So here are the morning-after-the-debate questions I woke up with. They're all for Donald Trump, because Hillary Clinton just had an okay-boring, Hippocratic kind of night: she did no harm to herself or her opponent.
1. Last night, both Trump and his surrogates were loaded for bear about the issue of sexual assault in America, to the point of flying in a panel of Bill Clinton’s long-running accusers; expressing outrage at the media for not showering their old allegations with new coverage, and so forth. But prior to the Access Hollywood audio tape's landing him in the deep end of the jacuzzi, had Trump, at any point in his campaign, highlighted the issue of sexual assault? Had he even mentioned it? (Mexican rapists don’t count.)
2. On that hastily-convened panel of anti-Clintonistas, there were three women (Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones) who had made direct claims against Bill Clinton. But a fourth woman, Kathleen Shelton, was present because Hillary Clinton had, as a twenty-something court-appointed lawyer, successfully defended the man who raped Shelton when she was twelve. It’s easy to understand why Shelton hates Hillary Clinton. But from the Trump campaign’s perspective, exactly what was she doing there? What anti-Hillary blow does she strike? Are lawyers who defend men accused of assaulting women to be morally equated with the men themselves? Is Trump planning to rewrite the rules of the criminal-defense bar? Should women defense lawyers not take on sex-crime cases, or just advocate poorly for their clients? What’s the idea there?
I know that in a scrupulously logic-free campaign, such points are laughably arcane. But last night, it did look as if Team Trump had just sort of tossed Shelton into a generalized sexual-assault salad to be thrown in Hillary Clinton’s face. If so, that strikes me as a whole new, more calculated magnitude of gross — much more gross than the “banter" in the Access Hollywood locker room on wheels.
3. As for Willey, Broaddrick and Jones: what exactly is Trump alleging that Hillary Clinton herself did to each of these individuals relative to each of their very different claims?
Yes, yes, I know, she "enabled" years of Bill's sexcapades and plainly guaranteed his political survival of them, in part by participating in the general discrediting of "other women" whom she had to have considered at least somewhat credible. This is not grounds for nomination to the Feminist Hall of Fame. For some people, it is grounds for disqualification from the presidency -- or additional grounds, since few such people like anything else about Hillary Clinton, either. But for the rest of us, ninety-five per cent of this stuff speaks to the character of the former president, and not the (likely) future president. And one hundred per cent of it is gum that has Already Been Chewed.
So: Even at this very late date, if there is something that is truly new, specific, and Hillary-centric to add to the previously published chapters of this sad saga, let's hear it. Otherwise, could we please get back to our plans to get the African-Americans and the Hispanics out of hell?
4. Leaving the sexual-predator portion of our program: How does Trump know that Hillary has hate in her heart? Was that declaration — along with branding his opponent to be the devil — some kind of semantic shout-out to evangelical Christians? If so, I would be curious to know how it landed. The evangelicals I’ve encountered over the years have usually been very eager to emphasize that no matter how harshly they might condemn people for certain actions, no one but God can really know what is in another person’s heart. So the Biblical bent of Trump’s most personal attacks struck me as odd.
5. Whether or not Trump is really as rich as he says he is, can this man not afford an antihistamine?