79 things I learned from the 2nd presidential debate

by John English
by John English

Before the presidential debate even began, Donald Trump held a press conference with Juannita Brodderick, Paula Jones, and Kathleen Willey, all alleged victims of Bill Clinton, from rape to harassment. It was like the Drudge 1990’s were finally getting their revenge. You could see Steve Bannon gleeful on the sidelines as reporters entered the room and realized what was happening. Kathy Shelton was also there, who was 12 when she was assaulted. Hillary Clinton was the public defense attorney for her attacker.

I had been thinking of having some of my kids watch the debate with me, but after that, I decided there was no way. Trump made it clear he was going to hit Hillary with everything, and between that and the Access Hollywood tape, this was going to be gutter politics.

Then the two candidates were introduced and they didn’t even shake hands. Toxic. This election cycle has been one of the lowest points in US political history, and I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating.

The moderators are Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz.

1. This town-hall is populated by undecided voters. If you’re an “undecided voter” on TV less than two months away from election day, you’re either lying or you’re purposefully avoiding all news.
2. First question from a teacher asks if the candidates are modeling “appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth.”
3. Clinton gives a big word-salad of an answer about being optimistic.
4. Trump says he agrees with everything she just said.
5. Since Clinton didn’t bring up the Access Hollywood tapes, Anderson Cooper does. He asks if Trump understands that the tape means he is bragging about sexual assault. Trump says it’s locker room talk and immediately pivots to ISIS, says we have bigger things to worry about.
6. Cooper wants Trump on record that Trump has never kissed or groped women without consent. More than once. Cooper is not moderating; he’s interrogating. If more evidence doesn’t come out over the next week or so of more women that Trump’s nonconsensually kissed or groped, I’ll eat a raw beet.
7. “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Trump sees himself as a god who is the best at everything.
8. Clinton lays out a steady case of instances where Trump’s degraded women, then throws in immigrants, minorities, POWs, and so on.
9. Trump says “It’s just words, folks.” Says she did a terrible job as senator. Raddatz says they want to get to the next question. It’s more about the tape.
10. He doubles-down on locker room talk. Says he’s not proud of it, but Bill Clinton is far worse. Says Bill was abusive to women, and then Hillary would viciously attack those same women. Says Hillary should be ashamed.
11. Audience applauds for Trump, Raddatz shushes them.
12. Hillary said she will follow Michelle Obama’s advice: When they go low, you go high. Audience applauds; no reprimand.
13. Hillary overtly throws chum into the water for Trump. Brings up the Khans, brings up Judge Cureil, brings up the mocking of a disabled reporter, birtherism.
14. Trump’s response is truly incoherent.
15. Trump says he was surprised to see Bernie Sanders “sign on with the devil.”
16. Trump says when he’s elected, he will appoint a special prosecutor to look again into Hillary’s private email server. Says she deleted 33,000 emails after the subpoena and acid washed her server.
17. Clinton says everything Trump just said is false, and this is Hillary’s problem. Her credibility is so low, that her saying this rings hollow. Hillary asks people to go to her website for totally unbiased, incredibly reliable fact-checking of everything Trump is saying. Says it’s a good thing Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
18. “Because you’d be in jail.” Audience applauds. Cooper scolds them.
19. Raddatz asks Clinton about the emails, says eight were top-secret, and that the FBI said she’d been extremely careless, but she’d disagreed with that characterization.
20. Clinton said it was a mistake, she takes responsibility, but says there’s no evidence anyone successfully hacked her server. Says she had top-secret info on Bin Laden. (Name drop!)
21. Trump says she didn’t know what “C” meant on her emails. Says 33,000 deleted emails weren’t all about her daughter’s wedding and yoga classes. Says Bill had a 30-minute talk with Loretta Lynch right before the findings were announced. Says she should be ashamed of herself. (Not the first time tonight he’s said that.) Says she’d be in jail if she were in the private sector.
22. Clinton says they were personal emails. Trump says “Oh really?” and Cooper scolds him for interrupting.
23. Cooper tries to move the next question, and Trump complains about the refs. “It’s one on three.”
24. Question on Obamacare: Premiums have gone up, deductibles have gone up, copays have gone up, prescriptions have gone up, coverage has gone down. What will you do to fix it?
25. Clinton says Trump can go first. Trump says he’s a gentleman; she can go first. “After you! No, I insist, after you!”
26. She says 20 million are insured now who weren’t before. Says we need to get costs down but if we repeal it, all of its benefits are lost to everyone.
