Recent history often provides clarity on the circumstances of today. Sometimes people change. Donald Trump does not.
One year ago on October 11, 2016, the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took place in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a tumultuous month in the historic 2016 campaign. Trump's campaign appeared on shaky ground, the U.S. announced that Russia was trying to interfere in the election, and WikiLeaks was dumping new controversy into the race.
As we watched both candidates on the debate stage, Donald Trump laid out the pattern we see being played out today. Trump used distraction to cover up his lack of substance on issues, no matter what Hillary said. No matter what anybody said. Distraction remains his continued modus operandi with only one difference - Trump is now President of the United States and the world is his stage.
Days before that debate, the now infamous Access Hollywood tapes had been released showing Trump's mentality and despicable behavior toward women. He had been exposed. Rather than contrition, Trump carried his anger into the debate lashing out and using his physical presence to stalk Clinton on stage. He became the omnipresent bully.
Donald Trump is an angry man. We saw it in the candidate, and we see it in the President. He's a man who believes that the way to succeed is to evoke intimidation and fear spreading anger wherever he can. There's no greater good in his mind other than what works for himself.
I described Trump as "seriously out of control" a year ago in the column appearing below. Tragically nothing has changed. In October 2017, time has become the controlling factor. How much time will it take for the Trump presidency to be brought down?
Sex. Lies. Groping. Video Tape. and a Debate/ October 10, 2016
We have gone through many stages of Donald Trump during this 2016 Presidential Campaign, but we now have reached the numbing effect. He went to the bottom of the barrel in the St. Louis Presidential Debate and did not come up cleansed. In an attempt to save himself after the release of sleazy video and audio tapes of self described sexual ways and encounters, he stooped even lower in full public view.
In a move few could believe, Trump brought four women, three of whom accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the '90's, to the Washington University in St. Louis campus shortly before the debate began. Donald Trump held a photo op with all of them. Then his friend Rudy Giuliani escorted the women to their seats in the main debate room directly in front of Hillary Clinton. Trump apparently felt that humiliating her in a cheap and tawdry way in front of a world audience watching the debate was the best way to redeem himself.
This is the same Donald Trump who told us after the first debate, "I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscrestions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton." The same Chelsea Clinton who was now forced to sit rows apart from women who had played a very painful role in the Clinton family life when she was a young girl. The same Chelsea who was seated in the St. Louis audience next to her father, the former President of the United States. The same daughter whose good friend Ivanka Trump was also sitting close by next to her sibilings and Melania Trump.
That's what Hillary Clinton saw as she looked out at the audience in the relatively small debate area that had been set up.
And that's exactly what it was. A set up. Trump had wanted to intimidate her.
The Debate was held on a fine midwestern college campus. In normal times, it would have been a great opportunity for students to have the presidential candidates debate on their campus. But what took place last night was something that should never have been seen by any of us as part of the presidential political process.
Donald Trump came on to the debate stage an angry man backed into a self made corner. You can no longer be dispassionate about Trump. His behavior at the St. Louis Debate was repulsive and wrong. He created what was too often an abusive encounter mixed with psychological warfare. He tried to make Hillary guilty for her husband's alledged indescretions. Trump showed continual disrespect for the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, telling her if he were in charge "you'd be in jail." He refused to stop interrupting and shouting at her. And this was a Presidential Debate.
The one thing Donald Trump didn't do last night was offer the American people a major apology for his behaviors. Not the thirty second late night one quickly put together two days before. He wasn't man enough to do the right thing, and what many were waiting to hear.
So much damage had been done to this debate by a defiant and arrogant Donald Trump that it was hard to focus on whatever substance there was. What we saw was a candidate seriously out of control.