Tonight, with the third and final presidential debate in the books, the nation enters the final weeks in the run-up to the November 8 election and, after 18 months, the candidates seemed as tired as the nation.

 

Some take-aways…

1. Clinton apparently cannot help but reveal classified information – whether it is in emails sent via her at-home server or, as she did tonight, directly providing details about our nuclear capability. Clinton told the world, “when the president gives the order, there is about four minutes between the order being given and the people responsible for launching nuclear weapons to do so.”

Is that something Vladimir Putin really needed to know?

2. There wasn’t a clear-cut winner. Trump was better than in the previous two debates; Clinton didn’t make any glaring errors.

Coming after Wikileaks exposures and FBI document dumps, amid allegations of sexual impropriety, revelations about dirty tricks and insider secrets, the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had been billed as “must-see” TV, but it may not have provided the knock out Trump needed or Hillary needed to avoid.

While there was probably no movement to either side, it may be a case where a tasty sound bite may provide valuable in a last-minute ad buy during these last three weeks and the campaign that can use their opponent’s own words most successfully will have won the night.

3. Mrs. Clinton is more liberal than progressive and, if elected, she will not preside over a third Obama term – she will usher in a new era of big government on a far more ambitious scale than America has seen in the past eight years.

Clinton advocated mandatory pre-school, free college, secure social security and Medicaid/Medicare, massive infrastructure, “jobs” programs (remember all those “shovel-ready” jobs that weren’t?) and huge increases in an unskilled migrant population – many of whom, such as Muslim women, are prohibited from working – all without offering any details about a plan to pay for them, possibly because no plan exists.

4. While Trump is capable of holding his temper and displaying a more presidential demeanor, he seems incapable of totally subsuming his personality for any length of time. Calling Mexican cartel drug lords “bad hombres” and Clinton “such a nasty woman” when she made a cutting comment about him, Trump remained… Trump. To his followers, that is proof of authenticity; to Clinton supporters, it’s more proof that he isn’t presidential.

5. Trump either honestly believes the election is rigged, as he has been claiming for the past year and more adamantly in recent weeks, or he is setting up an excuse should he lose.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but when moderator Chris Wallace asked if he could commit to accepting the results of the election, Trump refused.

When pressed by Wallace – who no doubt knew instinctively that he had hit “the” sound bite of the debate – Trump said, “I will look at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense.”

Clinton called the response “horrifying,” as the Twitterverse lit up. The audio clip will dominate the media tomorrow – and possibly beyond.

6. Lastly, while Trump may make the news with his refusal to categorically accept the results of the election and Clinton may have painted Putin as Trump’s best friend, it may be that the biggest winner of the evening was… moderator Chris Wallace.

Wallace refereed the first two debates far better than the four who handled the previous two, managing the bout and the combatants with a firm hand – and fairness.

Lester Holt (NBC), Martha Raddatz (ABC), Anderson Cooper (CNN) and Elaine Quijano (CBS) represent the mainstream media, whereas Wallace – the son of award-winning journalist and original host of CBS’s “60 Minutes” Mike Wallace – is the first FOX News host to moderate a presidential debate, and viewers, especially those who ridicule FOX might have been surprised to see what a balanced debate looks like.

Wallace wasn’t afraid to ask about abortion, the economy, immigration, the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment. He pressed Clinton about the copacetic relationship between her family foundation and the State Department during her tenure as secretary, as well as her statement that she “dreams of open borders,” and put Trump on the spot for a commitment to accept the results of the election.

Wallace was trending on social media, with highly positive comments early on and even CNN was giving him high marks for the job.

The debate and speculation about who won and who lost will dominate Thursday’s news cycle, of course, but with more Wikileaks expected, the FBI’s practice of dumping documents on Friday afternoons and legions of groped women coming forward on a daily basis, it looks like a long three weeks to November 8.

 

 

 

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