This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sunday night was Donald Trump's chance to pull his own campaign and the whole 2016 election cycle out of the gutter. To turn from the embarrassing circus of braggadocio and name-calling and focus the nation's attention on serious issues such as national security, economic policy, entitlements and health care.
He just couldn't do it.
Less than two hours before Sunday night's town hall-style debate began, Trump chose to focus the media's attention something he is amazingly good at not on any serious issue facing the nation's future but on the seamier aspects of Bill and Hillary Clinton's past.
Trump did little to change the salacious focus of everyone's mind since the uncovering of an 11-year-old tape of him bragging about his ability to sexually assault women a criminal act and get away with it. Instead he doubled down, choosing to remind the world of three women who have long been known to have accused the former president of sexual harassment or assault.
Trump also brought out another woman, who was raped at the age of 12 and blames her attacker's appointed defense attorney, Hillary Clinton, for so much of the pain she suffered at the time. The victim's feelings are understandable. Trump's ignorance of the fact that defense attorneys have a solemn duty to defend their clients, no matter how distasteful, is not.
During the debate itself, Trump tried to dismiss his disgusting remarks about the joy of sexual assault as mere "locker room talk," and claim that Bill Clinton's old behavior was worse. Even in apology, he seemed not to understand that attitudes such as those he expressed, even if it was a long time ago, are the core of what's now called "rape culture" and deeply offensive to people of both genders and both parties.
Trump said nothing Sunday night that would likely cause the many Republicans led out by office-holders from Utah to regret their bold step of declaring that they will no longer support the nominee of their own party. Those include former, if lukewarm, supporters Gov. Gary Herbert, Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart and former Gov. Jon Huntsman, as well as fence-sitter Rep. Mia Love. Sen. Mike Lee, who never backed Trump, seized the occasion to call for Trump to quit the race.
Trump's best opportunity to right his listing campaign would be to return the nation's focus to serious issues.
He took stabs at that Sunday, but never delivered enough substance to prove that all the horrible things we have learned, and will continue to learn, about him will be outshown by his potential as a leader.
During the debate, Trump repeated several proven falsehoods, including the argument that he can't release his federal tax returns because they are under audit, the claim that he always opposed the invasion of Iraq, the bunk about American tax rates being the highest in the world and the disproven charge that it was Clinton who started the rumors about Barack Obama not being born in the United States.
Trump also said nothing to reassure anyone that his anti-Muslim policy proposals, his demeaning claim that American blacks and Latinos all live in inner-city hell or his admiration of dictators worldwide aren't still part of his core.
With all the slime attached to Trump's campaign, and not just in the past few days, his only hope of repairing the damage to his own chances, and to the whole election cycle, would be for him to make a convincing case, in the little time remaining, that in spite of everything he has the ideas, the skills and the temperament to lead this nation.
He didn't do that Sunday.