Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas


+ Tonight’s debate moderator, Chris Wallace, says his role model is not his father, the frisky Mike Wallace, but PBS’s Jim Lehrer, the human sleeping pill.

+ Trump has called for both candidates to be drug tested before the debate. Also sensible. What’s good for welfare mothers, should be good for corporate welfare dispensers…

+ Objects in the rearview mirror may be closer than they appear: a new poll by Investor’s Business Daily (traditionally one of the most accurate polls in the predicting business) shows Trump UP one percent nationally.

+ Reporters keep saying tonight is Trump’s last chance to “show he is presidential.” He’s already demonstrated he has the moral character of JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Clinton. What more does he have to do? Launch a drone from the stage?

+ Fifteen years into the eternal war in Afghanistan, more children are dying than ever. From January 1 to September 30 of this year, 639 children were killed and another 1,822 were injured. That’s up 15% from last year. Not one question about this war during the debates.

+ Madonna is giving new meaning to Clinton surrogate. This week she offered oral sex to anyone willing to vote for Hillary.

“If you vote for Hillary Clinton I will give you a blowjob,” Madonna announced during her gig this week at Madison Square Garden. “And I’m good. I am not a douche and I am not a tool. I maintain eye contact and I do swallow.”

Perhaps that’s the kind of “wet work” Podesta was referring to in his emails?

Is oral sex actually “sex”? Over to you, Bill.

Does this offer violate FEC rules? I await the undercover film from Project Veritas.

+ Press keeps demanding that Trump show “contrition” tonight. HRC’s policies have led to the deprivation and deaths of tens of thousands without shedding one public tear.

+ Has anyone sent out an Amber Alert for Tim Kaine? He’s been missing for two weeks. Maybe no one cares enough. I don’t. Perhaps he’s on the lam with Bob Dylan hiding out from process servers from the Nobel committee.

+ Trump is being warned not to use the Clinton campaign emails because US intelligence says they are the product of Russian hack. Same US intelligence agencies that led Clinton to vote for Iraq War (not that she needed prodding.)

+ Bill Clinton is reportedly crushed that new debate rules prohibit him from shaking Melania’s hand tonight…

+ Prior to the debate, Rachel Maddow informed her audience that: “It’s crazy that the Trump people say we don’t know who hacked the emails. Our government has said it is the Russians. Homeland Security came out and said it was the Russians! They don’t make these kinds of statements lightly!” Aren’t these the same people who fingered Cat Stevens as a terrorist?

+ By the end of this campaign, the Pledge of Allegiance may be replaced by Pledge to declare war on Russia.

+ Apparently, it’s all about “temperament.” Is Trump’s mercurial nature really more dangerous than HRC’s icy determination to force a confrontation between the US and Russia?

+ Liberal and conservative establishment condemn Trump’s insistence that elections are rigged. They say it “undermines faith” in our Democratic institutions. Good for Trump. For proof, we don’t need to go back to the Chicago miracle in 1960, Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004. Just consider the evidence from the Democratic Primaries of this year.

+ Trump is being ridiculed for his vote rigging rap by same people alleging that Russia is hacking the election.

+ And we’re off. Hillary enters as the Woman in White. (White after Labor Day? Imagine the horror in the editorial offices of Vogue! Will Anna Wintour rescind endorsement?) First debate blue, second red. Notice a theme here? USA, USA!

+ Trump, looking a little more jaundiced than normal, seems to have changed the tone of his spray on tan–Melania’s revenge?

+ Chris Wallace announces that none of his questions have been shared with the candidates. But did he slip Donna Brazile a copy?

+ People already switching over to “Real Housewives of Hollywood” after the first question is on constitutional theory.

+ Trump reiterates his encomiums for the noxious Scalia, but Hillary cowardly won’t name one person she’d name to court or one justice she admires.

+ Liberals might do well to remember that the two most progressive judges of the last 30 years, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, both nominated by Republicans.

+ Sniff. Trump’s nasal trauma still unresolved.

