Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. This could—and should—have gone so many different ways. At this point, if there are no casualties on Tuesday night, we can call it a success.
Before then, let’s remember a kinder time. A less scary time—pre-Cleveland, namely. Remember all your pre-Trump favorites? Marco “Robot” Rubio? Chris “Dear God, What Have I Done?” Christie? They’re probably going to be drinking just as hard as you on Tuesday night. Before you raise a glass, however, let’s look back at some of the most ridiculous moments from this purgatorial exercise in democracy, shall we? You might as well, because no matter the outcome, we’re all going to have a whammy of a hangover come the morning of November 9, 2016.
TRUMP NAMECHECKS ROSIE O'DONNELL IN A PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
It’s not that Rosie O’Donnell is so great, or that this moment was so important in the Trump’s derailement. It’s that the Donald’s war with the actress-turned-talkshow host began a decade ago, when he repeatedly called her a fat slob and threatened to sue her because he’d “like to take some money out of her fat-ass pockets.” A decade later, he’s still at it, and on a presidential stage of all places. What a perfect encapsulation of Trump’s essence. He displayed that he has no ability to step away from a fight, even if that fight is with a talking head from The View.
CLINTON IS "FLATTERED” BY HENRY KISSINGER
During a February 5, 2016 debate with Bernie Sanders, the former Secretary of State said she was “very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.” In the next debate, Sanders brought the full antiwar, leftist smackdown, saying he was proud not to call Kissinger a friend. Kissinger gets a pass for being really old these days, but in some circles, the former Secretary of State is known as a war criminal due to his decision-making in Cambodia, East Timor, and other countries while serving as Richard Nixon’s lackey. (To his credit, he once advised a particularly crazed Nixon that nuking places was bad PR.) For all her smoothness on certain issues, it’s always fascinating to see Clinton fall on her face when it comes to courting the left.
THE ALEPPO MOMENT
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate, was supposed to be the spoiler-savior of the race. Nothing has gone right for the former governor, however, from his lackluster CNN townhalls to his own ticketmate preferring Hillary Clinton to win. The real knockout came in his September 8, 2016 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where Johnson was asked, “What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?”
Like an earnest deer in the headlights, Johnsons politely queried, “And what is Aleppo?” While Johnson’s excuse that he thought he was being asked about an organization with an acronym is somewhat believable, it was much too late. So much so that nothing Johnson has done since—from sticking out his tongue to yelling about media bias while wearing ugly jeans to calling another public brainfart “an Aleppo moment”—seems to matter.
TRUMP HATES MUSLIMS, LOVES THE GAYS
Trump has been called a fascist, or at least someone comfortable with using fascist rhetoric to boost his campaign. When he gave a special shout-out to “our LGBTQ” citizens in the midst of his dour, Nixonian Republican National Convention speech, however, it appeared as if the GOP of the aughts (and before) was gone. Gay people are now respectable voters. Trump is probably perfectly okay with gay people in real life, but he’s extra okay—as are his alt-right spawn—with using ISIS’s and other murderous groups’ hate toward the LGBT community as an excuse to ban Muslims and deport immigrants.
MARCO RUBIO SHORT-CIRCUITS
No doubt, Trump has gotten by on the kindness of others—especially Marco Rubio, whose mishandling of scripted lines came to a head during the New Hampshire Republican debate on February 6, 2016. There, he repeated the same “zinger” about how “the president knows what he’s doing” four times. It was the start of the end for Rubio, who was a little too starched, ironed and welded together by the GOP for voters. Bonus: That debate also caught Ben Carson standing uncomfortably in the wings, staring at the camera, having completely missed his cue to come out on stage.
BILLY BUSH MAKES A BIGGER IMPACT THAN JEB!
“Grab ‘em by the p–sy.” The audio was leaked in what was the biggst October surprise pundits have ever had to wrap their heads around. While Trump’s ego and womanizing has been old news for decades, his comments to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus staggered the masses. Devout supporters of course have remained uninterested, arguing that "let” is the magic word that signifies he never actually assaulted anyone. The dozen or so women who allege Trump has touched them without permission over the years suggest otherwise.
CHRIS CHRISTIE AND THE 1,000-YARD STARE
The New Jersey governor bravely committed political suicide when he mocked Rubio ruthlessly during that New Hampshire debate (man, that was a good one) only to suffer defeat and sign on with Trump a few weeks later. A dead-eyed Christie standing demurely behind the Donald at a press conference ignited the internet in laughter and memes that paired Christie with circus music or, my personal favorite, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”
TRUMP BULLIES BUSH
In the beginning, many of us were prepared for the U.S. to go full oligarchy in 2016. The dark humor of a Jeb Bush versus Clinton ballot was appealing to the cynics who assumed that every candidate the major parties picked was going to be a disaster. But nobody counted on Trump. During their time on stage together, Bush came off as a fumbling goof who was “bought and paid for.” At any given time, Trump seemed about five minutes away from giving him a wet willy and shoving him into a locker. Name-dropping Ronald Reagan couldn’t even save Jeb at that point. That’s when we knew the rules had changed.
MARY J. BLIGE SERNADES HILLARY
Mary J. Blige is a legend. Mary J. Blige can sing. But why she sang Bruce Springsteen’s anti-police brutality song “American Skin (41 Shots)” at Hillary Clinton while they sat together for an interview remains unclear. Something about the deadly serious subject of the song became painfully awkward and then kind of hilarious, especially when put together in the business-casual setting of what looked like a lux hotel suite. As goofy as it was, the straight face Clinton manages to hold when Blige takes her hand is kind of amazing. Now that’s a politician face.
THE ORANGE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
It’s an easy one, but this bizarre creature has defied political convention and made pundits look like idiots. If only that’s all he had done; if only his weirdness consisted only of sassing neocons about the Iraq war. If only the real-estate mogul wasn’t a margin-of-terror point away from Clinton’s tail and still seemingly ready to send 11 million people from their homes, torture the families of suspected terrorists and do anything his supporters want. If only. For the cynics who assumed there wasn’t anything worse than the political class, it’s been a long election.