Washington Watch: Trump Makes History The Wrong Way

"This was radical, a deliberate threat," said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. "It's horrifying" and will be remembered 50 years from now.

October 21, 2016 18:40
2 minute read.
US debate

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Donald Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the November 8 election immediately sent shock waves throughout the political landscape. It was an unprecedented announcement and elicited an audible gasp through the audience at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday evening in Las Vegas.

"This was radical, a deliberate threat," said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. "It's horrifying" and will be remembered 50 years from now.

Many Republican leaders moved quickly to denounce his pronouncement. They essentially agreed with Hillary Clinton, who called Trump's pronouncement "horrifying." Trump contradicted what his daughter Ivanka and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had said shortly before the debate that there was no question that the Republican candidate would respect the results. After the debate Pence tried to do a 180 and sound loyal to the boss.

When moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Trump if he would "absolutely" accept the voters' decision, the candidate said "I will tell you at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense." "He was disrespecting the democracy of the United States," said one member of an MSNBC focus group.

Twice in response to Wallace's questions, Trump refused to say he would respect the decision of the American people. This is likely to put further strain on Trump's deeply troubled relationship with Republican leaders, who fear this could create negative ripples on down ballot elections that could cost the GOP control of one or both houses of Congress.

He is laying the groundwork to delegitimize Hillary Clinton if she is elected the first woman president just as he spent years trying to delegitimize Barack Obama as the first African-American president.

Many who know him and other observers say Trump is a man incapable of admitting failure or defeat. It something goes wrong, it has to be someone else's fault.

Israel was not mentioned once in the debate but not forgotten.

Trump tried to revive his discredited birther campaign by inviting Barack Obama's estranged half brothers, Malik Obama, to sit with the Trump family at the debate. Malik, a Muslim, backs Trump and apparently is a Hamas supporter, judging by a picture posted on Twitter and in the Times of Israel. He was close to the late Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi and holds his half-brother and Clinton responsible for the dictator's removal.

A major pillar of Trump's campaign is isolationism and protectionism. He wants to tear up or rewrite trade agreements with foreign powers, which he said had been negotiated by "political hacks" in prior administrations. He hit hardest at the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because it was negotiated by the Bill Clinton administration. He is especially critical of deals in which we import more than we export to those countries. A ripe Trump target could be the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement; it was the first FTA entered into by the United States, three decades ago. In 2015, the U.S. had a nearly $11 billion trade deficit with Israel.

If the shocker of the evening was Trump's refusal to accept the decision of the voters, the low point was his name calling. He repeated his usual name calling like "liar" and "criminal" and other epithets, but he added a new one that shocked listeners.

As Clinton was answering a question about taxes in which she said she wants to raise taxes for the very wealthy, including Trump, the billionaire leaned into his microphone and injected, "Such a nasty woman." Such a nasty man.

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