+ Is this debate really going to be about “issues?” Come on, Wallace, cut to the sleaze…

+ Please, PLEASE don’t let Trump plunge into a dissertation on the doctrine of Stare Decisis.

+ Hillary swears she’s a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment and regrets that the NRA ran nasty ads against her. Awww…

+ Trump reaches desperately for water, somewhere Marco Rubio laughs!

+ Trump should just let Clinton drone on, reciting endless list of proposals that will never leave briefing book. She has all the charisma of my calculus teacher.

+ Surprise! Hillary bashes China before slandering Russia.

+ Both want to deport “bad hombres.” At last, consensus!

+ Trump nails HRC on having voted for draconian border policies, including building border walls and slams Obama for his inhumane mass deportations. He should have hit her on detaining and turning back children fleeing El Salvador and Honduras.

+ Hillary veers sharply from immigration policy to an attack on Wikileaks. Hillary confirms authenticity of Wikileaks documents, then blames the hack on “Putin himself…17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed.” 17 Intelligence agencies? Must be the first time they’ve all agreed on anything since the plot to assassinate JFK. Such conformity is always a sign of dubious intelligence.

+ Trump didn’t fall for Putin bait and turned it back on her for his most devastating counter attack of the debates. As close as he’s come to a KO.

+ Waiting for the first “Trump-Putin 2020” yard sign to pop up.

+ Hillary’s nervous laugh is her equivalent of Trump’s compulsive sniffing. Every forced grin a sign that a blow has landed. Full out cackling indicates a direct hit.

+ First Bernie Sanders name-drop of the night comes on a student loan plan HRC has no intention of pursuing.

+ In HRC’s interminable economic ramble not one mention of the poor, economic inequality, trade policy, housing, racial inequality, hunger, predatory banking, expansion of health care or offshoring, cutting defense spending. The whole laundry list was geared toward appeasing white Middle Class workers. Could have earned seal of approval from Heritage Foundation.

+Why are liberals obsessed with reducing the national “debt”? Even Cheney said that Reagan proved debt doesn’t matter. HRC will use deficit reduction as excuse to make a deal with Paul Ryan to slash entitlements and begin privatization of SS, long a preoccupation of the Clintons and their New Democrat allies.

+ Economic theorizing is even more mind-numbing than these two debating constitutional law and the concept of originalism. Let’s have round 3 on NATO or Pussygate!

+ When HRC is on the ropes she resorts to bashing China, this time on trade policy that she and her neoliberal friends have enabled.

+ Clinton often puts herself on the ropes, as on her ludicrous contortions about TPP. Hillary lauded her own “experience,” which Trump pounced on, saying “30 years of bad experience.” But Trump is incapable of sustaining an attack and let her slither away. Trump’s narcissism is so easily manipulated that he loses focus after the slightest prick to his ego.

+ Trump made a few energetic thrusts at Hillary regarding her email problems. She had nothing new to say in response.  Too bad Bernie refused to press the issue when it might have inflicted fatal damage to her campaign.

+ Chris Wallace scored some points of his own. HRC refused to look Wallace in the eye as she dances around his probing question about special treatment for Clinton Foundation donors by the State Department.

+ This may be the first presidential debate where Haitian policy was even briefly debate, an indication that the vultures are circling the devastated island once again.

+ Wallace’s big gotcha question for Trump was whether he would pledge to accept the results of the election regardless of the outcome. Trump said he’d have to wait and see, which made sense to me. Why should any candidate vow to accept the election results before seeing what they are and how they were tabulated? Al Gore prematurely conceded to Bush in 2000, retracted, then prematurely conceded again. And he was a wimp for doing so. One might argue that Gore betrayed the democratic process by conceding to Bush when he believed, with plenty of evidence, that he had won.

+ Later, the commentariat kept saying they heard “gasps” from the crowd when Trump refused to vow to concede election results. I didn’t hear any. But if there were gasps, they probably came from all the K Street lawyers in the hall calculating the billable hours from such a protracted litigation.

