October 10, 2016
In the spirit of zigging when everybody else zags, I watched Sunday night’s presidential debate seeking something nice to say about Donald Trump.
I’ve written quite a few stories about the Republican candidate over the course of the past year or so. None would be included in emails that campaigns send out to share links to positive coverage of their candidates.
There’s good reason for this: I think he’d be a disastrous choice. This is based on the fact that he would be would be a disastrous choice. You’re lying to yourself and others if you disagree, and there is not enough room on the internet to spell out the reasons.
So, onto the mission at hand of seeking a higher path out of the societal depths dredged by his campaign.
Just after one Kenneth Bone hoisted himself atop the social-media hype list by asking about energy policy, attendee Karl Becker took the mic for the last question of the night.
“Good evening. My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric,” he started, “would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”
Well that was a stunning change of pace in an increasingly nasty and immature race.
It drew plot-twist cheers from the St. Louis crowd, a smile from Hillary Clinton and a smile-sneer from Trump, who was asked if he wanted to go first while pacing, but his opponent jumped in first.
Clinton said she respects “his children [who are] incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.”
Thanks to the split-screen view, you could see Trump’s reaction. He smiled like a decent human being while mentally work-shopping his response as his opponent prattled on about non-parenting related issues.
(He actually waited for his turn to speak, which was a nice change of pace!)
Trump noted that that “was a very nice compliment.” Then, he smarmily added that he didn’t know whether “it was meant to be a compliment.” (Because, God forbid, he shed the cloud of paranoia for even 10 seconds, right?)
Then something magical happened: Donald Trump’s facial expression belied that of a proud parent rather than a calculated candidate or loose-moraled bully. This is what it looks like when a grinch’s small heart grows three sizes before the eyes of a nation, isn't it?
“I will say this about Hillary,” he said, leaving the door open for anything under the oratorical moon to come out next.
But then – around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 9, 2016 – Donald Trump publicly said something complimentary about his political opponent.
“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is: She’s a fighter,” he said. “I consider that to be a very good trait.”
And just like that, the debate was over. The candidates shook hands – Donald extended his first, after having not done so at the start of the debate – and called it a night.
In that moment of reflective honesty, though, I feel as if I finally saw a bit of genuine humanity in the Republican presidential candidate, even if it came at the end of a weekend that saw him napalmed by the inner mogwais that he, despite vehement warnings to the contrary, feeds after midnight.
By the time you read this, he’ll have probably already nominated some lawyer buddy to prosecute a war-crimes case against Clinton. Whatever. Expect the unexpected with these folks.
But before we return to the world of rhetorical flame-throwing and personal attacks, let us celebrate Donald Trump’s 30 seconds of humanity.
He could have been horrible, but he wasn’t. In 2016, that in and of itself is cause for celebration.