27. Trump says Obamacare will implode on its own in 2017. Says she wants our health-care to be like Canada’s, and Canada’s is a disaster. (I picture thousands of Canadian ears perking up.)
28. Cooper asks Hillary about Bill calling Obamacare “the craziest thing in the world.”
29. She says he clarified what he meant but doesn’t say what the clarification was.
30. Trump goes to respond but Cooper keeps interrupting him to get his follow-up question framed the way he wants. I don’t have a dog in this fight but the moderators feel like their thumbs are on the scale.
31. Next audience question! Finally. This town-hall format is really suffering. A Muslim woman asks about Islamophobia. Trump says Islamophobia is a shame. Says San Bernadino means Muslims still need to report things they see. Emphasizes “radical Islamic terror.”
32. Clinton says Captain Khan was Muslim (it’s too easy). So was Muhammad Ali (it’s too transparent).
33. She says Trump’s demagoguery is a gift to ISIS.
34. Trump says Captain Khan is a hero and then says if he’d been president, Khan would still be alive, because he was against going into Iraq, unlike Clinton. *sigh* Despite the Stern tape that everyone has heard, he still insists he was always opposed.
35. Trump says his Muslim ban has morphed into extreme vetting. Raddatz interrupts to ask why it morphed. Trump asks why they keep interrupting him but they don’t interrupt her. Doesn’t say why it morphed. Says Clinton’s desire to up our refugees by 550% is a Trojan horse. Says we know nothing about these Syrian refugees.
36. Raddatz asks Clinton why take the risk on so many more refugees? Clinton says she won’t let anyone in who she thinks poses a risk. She concludes by saying that yes, Trump was initially for the war in Iraq. Trump throws a fit.
37. Trump rails against letting murderers into our country, letting drug lords in. Says ICE endorsed him.
38. Clinton is asked about the WikiLeaks revelation where she had told Wall Street bankers that sometimes you have a private position and public position. Clinton said she was referring to the movie Lincoln, and that it was a great display of presidential leadership. She then says Putin and the Kremlin are hacking into our system, trying to influence the election for Donald Trump.
39. Says Trump praises Putin a lot, says he should release his tax returns.
40. Trump says she was caught in a lie, and she’s blaming it on Abraham Lincoln. Audience laughs and they aren’t reprimanded.
41. Trump says he doesn’t know Putin. Says anytime something goes wrong she wants to blame the Russians. “I know nothing about Russia.” (Future out-of-context alert!) “I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia.”
42. On taxes he says he has a “great, great balance sheet.” Says friends of hers like Warren Buffet and George Soros take massive deductions.
43. Next question from audience is about taxes. “How will you make sure the rich pay their fair share?” Sure they’re undecided.
44. Trump says he’d get rid of carried interest. Says she attacks him for taking advantage of using the tax code but she did nothing to change the tax code as senator. Says he’s going to cut taxes and Clinton will raise them.
45. She says “Everything you’ve just heard from Donald is not true.” She says he will cut taxes on the wealthy. She says no one who makes less than $250k a year will have their taxes raised. (Really?) She said she did vote to close corporate tax deductions.
46. Cooper asks Trump about not paying taxes for years because of his $916 million loss. He says “Of course.” Says many of her donors take massive write-offs the same way. Says he understands the tax code better than anyone who’s ever run for president. (Really?) Cooper asks again how many years he didn’t pay personal federal income tax; Trump won’t say.
47. Trump says hey, Hillary has bad judgment on taxes, on Syria, on Libya.
48. Clinton: “Well, here we go again.” Says she was in favor of getting rid of carried interest for years. Trump asks why she didn’t do it. Cooper tells him not to interrupt her. (The moderators will not allow a back-and-forth to happen.) She says she was a senator under a Republican president, and presidents have veto power.
49. She lists her accomplishments. As First Lady, she helped with CHIP. Says she reformed adoption laws. Helped rebuild New York after 9/11. Advocated for women’s rights around the globe. Says she sponsored 400 pieces of legislation.
50. Raddatz wants to move on Syria but Trump wants to respond. “She said a lot of things that were false.” “No, Mr. Trump, we’re going to go on.”
51. What will the candidates do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Is it like the Holocaust where the US waited too long before we helped?
52. Clinton says Russia is determined to destroy Aleppo, home of Syrian rebels who are against Assad. Says Russia props up Assad, doesn’t care about ISIS. “I’ve stood up to Russia.”
53. Trump says she was secretary of state when Obama drew the line in the sand. She said she wasn’t. (She was, but it was 2013 when Assad crossed it.) Says the world laughed at Obama when he backed down.