+ Hillary says she doesn’t want to “rip” immigrant children from their parents arms (despite evidence to contrary), but vows to support “ripping” of late-term fetuses from the womb. She rather bizarrely justified her position on late-term abortions by slamming Chinese one-child policy. When on the ropes, blame Putin or China. (Though never that “shoe factory called Taiwan.”) Did she run late-term abortion policy by Kaine? He signed a ban on the procedure in Virginia.

+ Nothing gets HRC quite so animated as talking about her war plans. She reasserts her deranged plan to impose a No-Fly Zone on Syria, which she admitted in an email would “kill a lot of Syrians.” When Trump retorted that such a plan would put US in direct conflict with Russia, Hillary retreated some, saying she’d negotiate the plan with Putin and Assad. Can’t wait for Wikileaks to release transcript of those talks!

+ Clinton’s answers on foreign policy sounded like she spent the last week with her nose stuck in Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War, memorizing every scenario for planetary doom.

+ Hillary really, REALLY wants Baghdadi’s head on her platter, for matching pair with Qaddafi’s, I guess. She may be one of the first presidential candidates to openly talk about assassination of foreign leaders as instrument of US military policy.

+ After the reconquest of Mosul in Iraq, Hillary pledged to drive on into Syria to “take back Raqqa.” Take it for whom? Under what legal authority?

+ Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo…paging Gary Johnson.

+ Trump’s line of the night: “If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape.” Sound rule for all politicians.

+ HRC: “I’m not going to slam the door on women and children.” You certainly slammed the door on the refugee children from El Salvador and those fleeing the Hondura junta, put in power by the coup you backed.

+ Trump is spouting a lot of nonsense on the economy. But at least he hasn’t pledged to attack entitlements (yet), which is what the national debt question is all really about.

+ Chris Wallace, who is a registered Democrat, is obsessed with debt. But debt reduction is a really a code-word for the imposition of austerity measures on poor people. Notice there was no mention of slashing the defense budget to reduce the debt. It’s all about slashing entitlements: medicare, medicaid and social security.

+ The Establishment is working feverishly on both sides to preserve the illusion of integrity in American “democracy.” It’s going to be a hard sell.

+ Commentators are in a frenzy, claiming absurdly that Trump betrayed American troops “fighting for Democracy around the world” by refusing to say he’d concede election. Fighting for Democracy? The US ranks a lowly 47 on the democracy “index” and around 43rd in election integrity.

+ One of the most agitated pundits was Eugene Robinson, who was introduced on MS-DNC as “a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post.” Is that still considered an honor?

+ For more than half of American history, blacks and women were not allowed to vote. Were those “legitimate” elections?

+ Should the current election be considered a legitimate election, when Greens and Libertarians are excluded from the debates? When millions are disenfranchised for legal convictions? When legislative districts are gerrymandered to ensure party dominance? When polling places and hours are redlined from poor and minority neighborhoods?

+ The fury of the elites over the notion that the election might be rigged show how alienated they are from a country where nearly 60 percent of the electorate doesn’t bother to vote. Spend time in any bar (and even a few microbreweries) in America and you’ll hear people talking about how the System is rigged against them, from the economy to oil prices, from who goes to war to who pays taxes, from the officiating in the NBA to credit card rates, from insurance premiums to who goes to jail, and, yes, to politics from the school board to the president. The system is geared to serve the one-percent at the expense of everyone else. The people know the country doesn’t work for them and the elites are desperate to preserve the illusion as it all begins to crack apart.

+ It’s a wrap, another 90 minutes where the most pressing issues confronting Americans were deftly avoided. Nothing on climate change, nothing on poverty, nothing on ending the war in Afghanistan, nothing on banks, on housing, on education, on campaign finance, health care, racial injustice, killer cops or  the war on drugs. Nothing comes from nothing (Nihil fit ex nihilo), as Lucretius wisely observed.

+ So who won? The Cubs: 10-2. There’s something to cheer about.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3