Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump interrupted each other often during their third and final debate. (John Locher / AP)

8:01 p.m. PDT:

The debate started on a civil note, but that didn’t last long. Who won? Not the American people. The Democratic and Republican options this year both have serious flaws. It will be a hold-your-nose-and-vote kind of election year for a lot of people. This is our reality. We need to make the most of it and keep fighting for truth and justice. That is supposed to be the American way. That is not a reality for all Americans right now. We need to add peace to the equation. The way to change our political system is from the ground up, at the grass roots of the communities where we live. We need to demand that our leaders serve the will of the people, from the most local level of government to the highest office of the land. If our leaders won’t do it, we need to find others who will. That may mean becoming leaders ourselves. Creating the America we want—today and tomorrow, for future generations—is up to us, the American people. Time to roll up our sleeves, put our heads down and get to work.

7:55 p.m. PDT: Truthdig columnist Bill Blum was not impressed with the show.

The best thing I can say about the third and final presidential debate is that it’s over. I feel like I need a good shower. We are left in this election with a choice (sorry, my fellow progressives, Jill Stein isn’t going to win) between a malignant, narcissistic protofascist and a lying neoliberal warmonger (credit to University of Pennsylvania professor Adolph Reed Jr. for the reference). At least the neoliberal is sane, smart and capable of some degree of self-control. Trump was overmatched from the outset, and lost it entirely, as a matter of debating technique, when he refused to say he would accept the results of the election. It would be one thing if he had the best interests of the country in mind when he said that, but he didn’t. He’s terrified of one thing and one thing only—losing. Game over.

7:35 p.m. PDT:

Truthdig columnist Bill Boyarsky shares his final thought of the night:

Trump’s refusal to say he will honor the election was shocking. Disgusting, actually. “I will look at it at the time,” Trump said, when challenged during the final presidential debate on his claims that the election is “rigged” against him. He added: “I will keep you in suspense.” That raises the possibility of a post-election marked by endless charges and challenges. He really doesn’t believe in traditional American democracy. Let’s say he’s right, and we should have something different. For our guidance, he mentioned his role models, Russia, Iran and Bashar Assad, the bloody dictator of Syria. “He is much tougher than her and Obama,” he said. He spoke approvingly of Assad’s alliance with the Russians and Iran and spoke disdainfully of the “rebels” who opposed Assad. The Trump solution: Keep Assad in power, let the Russians and Iran run the place, and try to discredit the American election. Quoting Bernie Sanders, Clinton told Trump, “You are the most dangerous person to run for president in the history of the country.” For his part, Trump said of Clinton, “She’s a nasty woman.”

That is the headline of the night. Trump doesn’t trust the election. What happened to the strongman?

7:33 p.m. PDT: Moderator Chris Wallace drops a pop quiz: Since the candidates don’t have any closing statements prepared, they each get one minute to make one.

Clinton: “I’m reaching out to all Americans—Democrats, Republicans, and independents—because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be, to grow the economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone. We need your talents, your skills, your commitments, your energy, your ambition.”

Trump: “We’re going to make America great. … We don’t take care of our veterans. We take care of illegal immigrants, people that come into the country illegally, better than we take care of our vets. That can’t happen. Our policemen and women are disrespected. We need law and order, but we need justice, too. Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in 10 lifetimes.”

Now the decision is up to us.

7:30 p.m. PDT: Trump is cutting taxes. “Repeal and replace Obamacare,” he says. “It is a disaster. It’s probably going to die under its own weight. She wants to keep Obamacare, but it can’t get any worse.”

Will Clinton consider a grand bargain to save Social Security and Medicare? Yes. She will not cut benefits, she says. “What Donald is proposing for tax cuts will add $20 trillion in debt.” Somebody get some economists on the horn. We need to run some numbers.

7:28 p.m. PDT: Clinton is going to where the money is. She wants the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. “We will have what economists call ‘middle-out growth,’ ” she says. Clinton says she is good for the economy. Trump says he is better for the economy. Whom do you believe?

7:20 p.m. PDT: The focus shifts to Syria. Trump makes some points that hurt Clinton. “We are backing rebels, and we don’t know who the rebels are,” he says.

Wallace asks Clinton about the no-fly zone. “If Russia flies a plane in the no-fly zone, would you shoot it down?” That’s an important question. Clinton turns on the doublespeak switch. “I think we could strike a deal. We think this is in the best interest of everyone. We will defeat [Islamic State].”

