Monday, October 10, 2016

Ugliest Debate Ever

Clinton says Trump's campaign is exploding. Trump calls Clinton the devil.


By Shane Goldmacher
Politico
October 10, 2016 

It was the ugliest debate in American history.

For 90 minutes, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton called each other liars, untrustworthy and unfit for office as they sparred not so much about their policy differences as their basic character.

Trump even threatened to “jail” Clinton if he became president. “Believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart,” Trump said. Clinton accused Trump of launching distractions and diversions: “Anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it's exploding.”

It was nearly non-stop name-calling and nastiness – they opened by dispensing with the traditional handshake and an agitated Trump repeatedly encroached Clinton’s physical space as he paced the debate stage. There were only brief reprieves of policy discussion that soon devolved back into a contentious affair, even as they had to balance their attacks with flashes of geniality before a town-hall audience of undecided voters.

From its earliest moments, the debate was colored by the events of the last 48 hours, when a decade-old tape on Friday revealed Trump describing in graphic and sexually aggressive terms making unwanted advances on women, which he said he was entitled to do because he is a “star.” Legions of Republicans have abandoned his campaign in the last two days over lecherous remarks that moderator Anderson Cooper described to Trump on Sunday night as amounting to “sexual assault.”

Trump tried to downplay the tape — “it’s just words folks, it’s just words” — as he shifted the topic to Bill Clinton, to the Islamic State, to Clinton’s emails, to anything else.

“This was locker room talk,” Trump said over and over.

Clinton would not let Trump off the hook. “What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women, and he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is, but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," she said.

Clinton framed this election as different than any other Democrat vs. Republican contest.

“I never questioned their fitness to serve,” she said of past GOP nominees. “Donald Trump is different.”

Trump acknowledged he wasn’t proud of his comments but he accused Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, of far worse “actions,” pointing to the four women whom he had invited into the audience with allegations against the Clintons. Trump had held a brief event with those women before the debate.

Asked three times by Cooper whether he had physically accosted women the way he described on the tape, Trump eventually said, “No I have not,” though some women have publicly accused him of touching them inappropriately.

Clinton said Trump owed the American people an apology — not just for the tape but his past attacks on President Barack Obama’s birthplace, the family of a fallen soldier and others.

“He owes the president an apology and our country an apology and he needs to take responsibility for his actions and his words,” she said.

There was no apology. Instead, more attacks, as Trump tried to make the debate about Clinton, hitting her for her private email server and saying that, as president, he would appoint a special prosecutor and said “you would go to jail.”

Trump cavalierly called Clinton the “devil,” as Trump questioned how Clinton could affect change after decades in politics as she questioned his fundamentally fitness.

“With her, it’s all talk and no action,” Trump said.

Trump arrived in St. Louis a candidate hemorrhaging support, and badly, but he did appear to find his political footing after some early moments speaking about the tape. Still, Trump did so while playing loose with the truth. Trump said again he was opposed to the war in Iraq despite public comments otherwise in 2002.

He also denied that after the last debate he urged people on Twitter to look up a sex tape of a beauty pageant winner he was sparring with. “It was not ‘check out a sex tape,’” Trump said on Sunday. In fact, Trump had tweeted “check out sex tape” in a 5 a.m. tweet.

In one remarkable exchange, moderator Martha Raddatz pressed Trump on his Syria policy and whether he agreed with a newly aggressive posture that had been outlined by his running mate, Mike Pence, in the vice presidential debate earlier in the week.

“He and I haven't spoken,” Trump said flatly. “And I disagree.”

As Trump amped up his attacks, Clinton appeared to lose her patience, accusing the billionaire of desperately trying to throw out distractions because his campaign is “exploding.” “I know you are into big diversion, anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way Republicans are leaving you,” she shot at Trump.

Clinton and Trump sparred over Trump’s proposal to ban the immigration of Muslims, their healthcare proposals, Russia, Iraq, Syria and tax policy.

“I have been in favor of getting rid of carried interest for years,” Clinton said of a tax plank.

“If you were an effective senator you could have done it,” Trump butted in.

“Under our Constitution, presidents have something called veto,” she snapped back, noting there was a Republican president at the time.

Earlier, when it was unclear whose turn it was to answer, Trump interjected, “No, I’m a gentleman, Hillary, go ahead.” But most of the debate was anything but gentlemanly.

“She’s got bad judgment, honestly so bad that she should never be president of the United States,” Trump said at one point.

“I’m sorry I have to keep saying this, but he lives in an alternative reality,” Clinton said at another.

Clinton went on the attack over Trump’s relationship with Russia, and the alleged hacking of the Democratic Party this year. “Maybe because he wants to do business in Moscow,” she said.

Later, as Clinton tried to defend whether her recently hacked and released speeches to Wall Street showed her to be “two-faced,” she invoked seeing a film on Abraham Lincoln that Trump seized upon.

“She lied. Now she is blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln,” Trump said to laughter from the audience. “Honest Abe never lied. That's the difference between Abraham Lincoln and you. That's a big difference.”

In one of his shakiest moments, Trump demonstrated his inability to answer specific questions on foreign policy, as Raddatz repeatedly pressed him on Syria.

When asked what would happen if war-torn Aleppo falls, Trump stumbled for an answer. “It has fallen. It basically has fallen,” before talking instead about Mosul, which is in Iraq.

In the final half hour, a frustrated Trump started the blame game, claiming the moderators were unfairly allowing Clinton’s answers to run long while he was being repeatedly cut off. “It’s really very interesting,” Trump huffed.

The media gamesmanship began before the two candidates took the stage, as Trump sprung a surprise stunt that hinted at the nasty debate to follow: holding a photo-op with four women who have alleged they were victimized by the Clintons to various degrees, including Juanita Broaddrick, who declared, “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there is any comparison.”

Trump tried to echo some of those accusations early in the debate but Clinton pivoted away.

“When I hear something like that, I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all, ‘When they go low, you go high,’” Clinton said to applause from the crowd.

But most of the campaign was spent deep in the gutter. A brief, bright moment came in the end, when both candidate were asked by a voter what they respected about one another.

Clinton said Trump’s children. He said he admired her “fight.” “She doesn’t quit,” Trump said.

With that, they ended with the handshake that they had skipped at the opening, and their teams headed off to the spin room to bludgeon one another anew.


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Ugliest Debate Ever