For a sickening moment during last night's debate, I thought Donald Trump was going to give Hillary Clinton a hard time, score some badly needed points.
And maybe even win the debate, after losing the two others.
For he started out looking reasonably under control, he wasn't sniffling or snuffling, and he was talking about jobs.
But sadly for him that only lasted about 30 minutes, before he hit the canvas with a sickening thud.
After refusing to say whether he'll accept the election result.
Which not only undermines the foundations of American democracy, but could also cause some of his many violent supporters to take up arms when Trump loses...
As he now almost certainly will, for no democracy can live with that kind of threat hanging over its head.
And it must surely be the final warning that he is unfit to be president.
The presidential debate was another exercise in narcissism, bombast and mendacity by Mr. Trump. One could only hope that this might be the last grand display of his gross unfitness to be president.
Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.
But that wasn't the only reason Trump lost the debate.
He sputtered when Mrs. Clinton charged that he would be “a puppet” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia if elected. He lashed out repeatedly, saying that “she’s been proven to be a liar on so many different ways” and that “she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime” over her State Department email practices. And by the end of the debate, when Mrs. Clinton needled him over Social Security, Mr. Trump snapped and said, “Such a nasty woman.”
When he called Clinton a "nasty woman" he only revealed his own nastiness, and his raging misogyny.
When he claimed that "nobody has more respect for women than I do" the audience gasped, and then laughed loudly.
When he challenged Clinton's experience, by calling it "bad experience" she put him in his place.
"I'm happy to compare my 30 years of experience with your 30 years." —Hillary to Trump #DebateNight pic.twitter.com/TwOpwfFUZ5— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 20, 2016
And what's now abundantly clear is that when Trump underestimated Hillary Clinton, no doubt because she's a woman, he made a fatal mistake.
The third and final presidential debate has ended, and it can now be said: Hillary Clinton crushed Donald Trump in the most effective series of debate performances in modern political history.
Each debate has followed the same pattern. Trump begins calm, but as Clinton needles him, he falls apart, gets angrier, launches bizarre personal attacks, offers rambling justifications for his own behavior, and loses the thread of whatever question was actually asked of him.
Because however flawed she may be, she's a formidable political operative, smart, tough, and calculating. He couldn't bully her, and she played him like a fiddle.
She triggered Trump’s epic meltdown purposely, and kept Trump off balance over multiple weeks that probably represented his last chance to turn the election around. She was ready for every question, prepared for every attack, and managed to goad Trump into making mistakes that became the main story the day after every single debate.
And at this stage in the campaign, almost certainly ended any chance he had of winning the election...
And the only real question in my mind is whether Clinton's victory will be big enough to make it clear the election was not rigged, and head off a possible armed rebellion.
Or an explosion of right-wing terrorism, or even a new American civil war...
Which would almost certainly spill across the border, and threaten us as well.
And yes, Bernie Sanders is right...
The stakes couldn't be higher.
And every vote counts...