Real issues arose in the third and final presidential debate, not the least of them the future of the Supreme Court, but Donald Trump, in one of many mistakes, was too much like John Kerry. He said he thought the election could be rigged, which is what Kerry has said about the 2004 election he lost to George W. Bush.
Speaking definitively, Kerry, now secretary of state, said it about the vote in Ohio some time after the election, and Trump, with no evidence, is saying it speculatively before an election, suggesting the system is rigged. It may be an excuse for his likely loss, or, in his befuddled thinking, he may really think it is voter fraud that will defeat him instead of his endless, sometimes scurrilous tomfoolery.
But all the business about how this betrays American confidence in our electoral system is still a bit strange considering Kerry’s handwringing and something more emphatic: the years-long Democratic wailing about how the Republicans stole the election for Bush in Florida in 2000. Al Gore, the loser, clearly said before the final verdict that there was cheating going on.
Despite the news outlet frenzy on the subject, maybe there is something about the debate that mattered a whole lot more, such as the Supreme Court. The next president will likely get to appoint two, maybe three justices, and they could influence this country mightily for the next two or three decades.
Frighteningly, the court has become a giant. It is easily the most powerful of the three branches of government, overruling the other two not just in individual cases, which is what the founders saw as its job, but in declaring broad, sweeping outcomes nationwide. Trump, though predictably awry in some ways on the issue, said in the debate there is something that ought to hem the court in.
That would be the Constitution. The court’s decisions should be based on what it actually says and what the founders and the amenders set forth.
Hillary Clinton thinks differently. She says the court should represent the people. What this means in reality is that the court relies on its own moral judgments and politics, perhaps sometimes kowtowing to the majority mood, which itself can be unjust. This abandons rule of law, and her appointees would almost certainly treat us to a leftist onslaught from which the country might never recover.
Her big concern is the Citizens United case concerning campaign spending. The specific question in that case was whether a nonprofit group could show a movie critical of Clinton, and the government at one point conceded that if it could prevent this, it could also ban books. The court said yes, the group had had the right air its film, at the same time freeing major corporations to spend lots of money on elections. Clinton, who has outspent Trump on TV ads by $110 million to $19 million, says she wants to shut the corporations up.
Sounding just like Trump, although no one seems to notice, she now seems to agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders that corporately sponsored campaign ads rig the system, and they do if you have a corrupt politician who gives speeches telling donors that her public statements do not necessarily reflect her true thoughts. By the way, has any reporter ever asked her how she feels about banning books? Of course, she avoids press conferences.
Clinton is right about one thing. Trump is unfit to be president. But so is she. She demonstrated as much during the debate with her evasiveness on Clinton Foundation betrayals of the nation and WikiLeaks revelations showing campaign gamesmanship. To mention one other issue, her plan for the debt is a plan for crisis.
She is still almost surely going to be the next president, and the need is for a Republican Senate and House that can help control her. That means voting for GOP candidates in congressional races, but don’t do it fraudulently.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at email@example.com.