Here are my thoughts on the debate. As with my previous analysis, I will go through this as a stream of consciousness.
Stylistically, Donald Trump was far more polished and prepared in this debate than the first one. He was articulate and thoughtful in his answers. He was also not as bombastic as he was in the previous debate. He also attacked the moderators more than he did Lester Holt. He was willing to call them out on their bias and assert himself when he felt he was being treated unfairly. He called out Anderson Cooper for not bringing up Clinton’s emails.
Hillary Clinton was her usual self, with not much change from the first debate. She was rehearsed and refined in her speaking. I don’t think that her style will sway voters any more. Trump has changed the way political discourse is done. Trump is more genuine in that he speaks from the mind. Hillary looks to give sound bites. She is not good at absorbing the room and working with the dynamics of what is going on. She kept regurgitating talking points, and it was tiresome.
Going into the debate, Donald Trump had just gone through a tough weekend with the leaked private conversation he had with Billy Bush on a bus in 2005. I was annoyed by because we have so many issues in this country with immigration, national debt and security, but we are now focusing on a trivial comment. Trump was not confessing to sexual assault on the tape. It was as Trump said, “locker room talk.” It was just braggadocio. We have all said things in private that would make us look terrible if made public. I don’t think its fair for us to judge Trump on his private conversation on that basis. He never sexually assaulted a woman, it was just words. Do we really want to live in an age where we must live in fear of having our private conversations exposed? This leaked conversation was really meant for female consumption. I think that is insulting in that women are expected not to care about the issues, and would rather pay attention to an inconsequential private conversation. Trump actually had a surprise press conference just before the debate with Juanita Broderick, Katherine Shelton, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. All of them endorsed Trump at the press conference. When a reporter asked Trump if touched women without their consent, Paula Jones snapped back asking the reporter, “why don’t you ask Bill Clinton that?”
When Trump and Clinton walked on the stage, and they did not shake hands. There are reports that Clinton would leave Trump hanging when he extended his hand. Anderson Cooper would then ask her why she did not shake his hand. Clinton would then launch into attacking Trump on his treatment of women. Trump did not take the bait. The moderators started the debate with the leaked conversation. Trump said that it was “locker room talk” and he apologized for it. He did not allow Clinton to go very far in her attacks on his character. He pivoted and brought up the issue of ISIS as something that we should be focusing on as a nation. Thankfully, they did move on. In fact, he hit back by bringing up all of the women that Bill Clinton had abused. Hillary Clinton opened pandora’s box on her and her husband’s history of abuse towards women. He also brought up Kathy Shelton, who was raped when she was 12 years old, and Hillary Clinton defended her rapist. She was even laughing on tape on how the rapist passed a polygraph, saying it “destroyed her faith in polygraphs.” He also brought up how Bill Clinton was impeached and disbarred for lying to a grand jury. I think his remarks were a good education for young people who have no memories of the Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton just said that “a lot of it was not true,” which implies that some of it was true if she is telling the truth. It was a weak response. It wasn’t even a good pivot, she did not address any of Trump’s statements specifically. I also like how Trump mentioned the tension between the Clintons and the Obamas. Hillary tried to say that Michelle Obama
My favorite part of the debate was when Trump said that he was going to have his attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s emails. To be clear, he did not threaten to jail Hillary Clinton. The president cannot do that himself, so he said he would appoint a prosecutor. He said that he would let the law do its job properly. He would let it work without Bill Clinton speaking to the Attorney General on an airstrip for half an hour. Trump said that he would uphold the rule of law. When Hillary Clinton said that she did not want him in charge of justice, he delivered the cutting line, “because you’d be in jail.”
I am glad that the moderators asked her about the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street. I thought it was comical how Clinton tried to weasel her way out of her public and private positions. She gave a movie review/bad excuse. I had no idea why she brought up the movie. Her excuse was that Abraham Lincoln had private and public positions on the 13th amendment. Honest Abe told her that she could lie, apparently. I was happy that Trump ridiculed her for her response.
Another strong point that Trump brought up was that Clinton was a Senator for decades and did not fix any of the problems that she mentioned. I think that is a very valid point given that she made many promises to her constituents in New York which turned out to be false. One example would be her failure to create jobs in upstate New York. She also did not sponsor any meaningful legislation when she was Senator. Instead she made a lot of money. She enriched herself even further when she became Secretary of State. I like how Trump said that she did not put any of her vast fortune into her own campaign like he did. He pointed out that any money that Clinton put in her own campaign would be money that is not given to her by some special interest group. We already know that she has “private” policy positions when it comes to Wall Street.
