Of all the analyses I’ve heard and read about the second presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, one of them stands out.
It came from a talking head who referred to the initial 1960 debate between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy.
It was a serious affair. No audience in the room. Just the candidates and the questioners.
The analyst suggested that there was great hope in 1960 that these events might elevate the quality of the discourse. That it would force the candidates to be civil, collegial and serious. After all, the theory went, they were being beamed into voters’ living rooms. Who wants to hear such trash talk from candidates seeking to become the head of state?
Well, so much for high expectations.
Clinton-Trump II didn’t sink to the level that many prognosticators thought it might. But it damn sure didn’t rise to anything approaching a high-minded discussion about issues.
The overarching issue, of course, was that infamous video recording of Trump talking in 2005 about how he sought to do certain disgraceful things with and to women.
All of that context managed to lower the bar to a horrible level. It made the debate seem small.
As Chuck Todd, the NBC newsman and “Meet the Press” moderator, noted: The debate didn’t do much to enhance the principle of democracy.