Dorothy Parker is said to have commented, “What Fresh Hell is this?” any time someone came to her door.
After 234 years of campaigning, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be used to this response. In fact, by the time of the third presidential debate, this wasn’t even Fresh Hell anymore. This was more like Clearance Sushi at Kroger. Not exactly the same thing as browsing the clearance aisle at Ross or TJ Maxx for nipple clamps. It’s just stale, and disturbing.
The debate began with Chris Wallace, son of the great journalist Mike Wallace— a sort of sad, sloughed-off chicken skin who’s the most disappointing sequel since the Star Wars prequels. Wallace started off by declaring there would be “no applause….… except for now.” He then bellowed, unceremoniously, “Let me hear you say HOOOOOOOOO,” and raised the roof for a weirdly prolonged time before breaking into the sprinkler and the elastic cornflake. Everyone looked really uncomfortable.
Here comes a serial rapist with a tawny baby lion’s hide on his head and Hillary in a cream pantsuit—the Thin White Duke. In fact, everyone was wondering what they would wear this time, what their colors would signal. The first debate was a little foxy, since Hillary stepped out in a blazing red pantsuit while Trump wore a counter-programming blue tie. Then HRC broke out in navy blue for the second one, and Trump in…. what, volcanic Delhi Belly?
From the beginning, the hellish combination of Skyline chili and Stone IPA in my stomach was churning. Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about “foreign hotspots,” which made me nauseous immediately because you had to assume the answer was going to be sexual and creepy. On the Supreme Court, Hillary came out with a very bold, anti-Boss Hog stance. In response, Trump spoke luridly about ripping babies out of women, which also seems like it might be some kind of gross sexual euphemism in Trumpland.
At least at first, Donny seemed like he’d chugged some Nyquil before the show. Or maybe Kellyanne just gave him half a Klonopin—but we all knew that little baby would wear off in 10 or 15 minutes. We were all timing our watches and placing bets in our death pool as to when the Orange One would turn red.
We didn’t have long to wait!
When Wallace sprung the guns and dead fetuses thing, we got rapidly into the fog of war. Trump said HRC and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were emotional wacko bird ladies who had hot flashes fuming out of their pantsuits whenever they thought about those big, mean gun rulings. Then Hillary said something about how toddlers now have Tek-9s because of the Heller decision, I think… I don’t know, airplane glue is a hell of a drug.
To be honest, Good Ol’ Hill was on shaky ground when explaining why she wants to kill babies with abortion monster claws but not kill black folks with guns. Then our girl saw her Wikileaks/Goldman Sachs ooze (not allowed by the FDA in most states, but this is Vegas) coming in at five o’clock just like FDR knew those planes were coming for Pearl Harbor. HRC was, like any good student, ready with some supremely prepared bullshit.
Indeed, she somehow managed to jujitsu her pandering to Wall Street into an attack on Trump about Putin, which began the careful, scientific process of sending Donny into a red-cheeked paroxysm of “boytalk” rage.
“That was a great pivot from open borders,” Donny sneered. With an imperceptible shimmy, HRC was like, yeah, it was – thanks bruh!
Soon Trump was slathered in butter, sexed-up, agitated and hungry, like a shirtless showboat in the Castro in 1979—“I’m a red hot grizzly bar!”
Mugging, smirking, shaking his head, Donny boy just couldn’t take it. He said he’s sure the leaks of Hillary’s Laverne & Shirley/Cagney & Lacey slash fic were done not by Russia or China, but by a 400-pound guy in West Virginia who smokes a pound of hash a day and washes his dishes… in the bathtub. Okay, brother.
Not to worry, DT. He’s still got things going for him. After all, as Trump pointed out, “I got 200 generals, 14 wives, 3 mistresses, 59 accountants, 105 lawyers, 12 million Twitter followers, and a postal system that never fails!”
The orange people might have been holding a Wicker Man-style barbecue next to her on stage, but Clinton didn’t acquit herself all that well either. She followed up her classic I’m-lying-to-you-because-Steven-Spielberg-made-me-watch-Lincoln routine with a brilliant new comic scene, in which I-tell-bankers-I-want-an-open-borders-hemispheric-empire-of-free-trade because… I want to hook up my iPod to an electric grid in Belize, do green energy, or something, and buy the world a Coke!
Okay, sister. Amazingly, no one took her up on this brazen ass gambit.
The rest of the time, HRC was in her fullest Tracy Flicky bloom. On the economy, she said “We’re standing, but not yet running,” which actually sounds a little dirty, but in a boring, homework kind of way. She jived herself into a self-congratulatory tizzy with her answers on jobs and skill training, while constantly appearing to look down at notes as she spun out her responses. (But how can anyone possibly have that many notes?!)
HRC had her usual, stale Home Improvement-style quips locked and loaded, of course, reminding Trump numerous times that he was jerking it behind the scenes at The Celebrity Apprentice while she was murdering Bin Laden and saving a baby goose from the BP oil spill. When Clinton spoke forebodingly about Trump’s “dark and dangerous vision,” little Donny actually seemed to nod approvingly. Yup, that’s me. I did that.
So what? I dream of a world with Mad Max dune buggies and Lord of the Flies-style social anomie, but, hey—at least it’s a world without pantsuits!
In the end, a shaken and destroyed Wallace said to candidates, in halting tones, “I’d like to thank you both for participating in this debate… I guess… all three hundred of these debates… Dear God, kill me now, why am I still not passing out…?”
From there we saw a macabre eruption of concern trolling on cable news. Even as media talking heads worried about the despoiling of the sacrosanct anal sphincter of American democracy, because DT refused to accept the results of the election; even as an adderalled-out DT Jr. spun and spun crazily on MSNBC about economic liberty—the liberty to be born rich and die richer, despite having actively done everything to prevent that happening—most Americans felt more like the broken shells left behind by the Apocalypse Now spectacle of debate moderation.
Chris Wallace. Lester Holt. Martha Raddatz. We, like they, just want the hurting to stop. To Hell with the sanctity of democracy’s asshole. Hell, do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?