When Trump was asked about his support of the Iraq war, he said that he did not support it, which was true. He made a chance remark on Howard Stern’s show back in 2003 where is said I guess we should. He never openly endorsed the war. Hillary Clinton was the one who actually voted in favor of the war as a Senator. The moderators did not ask her about that, which Trump pointed out.
On the question of making the rich pay their fair share, I have gone over this twice already in previous posts. I thought the question itself was nonsensical in that there is no way to define that someone’s “fair share” of taxes is. When a politician says that they will make the rich pay their “fair share,” it really just an appeal to vanity. The top 1% of income earners paid almost half the income tax revenue. How much more do they need to pay? Clinton wants to tax them even further. Trump on the other hand, has proposed cutting taxes everyone across the board. He also wanted to do away with the carried interest tax loophole. Hillary Clinton said that she does not want to get rid of it either, another thing she did not do as a Senator.
I think Trump was also strong with regards to ISIS and the terrible situation in Aleppo. He said that he would not announce his strategy to the world in the same way that the Obama administration does. When we tell the world where we are going to attack, the enemy will move. Martha Raddatz actually yelled at Trump, demanding that he tell her his strategy. He refused, and made his point that Generals Patton and Macarthur would be horrified by our policy in the Middle East. Raddatz actually argued with Trump, saying that the government would announce the strategy for national security reasons. It is difficult for Hillary Clinton to answer this question because it is her policies that allowed ISIS to rise and destabilize the Middle East. She said that she wanted to use military force in Syria, which I think created the problem to begin with. She also said that the big problem is islamophobia. She said that muslims were here since America was founded. It was tone deaf in light of all the terrorist attacks in Europe and America in recently. Trump’s answer was sensible, in that he said islamaphobia is a problem, but muslims should also cooperate with law enforcement.
Hillary Clinton also wanted to have a 550% increase in Syrian refugees coming into America. She said that she could vet them well. However, it is not just about the people coming into the country. In England, second generation muslims are more likely to be radicalized than the first. She has actually commented on October 28th, 2013, that it is impossible to vet all the refugees going into Jordan and Turkey. When Trump says “extreme vetting,” it would exclude everyone who does not have legitimate documentation. He also said that we should make safe zones in the Middle East. It is actually much cheaper to help them there than it is to bring them to America or Europe. Also, they speak the language and have a similar culture.
I especially loved how he handled the Khan family being brought up again. Trump said that Captain Khan would still be alive if he were president, because he did not support the war in Iraq. I think that was a mic drop moment.
When asked about energy policy, I think Trump was also very articulate and gave a practical solution. He wanted to use the coal that we already have and lower energy prices. Clinton, on the other hand, was interested in investing in more jobs for a green economy. This has already been tried by the Obama administration, with very poor results. Solar and wind make less than 1% of the electricity in this country.
The question with regards to the Supreme Court justices was an important one and I am glad that it was asked. Both candidates made it clear what they would do and gave their supporters what they wanted. Hillary Clinton would of course appoint progressive justices to the Supreme Court and try to overturn Citizens United, which was decided correctly. I think she will also try to overturn District of Columbia vs. Heller. That would certainly be a good way to avoid outright repealing the second amendment. She also claimed that Roe v. Wade would be overturned if Trump was elected. I don’t think that will happen, but it is worth mentioning that the case was decided incorrectly. I was especially glad that Trump mentioned Antonin Scalia in particular, and that he would appoint justices who were in his mold. Scalia’s passing made the stakes of this election even higher than they already were. The next president will likely appoint multiple justices. It would be great to have more originalists on the Supreme Court.
The final question was a curveball. Hillary Clinton didn’t actually have anything nice to say about Donald Trump himself, but rather praised his children. I think this was a cop out on her part. Trump actually gave a classy answer, saying that he admired her persistence and fighting spirit. I think that conclusion was certainly a good one for Trump in that he showed dignity.
I did not like how the issue of immigration was not brought up at all during the debate. I think Trump would have done even better if he were able to speak about that.
I think Trump’s performance in this debate was much better than in the first one. He was the clear winner on Sunday. I think this performance would actually help him amongst undecided voters and also hurt Hillary as well. The leaked conversation did not play a big role in the debate. Trump was able to pivot from that successfully and make his case to the American people. I think this performance would have quelled the outrage over his leaked conversation and add to his momentum. I think that as of now, Trump is still favored to win. There are a lot of silent Trump supporters who have not been taken into account.