Tuesday, October 11, 2016

5 Takeaways From Trump-Clinton Debate

From 2005 video to emails, rivals engage in fiery attacks in town-hall event.


By Aaron Zitner
The Wall Street Journal
October 15, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met onstage Sunday for the second presidential debate. Here are some top takeaways from the event.

1. Civility has crumbled.


The presidential primaries this year featured plenty of insults. But never in a presidential debate has one candidate promised to have a special prosecutor investigate his opponent over “lies and deception” if elected, as Mr. Trump did on Sunday. Mrs. Clinton, for her part, leveled an extended attack on her opponent as unfit for office.

“You’d be in jail,” Mr. Trump told Mrs. Clinton about the course he would take in office.

“Anything to avoid talking about your campaign,” Mrs. Clinton said at one point, “and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you.”

The bitter exchanges made past debate controversies seem like quaint artifacts of a distant era. When Democrat Al Gore sighed during his opponent’s comments in 2000, or when Republican George H.W. Bush checked his watch in 1992, it was considered a violation of courtesy. The continual interruptions, insults and accusations leveled on Sunday marked an entirely new type of political conversation.

The voters and future candidates will have to decide whether this is now how campaigns are conducted, or whether the unusual profiles of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton mark 2016 as uniquely ugly.

2. Character was the top issue.

Remarkably, plans for the economy and job-creation took a back seat in the debate. Foreign policy was far more prominent. But character was the issue at the center of the discussion.

Mrs. Clinton sought to disqualify Mr. Trump, saying he had denigrated U.S. soldiers, immigrants, Muslims and women. “This is who Donald Trump is … The question our country must answer is that this is not who we are,” she said.

Mr. Trump worked with equal force to disqualify Mrs. Clinton, saying she showed “bad judgment’’ by backing the Affordable Health Act and the administrations immigration and foreign policies. “The thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 emails that you deleted, and that you acid-washed,” he said, referring to messages on the private email server Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state that she deemed to be personal, rather than official business that must be preserved.

3. Mrs. Clinton appealed to women, Mr. Trump to voters who want change.


Mrs. Clinton talked continually of women and children, drawing on the recording that surfaced on Friday of Mr. Trump making lewd comments.

“We have seen him insult women. We’ve seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to ten,” she said. Her remarks seemed geared to push suburban women and other important swing groups away from Mr. Trump.

One of Mr. Trump’s most consistent themes was that Mrs. Clinton had done little during her many years in public office. “She’s been there for 30 years,” he said, asserting that Mrs. Clinton hadn’t delivered on pledges to create jobs in upstate New York or to help African-Americans as a senator. “It’s just words, folks. It’s just words,” he said of her promises.

4. Mrs. Clinton talked about unity, Mr. Trump about security.


It wasn’t a subtle dig at Mr. Trump when Mrs. Clinton started the debate by promising the nation that “we are going to respect each other, lift each other up … I want us to heal our country and bring it together.” Mrs. Clinton was trying to cast herself as the candidate of unity and Mr. Trump as the agent of divisiveness.

Mr. Trump, asked to respond to his recently surfaced comments from 2005 about women, turned the subject quickly to national security. “I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS,” he said, casting himself as the candidate of strength.

5. The debate broke news.

We now know how Mr. Trump plans to handle the two recent controversies surrounding his campaign.

Mr. Trump acknowledged directly for the first time that the $916 million loss he declared on his 1995 tax return, revealed earlier this month, allowed him to avoid paying personal federal income taxes in some years. He said he wasn’t the only one to use the tax code this way.

“Of course I do,” he said of using losses to avoid taxes. “So do all of her donors, or most of her donors,” Mr. Trump said of Mrs. Clinton.

Asked about his newly disclosed vulgar comments about women, Mr. Trump again drew Mrs. Clinton into his response. Declaring his own comments “locker room talk,” Mr. Trump cited women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.

“If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” he said. “Mine are words, and his was action...Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.”

Mrs. Clinton, for her part, was forced again to defend herself from accusations that she had mishandled classified information in the course of using a private email server as secretary of state. “That was a mistake, and I take responsibility,’’ she said. But she said there was no evidence “that any classified material ended up in the wrong hands.”


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