Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pre-Debate Handshakes Go Out the Window

This was the first thing I noticed at the last debate. The atmosphere was so tense you could cut it with a knife.

At NYT, "At Previous Debates, Melania Trump and Bill Clinton Shook Hands. Not Anymore":
This intensely antagonistic election has shattered another quaint campaign ritual: the handshakes between opposing candidates’ family members before a debate.

At previous debates, former President Bill Clinton has shaken the hand of Melania Trump — and sometimes the hands of the children of Donald J. Trump — as part of the predebate protocol.

It provides the audience in the room, and the people watching at home, with a moment of graciousness and a touch of celebrity.

But for the final debate, Hillary Clinton’s campaign wants a different setup, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity to speak candidly about debate negotiations.

That’s because at the previous debate, on Oct. 9 in St. Louis, the Trump campaign had an elaborate plan to parade three women who accused Mr. Clinton of sexual assault and rape into the family seating area and force Mr. Clinton to shake their hands as he crossed the room.

Had the Trump campaign succeeded, Mr. Clinton would have come face-to-face with the women on national television, a potentially humiliating and excruciating encounter. However, the Commission on Presidential Debates intervened, and the women — Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey — never came close to Mr. Clinton.

But the Clinton side is not taking any chances at the final presidential debate, on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, and has apparently gained approval of a different protocol for the entry of the candidates’ spouses and families into the debate hall.

The new arrangement calls for the candidates’ spouses to enter the hall closer to their seats, rather than crossing the room, and each other’s paths.

That would avoid any potential for confrontations, given Mr. Trump’s penchant for dramatic stunts.

On Tuesday, an aide to Mrs. Clinton declined to comment on the change, and aides to Mr. Trump did not respond to an email seeking comment.

It is possible, of course, that further negotiations could result in a different arrangement, if both sides agree, by the time the debate begins at 9 p.m. Eastern.

But the unease over how the candidates’ families interact echoes that of the candidates themselves. At the debate in St. Louis, in a striking departure from tradition, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump did not shake hands at the start, though they did at the conclusion of the 90 minutes.

The Clinton campaign is bracing for other possible Trump surprises at the debate, which seem more likely as the Republican nominee slips further in the polls...