“We are outplayed on missiles, on cease-fires,” says Trump. “Nobody can believe how stupid our leaders are.”

They both agree Syria is a mess. Neither of them seems to have a viable plan to end the violence.

How about, instead of talking about war, we talk about peace? Follow the money.

7:17 p.m. PDT: Trump pulls out the WikiLeaks. “John Podesta says you have terrible instincts. Bernie Sanders says you have terrible judgment. I agree with both of them.”

Clinton hits back. “Well, you should ask Bernie Sanders who he’s supporting for president. And he has said as he campaigns for me around the country, you are the most dangerous person to run for president in the modern history of America.” Which way will the voters go? Will all of Sanders’ supporters vote for Clinton? Will they vote for Stein? Trump? Flip a coin. Nobody knows.

7:11 p.m. PDT: Another comment from Boyarsky:

Chris Wallace asked [Trump] whether he would accept the results of the election. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. That’s the big news so far. Before that, Vladimir Putin and the Russians provoked a sharp exchange.

Clinton jumped from a discussion on “open borders,” plucked from WikiLeaks and bad news for her, to U.S. intelligence beliefs that the Russians, under Putin’s direction, are hackers. “Will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this?” she asked. Trump said, “I don’t know Putin,” but “if he said nice things about me,” that would be good. She said, “You encouraged espionage against our people. … You are willing to spout the Putin line. … He has a very clear favorite in this race.” She said Trump is Putin’s puppet. No, he replied, “You’re the puppet,” adding that Putin has outsmarted her during her time in office. “You have been outsmarted and outplayed,” he said.

His demeanor is different, more controlled than in the other debates. Although his mouth is turned down, he is succeeding in looking calm.

But now Wallace brings up the women. Why would these women make up the stories? Trump said their stories have been largely debunked. Those stories are false. Women either wanted fame, or Clinton’s campaign did it. He picked up the story, from right-wing sources, that Democrats paid people to cause trouble. Clinton hits back at him. “Donald thinks belittling women made him bigger,” she said.

He moves into Clinton’s emails.

The debate is heading toward the bottom. She now attacks hard, hitting him for calling the judge a Mexican, for making fun of the disabled reporter, for encouraging people to “pull and push in his rallies.” He looks as though he is starting to get mad.

7:06 p.m. PDT:

Is the election rigged? Trump thinks so. He also thinks voters are seeing corruption that exists. “We’ll find out on Nov. 8. … She shouldn’t be allowed to run.”

Clinton credits the FBI for doing a good investigation of her emails. That’s rich.

Clinton says Trump even complained about not getting an Emmy. She said he thinks everything is rigged when it doesn’t go his way. “It’s funny, but it’s troubling.” Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Clinton is capable of making an honest statement.

7:01 p.m. PDT: Trump wants the Clinton Foundation to give back the money. Good luck with that.

Clinton wants to talk about the Trump Foundation. “Bill and I have been involved in trying to help Haiti for many years.” Trump says, “They don’t want you to help them anymore.”

At this point, neither Clinton nor Trump looks presidential. How about we get some fresh voices on the debate stage? What would happen if we had Jill Stein and Gary Johnson on the stage?

Maybe in 2020, third-party and independent candidates will be treated with a little more respect and be part of the national conversation. The only way that will happen is if people demand it. The only way to get the attention of the powerful is to hit them in the pocketbook.

6:54 p.m. PDT: Welcome to the misogynistic portion of the debate. Clinton starts talking about Trump’s alleged mistreatment of women over the years. She rattles off a litany of instances that show Trump has no respect for women.

“Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Trump just said that. Nobody? Who knew?

Trump changes the subject. “Let’s talk about those 30,000 emails.” Old news, but Clinton doesn’t have a good response.

Clinton turns the tables. Mocking a disabled reporter, the Khan family. “We see a pattern of divisiveness. … That is not who America is.”

6:49 p.m. PDT: Trump gives Clinton a compliment and then takes off the gloves. He says she’s been in government for 30 years, but what did she accomplish while secretary of state?

Clinton brings up Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, saying Trump “called her an eating machine.” If you can’t say anything of substance, throw mud.

At this point, are we learning anything new about these candidates?

6:41 p.m. PDT: The conversation turns to the economy. Trump points out that the national debt is up to $20 trillion. He says he will renegotiate NAFTA. We are going to make a great trade deal. We are going to cut taxes. “We are going to start the engine rolling again.”