54. Says Russia is ahead of us in nuclear programs. Says she talks tough about Putin and Assad, but she doesn’t even know who the rebels are. Says Lybia’s a mess and now ISIS has a huge chunk of their oil.
55. Says he doesn’t like Assad but he is killing ISIS. Russia and Iran are killing ISIS. Those three have lined up because of our weak foreign policy.
56. Clinton knows about framing. She stands in places so it looks like Trump is right behind her through one of the cameras. A couple times he does look like he’s standing too close to her.
twit-turn57. Raddatz gives a quote from Pence about Syria, and Trump disagrees with him. (Pretty sure that’s the first time a presidential candidate has said in a debate he disagrees with his running mate.)
58. Trump talks about Mosul without really answering the question about Aleppo.
59. Raddatz asks him what his strategy is but he doesn’t answer.
60. Question to Clinton. She starts laying out what we’re already doing, but Raddatz interrupts (!) to ask “What would you do differently than Obama?” She goes into details about the Sunnis, the Kurds, Baghdadi, Raqqa…
61. Trump whines they allowed Clinton to go a minute over her time.
62. Question from Mr. Carter (African-American man): Do you believe you can be a devoted president to all Americans?
63. Trump says absolutely, then points out Clinton called half of his supporters deplorable and irredeemable. Says he’ll turn inner cities around. (Why did he go right to inner cities when a black man asks the question?)
64. Clinton says she’s worked for children, African-Americans, Latinos. Says Trump is scaring children born in other countries that are here that he’s going to deport them.
65. She’s asked again about her “deplorables” comment. She said she’d said sorry hours after she said it. (She said sorry about using the word “half.”) Says Trump’s never apologized for what he’s said about Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, etc.
66. Trump says Clinton has “tremendous hate in her heart” and she’d be four more years of Obama.
67. Cooper asks Trump about his 3am tweet to check out Alicia Machado’s sex tape. Trump denies he said sex tape. Easiest fact-check in the world. He said sex tape. Trump says he’s not unproud of his Twitter.
68. Cooper to Clinton: “Does Mr Trump have the discipline to be a good leader?” Clinton: “No.” Trump: “I’m shocked to hear that.” Audience laughs.
69. She talks about what she’s admired from our last three presidents. Her time is up and she keeps talking and Raddatz tries to move us along and then Trump jumps in too…
70. Raddatz: “We want to get to the audience!” Audience laughs.
71. Next question is about SCOTUS. Clinton would want a court that would overturn Citizens United but wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade. Says it’s a dereliction of duty by the Senate to not give Garland a hearing.
72. Trump loved Scalia. He’d want someone who respects the Constitution. He then pivots to all of the contributions Hillary’s received. Says she’s made $250 million by being in office. Why isn’t she putting her own money into her campaign?
73. Next question is from Ken Bone, internet hero: What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers? Best question so far.
74. Trump says the EPA is killing the energy industry. Clinton wants to put miners out of business. China’s killing our steel industry.
75. Clinton says Trump buys his steel from China. She says we’re energy-independent. (Not quite.)
76. Final question is from Karl Becker: Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?
77. Clinton says his kids, which is kiiiind of an artful dodge.
78. Trump says she’s a fighter, that she doesn’t give up, which feels like a more sincere answer.
79. And then they shake hands.


Some other thoughts:

– The Trump team was popping champagne over his performance, and it’s been surprising-not-surprising to hear the media shift toward saying Trump won. Media loves a horserace. Between the two, he did better in the second half, which was the opposite of what he did last time. Also, about the moderators, I think most people decide what they think about them based on who they’re supporting. I don’t have a dog in this fight (I’m voting third party) but I thought the moderators inserted themselves too much.

– This reaction means there won’t be any quixotic attempts to bump him off the ticket. This ship is full speed ahead toward that iceberg on election day. Perspective: At this point in 2012, polls had Romney down 1% to Obama. Trump is currently down 5% to Clinton.

– Trump may have stopped the bleeding but did his performance win over any new voters?

– Hillary Clinton is truly a weak candidate, not to mention lucky that of all of the Republicans that ran, the one her campaign wanted the most got the nomination.

– There will be more tapes in the coming days and weeks. The Access Hollywood tapes are not going to be the worst things that drop this month. Does anyone doubt this?

– Paul Ryan jumped off the Trump train anyway, told his members to focus on down-ballot, do what they have to do so Trump doesn’t sink them. CalculaTed Cruz was thinking of unendorsing Trump, but after that debate, he decided to stay on board.

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