Fox moderator Chris Wallace was the real winner of the debate tonight. In what constitutes a record for this bizarre series of Presidential debates, he managed to keep the discussion on policy issues for a good thirty minutes.
Before things unravelled…
- Supreme Court nominations
Clinton had the opening statement. She made it clear that she would nominate someone who would stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the LGBT community, and prevent ‘dark money’ from flowing into campaigns (those talks with Bernie appear to be rubbing off on her).
In his response, Trump made some strong arguments positioning himself as the only candidate who could be trusted to protect the Second Amendment, in light of a recent ruling on gun regulation that had not gone Clinton’s way.
However when pushed on abortion rights and Roe v Wade, Trump initially refused to take a position. He then voiced implicit support, saying instead that he would appoint pro-life Judges and refer regulation on abortion to the states.
It all got rather untidy and graphic when Donald made the misstep of attacking Clinton’s pro-choice position by going on an unprecedented rant on late term abortions. Note: he uses the words “rip” and “womb” twice:
“I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying. In the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that that’s okay and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day, and that’s not acceptable.”
Guys, not OK to use those words together in a political debate. Wayyy too visual.
The back and forth focused less on The Wall and more on Clinton’s proposed amnesty for illegal migrants. The amnesty, in a nutshell, proposes a path towards citizenship for those who have crossed the border illegally, provided they meet certain requirements.
Trump opened with his standard mass demonization approach – pointing out that that he had brought four people to the debate who had had a family member murdered by an illegal Latino immigrant (yes, he really did that). He then pulled in even more damaging stereotypes and pulled out one of my fav terms of the night. See if you can pick it:
“One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, we have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out. We’ll get them out, secure the border, and once the border is secured, at a later date we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.”
Clinton effectively countered these arguments by highlighting that, given the 11 million illegal migrants, the mass mobilisation of law enforcement agencies needed achieve this – to go through schools, workplaces and homes to separate the documented from the undocumented – would be a modern day horror.
- Free trade
Clinton stumbled when asked about a quote from a Wikileaked email:
“My Dream Is A Hemispheric Common Market, With Open Trade And Open Borders.”
Instead of allaying people’s fears about job losses due to free trade agreements such as the TPP and immigration she mumbled something about the quote being taken out of context.
I fact-checked this. The actual quote was taken out of context. She was, as she claimed, talking about energy, not the general movement of goods and peoples at the time.
This was not the right move for debate night however and made her look disingenuous and as though she had something to hide.
After bumbling and averting she finally feinted to an outline of her own economic plan. Primarily, investment in education to reduce the costs of college (thanks again Bern!), tax cuts for the wealthy and her new favourite buzz phrase:
“Grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up. Not the top down.”
I am not entirely sure she didn’t steal that line about ‘middle out’ from the HBO sitcom ‘Silicon Valley.’ But oh well.
- Respect for women
When pressed on his comments about women Trump replied with “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” which drew a snicker from the audience. He then pivoted back to Clinton’s emails. Last time it had been ISIS.
My take away: He doesn’t do answers about his attitudes about women. He knows they are not going to vote for him and just isn’t bothering with them anymore.
Clinton didn’t go on the offensive on this issue as much as she could have and simply reinforced the overall message:
“He goes after women’s dignity and self worth and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
Trump was equally evasive when challenged on his attitudes towards other minorities.
When Clinton pointed out the disgraceful temperament Trump had shown in the past, when mocking a disabled reporter, he interrupted by saying, “wrong.”
The hot sauce
Things went downhill fast about half an hour into the debate when Clinton reiterated her previous accusations that Russian hackers were behind a lot of the email leaks.
Clinton went on to say said that Donald would be Putin’s “puppet,” and before she could continue speaking, he interjected multiple times with “No puppet.YOU’RE the puppet!”
Puppetgate was the mimetic highlight of the night for sure.
Trump was able to land some punches on the ‘pay for play’ nature of grant applications to the Clinton Foundation Charity. Clinton’s dodging of the question was clunky and reinforced stereotypes of her as an overly pragmatic opportunist.
Whatever ground Trump gained on Clinton in regards to the questionable operational practices of the Clinton Foundation was lost when he uttered the zinger of the night.
When asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he would accept the election results, noting that the nation has a tradition of peaceful transfer of power, Trump had a uniquely Stalin-esque response:
“I will look at it at the time.”
Followed up with:
“I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Clinton was quick to pounce. She likened the flippancy of Trump’s respect for the democratic process to his accusations years earlier that the Emmy’s were rigged when he didn’t win Celebrity Apprentice.
“I should’ve gotten it,” Trump mumbled under his breath.
Just. Stop. Talking.
“That’s horrifying,” Clinton said, adding later: “He’s talking down our democracy, and I, for one, am appalled.”
In his campaign death throes, Trump tried to throw one final verbal blow. Drawing on his most primal essence, he was heard to mutter:
“Such a nasty woman.”