Wallace says Trump’s numbers don’t add up, that under his plan “Even conservative economists who have looked at your plans say … 4 percent growth is unrealistic.”

Trump replies. We are growing at 1 percent GDP. China is beating us. Our jobs growth is terrible. She wants the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She lied.

Clinton says she is against the TPP now, yesterday, tomorrow, Monday through Sunday, and twice on Tuesday. Are you convinced?

6:40 p.m. PDT: Bill Boyarsky sees a different tone and tenor to Trump in the early going of this debate.

This may change, but the opening round has been quiet. Donald Trump looked on with mouth down-turned, but his voice was softer than at this rallies, and he didn’t interrupt. Moderator Chris Wallace took charge with his questions, strongly guiding the discussion. The Supreme Court was the issue at the beginning, and their views could not have been farther apart on abortion and gun rights. He said that under her philosophy, the baby could be ripped from the mother on the final day. That, she correctly replied, is not true. Nobody has approved of abortion in those final days. He said he will appoint an anti-Roe v. Wade court, and one stronger than hers on gun rights. Sharp disagreements, but polite.

Are we seeing a kinder, gentler Trump?

6:38 p.m. PDT: Public vs. private Clinton. We are seeing and hearing the public positions for Clinton. They sound reasonable, measured, but after seeing some of her Wall Street speeches, we know she has different thoughts in private. So it’s hard to believe anything she says.

6:36 p.m. PDT: Clinton says America has made the world safer and more peaceful. Does that include Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen?

6:20 p.m. PDT: Immigration is up next. Translation: Red meat for Trump. No amnesty. No open borders. We will build a wall. He says the Border Patrol has endorsed him. He says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement endorses him, too. But as the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out in April, those statements are filled with lies and misinformation.

Clinton takes the more humane, intelligent approach. With 11 million undocumented people in the United States, deporting every one of them is not practical or realistic—and would be bad for America. Comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is what she wants to accomplish in her first 100 days.

Now Trump, in another bit of revisionist history, says the Mexican president is a big fan of his, and that Clinton wanted a wall back in 2006. The Mexican president said Trump’s plan to build a wall would be a threat to Mexico.

Clinton has a different approach to immigration. “We will not have open borders,” she says. “This used to be a bipartisan issue.”

Trump thanks Wallace for bringing up WikiLeaks when he refers to a speech in which Clinton called for hemispheric open borders. Clinton quickly changes the subject to Russia.

“What’s really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans.” It didn’t take long for Clinton pull the Red Scare card. The Russians are coming.

Clinton asks whether Trump will “admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that [Trump] will not have the help of Putin in this election?” Feels like McCarthyism.

Trump makes more sense about Russia than Clinton. “She’s playing chicken.”

Clinton says, Putin “would rather have a puppet as president.” Trump calls Clinton a “puppet.”

Clinton says “17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military … have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin.” Where are these reports?

Trump says he doesn’t know Putin. “He’s not my best friend,” says Trump. But Putin “has outsmarted her every step of the way. … Look at the Middle East. … We’ve spent $6 trillion. … She has been outsmarted and outplayed.”

Clinton finds it ironic that Trump is bringing up nuclear weapons. “The bottom line on nuclear weapons is that when the president gives the order, it must be followed,” Clinton says, regarding the nuclear codes. Hillary the Hawk has arrived.

6:15 p.m. PDT: Does Trump want to overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes. He says he will put justices on the Supreme Court who will overturn the historic ruling.

Clinton will defend Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood and all women’s rights. “We have come too far to go back now.” Women’s right are one of Clinton’s strengths. “You can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.”

Trump turns to scare rhetoric. “In the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

Clinton is not standing for that kind of talk.

6:07 p.m. PDT: The world of 2016 is much different than the world of 1776. With regard to the Constitution, shouldn’t we want to adapt to the world we live in instead of being so rigid in our interpretation of a document that was written almost 250 years ago?

6:06 p.m. PDT: Go time. The Supreme Court is the first topic, and it’s ladies first. Clinton wants to repeal Citizens United and runs down a list of progressive goals, including protecting women’s rights. She starts off crisp and coherent. How long will it last?

Trump is subdued. He goes straight to the Second Amendment. It is under siege, trauma. Protect the guns. Not exactly a peace plan. He wants to interpret the Constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted. The Constitution the way it was meant to be. That’s dangerous talk. Truthdig columnist Bill Blum ran down Trump’s legal agenda in May, and it remains as scary now as it was then.

