillary Clinton's daughter can join that ever growing pantheon of women - like Alicia Machado, Arianne Zucker and Nancy O'Dell - who Trump will use as he sees fit.

Of course, this being Donald Trump, the debate was about far more than his casual misogyny. His racism, bigotry and general lack of understanding about world affairs were also front and centre.

In one interlude - which would have been bizarre in any campaign other than this - a Muslim woman in the audience asked Trump how he would stop the rise of Islamophobia.

After initially saying Islamophobia is a 'shame', Trump then embarked on yet another of his incendiary anti-Muslim rants.

Another segment saw Trump answer an African American voter's question on would he be a devoted President to all Americans with a diatribe on crime and poverty in inner cities.

With a month to go before America finally goes to the polls, the race - almost incomprehensibly - is still relatively tight. One thing looks certain, we haven't seen the last scandal.

Aside from who will take the White House, the biggest question that remains is how much further American politics can plunge.

Given all that has happened in this often disgusting race, the worrying thing is that we probably still haven't reached the bottom of the barrel.

Wexford People

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