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5 Things That Must Happen at Monday's Clinton-Trump Debate


The stakes could not be any higher.

Who knew we'd ever be in this place? The idea of Donald Trump -- an unsuccesful real estate developer and fired reality television star -- as president of the United States would have been laughable two years ago. But as Morrissey famously said, "That joke isn't funny anymore."

Now teamed up with one of the nation's most infamous homophobes -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- and working with the ugliest figures in the racist, homophobic, transphobic, nationalistic alt-right movement, Trump has put himself within striking distance of our nuclear codes. The only thing standing in his way is former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton leads Trump in most national polls, though the Republican is ahead in crucial swing states like Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina. A bad performance on Monday, by either candidate, could upset the whole race.

The debate takes place at New York's Hofstra University, begins at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific, and should be airing on all major channels; it's also streamable. The debate's themes are "achieving prosperity," "securing America," and "America's direction." NBC's Lester Holt is moderating.

Here's what must happen Monday.

Donald Trump must be asked the hard questions.
NBC lightweights like Matt Lauer and Jimmy Fallon either threw softballs or petted whatever's on Trump's head during their interviews with him. Lester Holt is also associated with NBC, which has long profited from his brand (Celebrity Apprentice, Miss USA, Saturday Night Live). Holt must hold Trump to the same standards as Clinton and ask how he truly intends to take on ISIS and will lift up the lower and middle classes. Which nations will he work with? What people? Trump's bombast and drivel won't cut it; specifics are a requirement.

The issue of policing must be a subject.
It's not one of the three themes planned for Monday, but with what's happening in Charlotte and Tulsa, it's a requirement. A Tulsa officer is now facing manslaughter charges for shooting an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher. How can police be better trained to deal with people of color as well as transgender people? This is a major issue to the American public and must be treated as such.

Trump's hateful, inflammatory campaign must be called out by Clinton.
Even if Clinton wins in November, we will still have to deal with the mess Trump made. Trump gladly embraced racism in his campaign, hiring alt-right leaders like homophobic Stephen Bannon and noted misogynist (and homophobe) Roger Ailes to run his campaign. Trump and his children retweet racist and sexist quotes and images and denigrate Latinos and the entire religion of Islam. Following the Pulse shooting, the campaign's supporters regularly tried to pit the LGBT community against Muslims. Stirring up hate to win an election is indeed "deplorable," and Clinton needs to remind America of that.

Clinton must remind people of the only reason to vote for Trump.
The Republican nominee offers zero real solutions when it comes to the economy and national security. His immigration plan is a race-baiting joke (we're never building a wall from California to Texas and even his supporters know that) and he hasn't even tried to educate himself about world affairs. Trump wants to roll back Wall Street, food, and environmental regulations and doesn't believe in global warming. The only real reason someone could vote for him is because they either hate Clinton more than they love their country or they love racism and Islamophobia more than they love the United States. Clinton will have to find an eloquent way to point that out so no rational person could go to the ballot box November 8 and pull the lever for Trump.

Clinton must rise above Trump's bullying.
We saw in the Republican debates how Trump resorted to name-calling ("Little Marco," "Crooked Ted") to generate laughs and humiliate his opponents. Don't doubt he'll try to go there again. Should Trump try to humiliate Clinton by bringing up her husband's affairs or even her bout with pneumonia, Clinton must rise above it -- don't hit back and bring up his numerous divorces -- and Holt must condemn the behavior.

Cross your fingers.

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