Why Didn't The Clintons & The Trumps Shake Hands At The Finale Debate? The Bad Blood Is Running Deep

There is typically a brief show of goodwill before presidential debates start, in which the candidates and their families shake hands before the candidates go at each other for the next hour-and-a-half or so. But at the last presidential debate on Wednesday night, the candidates and their families eschewed that small gesture. Why didn't the Clintons and Trumps shake hands? It seems that the Clintons are finally striking back on recent attacks from the Trump camp.

Going into Wednesday night, Melania Trump and Bill Clinton had already established that they wouldn't greet each other. According to Fox News, Clinton's camp asked that the two candidates' families would be able to enter closer to their seats so they wouldn't have to see each other. The Commission on Presidential Debates granted this change in protocol.

So, what's the beef, then? Two people with "direct knowledge of the situation" told the New York Times that it was because of the Trump campaign's attempt to seat three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault in the family area, a response to Clinton inviting Trump troll Mark Cuban for a VIP seat. As the New York Times notes, if Trump's plan for retaliation had succeeded, that means that Bill Clinton would have had to come face-to-face with the women.

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Thanks to the intervention from the Commission on Presidential Debates, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey — some of the women who were invited by Trump's campaign — weren't seated in the family area. The Clinton campaign, however, still felt the sting, and anticipated another similar move. So the Trumps and Clintons were all safe in their seats before Wednesday night's debate started.

But as predicted by CNN's Wolf Blitzer before the debate, even the candidates avoided even the slightest of pleasantries, choosing instead to go straight to their lecterns rather than greet each other with a hearty handshake.

Certainly, it's understandable why the Clintons would want to stay one step ahead of the seemingly unpredictable Trump and remove any possibility of some sort of shock-factor stunt.

But the two candidates not shaking hands, in particular, is a pretty big indicator of how contentious this election has become. Sure, there have been tense elections. When you're both vying for the same job, those attitudes are bound to surface. But when the two candidates running for president can't pretend to tolerate each other long enough to shake hands, that's a level that could only be reached by the horrors of 2016.