Clinton wants to make gun control reforms. She supports and respects the Second Amendment but wants to make some sensible regulations, common-sense changes, such as comprehensive background checks. The NRA just greenlighted another anti-Clinton ad.

Trump is proud to have the endorsement of the NRA. A President Trump would appoint Supreme Court justices who “would not do damage to the Second Amendment.”

5:41 p.m. PDT: Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer sat down with acclaimed journalist and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges on Monday for an intimate conversation about their careers and the American political landscape. Truthdig staff writer Emma Niles covered the salon and reported that Hedges believes “we are watching the rise of fascism through neoliberalism in America.” To combat neoliberalism, when our political process is so dysfunctional, “requires large-scale movements—such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the Dakota Access pipeline protests and social justice movements that originated in Ferguson, Mo.”

“We can’t underestimate the power of living in truth,” Hedges said, “even though it’s outside of the formal mechanisms of power.”

These kinds of movements have the power to influence the political elite, he continued.

“The only things they have to offer you in this election is fear,” Hedges concluded. “The moment you stop being afraid, they become afraid.”

When JFK (1961) and FDR (1933) delivered their famous speeches about fear, their words were prescient. They were talking about foreign enemies of the United States. Times have changed. Now, the U.S. government views any challenges to its power as a threat.

Transparency has gotten worse for journalists and open-government advocates. In September, a group of 40 journalism and open-government groups made this point to the administration.

According to UNITY: Journalists for Diversity:

Forty journalism and open government groups today sent a letter to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in response to his recent New York Times letter to the editor calling for journalists to give President Obama credit for improvements in government transparency.

The Society of Professional Journalists and other journalism and government accountability groups have contacted the White House multiple times over the past several years, asking the Obama administration to stop practices in federal agencies that obscure transparency and prevent important information from getting to the public. In the last letter, from August 2015, more than 50 organizations signed on to a letter at SPJ’s request.

“You highlight some of the ways the Obama administration has improved transparency in the White House,” the letter states. “Yet, the 50-plus groups repeatedly outlined to the administration various ways transparency has gotten worse, including:

  • Officials blocking reporters’ requests to talk to specific staff people;
  • Excessive delays in answering interview requests that stretch past reporters’ deadlines;
  • Officials conveying information “on background,” refusing to give reporters what should be public information unless they agree not to say who is speaking;
  • Federal agencies blackballing reporters who write critically of them;
  • A continued lack of meaningful visual access to the President by an independent press pool.
  • Last December, a delegation representing the 50-some organizations met with Earnest at the White House to urge greater openness and transparency. That meeting followed at least five years of work done by various organizations to study government transparency and the role public information officers (PIOs) play in relaying important information to the American people.

    “We have made multiple attempts to convey to the Obama administration that we believe transparency has, in fact, gotten worse the past eight years,” SPJ President Paul Fletcher said. “We were hoping we could point to this White House as a shining example of how it should be done. Unfortunately, we can’t do that and will have to start over with the next administration.”

    Trump could continue to be a threat to press freedom. The same is true with Clinton. See WikiLeaks.

    2:38 p.m. PDT: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein was not invited to participate in this or any of the debates. Neither was Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

    But just because mainstream media are ignoring—and marginalizing—third-party candidates doesn’t mean everyone has to follow suit. Stein spoke with Truthdig Associate Editor Alex Kelly in advance of the final presidential debate, and she continued to speak with integrity.

    Truthfully, I don’t expect much that is different from the prior two debates. We’ve had a very enthusiastic response to our forcing real issues and real answers into the debate. There’s a dire need for real discussion here, and the events of even the last week underscore that, now that we have been involved in an exchange of missiles with Yemen. The war is getting bigger and still there is no real discussion of this war, certainly not between Donald and Hillary. Their discussion of the war in the last debate amounted to the question of when exactly did Donald Trump take his various positions about Iraq?

    There was no real discussion about the catastrophe that [the] ongoing war in the Middle East has caused, the fact that it’s devoured more than half of our discretionary budget, that it costs you nearly half of your income taxes to support this bloated and dangerous Department of Defense, which is really a department of offense. We have failed states, mass refugee migrations and even worse terrorist threats, and Hillary Clinton wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria. It’s widely understood that she is pushing for a “no-fly zone,” but many people don’t understand what that means. It means we will shoot down other people’s airplanes over Syria. And that means Russia.

