Though Donald Trump has repeatedly and publicly spurned the idea of “debate prep” as something weak that only a corrupt, upper-crusty woman who needs naps would indulge in, something changed by the third debate. That’s when it became clear that the Republican nominee must have indeed done some prep work, because he clearly benefited from it.
Trump’s first debate performance was so rough it was an insult to the audience. He got better in the second one. This time, it was nice to see that in his own way, he had brushed up on some content, like about Supreme Court rulings, for instance.
Thus, he was able to go a reasonable 20 minutes or so in back-and-forthing at the beginning.
(This seems to be his limit. Talk about projecting his own lack of stamina when he talks about Hillary’s.)
But Trump still can’t get past his thin-skinned, automatic need to pounce like a puma, spitting out primitive insults whenever he feels dissed, particularly by a woman.
That’s in clear opposition to the very basics of debating at the highest level: being able to take it, not personalize any of the opponent’s arguments, and not lose one’s cool.
In that way, Trump ended up handing a rallying cry to those viewers who never bought his by-now-laughable line: “No one respects women more than I do.”
That he could even conceive of repeating that line at this point conveyed a serious disconnect from reality.
But I believe he was actually shocked that the audience in the hall giggled when he said it. This caused him to get embarrassed and indignant, as if someone had come back to ask Megyn Kelly’s “You’ve called women dogs,” line of questioning, which summoned the beast in him and led later to his "blood coming out of her wherever" rant.
So by the end of the debate, while he had managed to sniff less, he could not resist interrupting again.
He was on a split screen with Hillary at that point, a sight that became a surreal impersonation of an Alec Baldwin “Saturday Night Live” impersonation, especially when he kept moving closer to the microphone to mouth “wrong,” in a very low voice.
And then he went there. Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman.”
The phrase became an instant meme, the subject of tweets, insta-videos, and who knows what else. Perhaps it will even inspire lots of small start-up businesses. (In that way, Trump will be a jobs provider.)
That’s because the sonorous four syllables are catchy and have real bite. “Nasty woman” suggests previous songs, and is so much more repeatable in polite company than his previous grabber, which involved the “p” word and also suggested sexual predation.
Along with all the other anxiety and hostility stirred up in this election cycle, it seems that Trump, in his behavior on the stump, at debates, on air, and in his middle-of-the-night tweeting, has inadvertently offered daily lessons in sexism.
I had come to think that some of this ugly business was dead and buried—that we had made strides and were enlightened. But despite all that happened with Bill Cosby, we still haven’t processed the fact that women who were sexually abused or harassed need to have comfort in numbers to have the strength to come forward to authorities.
Trump and his henchmen keep attacking Hillary for the way she responded to her husband’s affairs. (“If she didn’t know, she must be stupid,” said Rudy Giuliani, who so surprised his second wife, Donna Hanover, by announcing their separation at a press conference, she then held her own press conference, in the driveway of Gracie Mansion.)
And then, a week after the surfacing of the Billy Bush tape, Trump had his wife, Melania, in essence do a Hillary repeat for the cameras, standing by her man. Melania mentioned that the behavior was “boys talk,” and admitted that she sometimes feels she has two boys at home, her young son and “my husband.”
Maybe this was supposed to be seen as charming and relatable.
But it made me sad that a man of 70 is so stuck in his brutal, braggy, bad-boy ways that he can’t begin to see the behavior he has offered on the global stage is so backward and unacceptable.
Could he change? There are barely three weeks left, and the Cliff Notes are also wearing thin, like his skin. It’s a clear projection: He’s a nasty man.