    Just last week, the former head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, stated that we are at the most dangerous moment in human history now, and one of the candidates would like to start an air war with Russia while we have 2,000 nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert. Is that really what we want? That’s not to say that Donald Trump is not a dangerous alternative, but we need to understand that there’s a danger, not just attached to the sexual predator Trump, but also to the warmonger Hillary Clinton.

    John Oliver may not be a fan of the Green Party candidate, but according to Stein, don’t believe any polls that say she is fading.

    Last week, Fox did a poll among Independents that showed [the Green Party] going from 4 percent to 12 percent, despite the media blackout, which tells you there’s enormous interest and an enormous revolt waiting to happen if people have the chance to hear about the alternatives they are clamoring for. Only 28 percent of voters have even heard of our campaign. The inconvenient truth for the political establishment is that the American people actually do have the power, the passion and the vision. And if they are given a real democracy, we could see this election turn right on its head. That’s what we deserve.

    You can read Truthdig’s whole interview with Stein here. For anyone who wants to learn more about Stein and the Green platform, click here, here, here and here.

    The political and media establishment wants to convince people that they only have two choices, but that’s pure propaganda. The people can have power by mobilizing.

    After the debate, Stein will have a Facebook Live Q&A. She also is scheduled to appear in a Democracy Now! special debate segment, in which she will be responding to taped comments by Clinton and Trump made during Wednesday’s debate. Stein did the same thing for the first and second debates.

    Democracy Now! did the same thing with Ajamu Baraka, giving the Green Party vice presidential candidate a chance to “debate” Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Baraka will be a guest on “Live at Truthdig” at 1 p.m. PDT on Thursday. Join us and find out what the strategy is for the Green Party after Election Day. You could even be part of the show. To leave a question or comment, click here.

    On the flip side, it’s the presidency or bust for Johnson, who doesn’t plan to run for elected office again if he doesn’t win this year’s race. Enjoy Mr. What Is Aleppo? while you can, folks. He may not think elections are rigged, but his chances of calling the Oval Office home are slim and none. And slim just left town.

    Still, like Stein, Johnson would prefer to see debates opened to third-party and independent candidates. More exposure would increase their odds of winning and give them a puncher’s chance to beat the establishment machine. That scares the establishment. That’s why some Americans have little to no idea who Johnson and Stein are, or what they stand for. The force (to influence popular opinion) is strong with mainstream media.

    But remember the words of Yoda: “Size matters not.”

    Keep hope alive.

    1:54 p.m. PDT:

    Truthdig contributor Sonali Kolhatkar is on the ground in Las Vegas and will be providing updates throughout the day and night.

    Truthdig political correspondent Bill Boyarsky will be watching the debate from the comfort of his Southern California home. But he will be providing analysis on the debate in this live blog.

    And for anyone still feeling the Bern, Boyarsky’s last column covered the Vermont senator campaigning for California’s Proposition 61, which takes aim at Big Pharma in a fight to rein in drug prices. Boyarsky found that the Sand Man still has a faithful following in the Golden State.

    11:45 a.m. PDT: Is it over yet? That is the big question on the minds of many voters (and nonvoters) this campaign season. Most of them have had enough fearmongering, vitriol and deceit to last a long time.

    Yes, the 2016 presidential race is nearing the finish line. But before we bid farewell to the best political theater corporate money can buy, the Commission on Presidential Debates has graced us with one last dog-and-pony show of duopoly to control the message and keep the whole story from the American people.

    Will Clinton and Trump stick to the script in the final debate? We’ll find out starting at 6 p.m. PDT when the two candidates take the stage at the Thomas & Mack Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.

    Sin City is an appropriate venue for the final showdown. History may prove that this marathon to determine the chief executive officer of least evil has had its fair share of sins—by omission and commission. And while Vegas bookmakers cannot accept bets on the debate (it’s too subjective), there’s no reason you can’t play a plutocrat with your friends and place some bets with an offshore gambling operation.

    To be prepared, here’s how the first three presidential debates went.

    Round 1: Clinton lets Trump be Trump.

    Round 2 (vice presidential debate): Tim Kaine forces Mike Pence to defend the King of the Deplorables in the “Thrilla in Vanilla.”

    Round 3: The Donald stalks The Hillary and declares himself The Winner.

    Round 4 will be moderated by Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday.”

    Wallace has a history with Clinton.

    And Trump.

    The scheduled topics of discussion for Wednesday night’s debate are immigration, entitlements/debt, the Supreme Court, the economy, foreign policy and each candidate’s fitness to serve as president.

    In other words, expect a whole lot of this.

    Buckle up.

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