After the hype of the first debate, supporters were left wanting more from Donald Trump. His performance was lacklustre and very weak on actual facts, and he appeared to have had a head cold due to his constant sniffing throughout. The second debate was seen as a chance for ‘The Donald’ to fight back. The prospect of Trump letting loose and attacking Clinton, the far superior debater, with a viciousness previously unseen was very promising for politics aficionados.
However, before they even got started, Trump was mired in scandal. The leaked video of his lewd comments to Billy Bush on his NBC show was absolutely certain to come up in the debate. This lead to a mass desertion of members of the Republican ‘establishment’. Key members of the Republican party such as Mitt Romney, John McCain, John Kasich and prominent Republican women such as Condoleezza Rice stated publicly that they could not continue to support Trump. Therefore, coming into this debate, Hilary Clinton had a huge advantage to capitalise on. Following his surreal midnight apology, Trump sat down in front of the press with sex abuse accusers of Bill Clinton: Paula Jones, Kathy Shelton, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey. It was certain then that this would also form a central theme to the debate.
Trump [claimed] that Sanders supporting Clinton was like aiding “the devil”.
It started off in a slightly strange style as expected: Trump initially choosing to stand behind his chair instead of sitting, and it went on with a very good opening question from a teacher about how children would view the discourse in the campaign, but anyone who had been following the previous day’s news knew the next question that was coming. CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked it so professionally, to try and prevent Trump claiming ‘media bias’. Of course, Trump being Trump, claimed it multiple times later in the debate. In response to the question over the video, Trump claimed “nobody has more respect for women than I do”, whereas Clinton immediately suggested that “I think it’s clear the video represents exactly who Trump is.”
The tension was palpable – it was all going to kick off. Trump immediately threw back the argument that Bill Clinton actually acted on his words and abused women: “There’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women.” Clinton went on to defend her husband and argued that Trump should be the one apologising for the remarks he made towards the Kahn family, and their late veteran son. Of course, this lead to Trump claiming that Sanders supporting Clinton was like aiding “the devil”.
Throughout the debate, Clinton appeared to have the upper hand, with a superior grasp on facts and policies – her support of Obamacare and her Sandersesque approach to the Tax Code would have impressed many Americans on the left. Trump appeared to lead on matters regarding business. Particularly impressive from Clinton though was her support of clean energy, continued from the success of the Paris conference deal President Obama supported, and she suggested that the US “could be the 21st century clean energy superpower.” This is a radical stance as far as the United States is concerned. Despite the fact that the discovery of new deposits of coal and shale gas are pushing the US to be energy dependent, Clinton appeared to be looking well into the future, in comparison to Trump’s argument that we can have “clean coal”.
However, as usual with Hillary, everything has a catch. She again was attacked on her support of Iraq, even though Trump is on tape saying he supports it. By now the American public identify a difference between a TV star saying something and a sitting Senator voting to go to war. It didn’t help that Clinton looked incredibly smug through many portions of Trump’s speeches. It doesn’t help that Trump brought up the point that “she calls our people deplorable, a large group, and irredeemable.” Clinton argued that she wasn’t including all Trump supporters, but what this may have done is just strengthened their resolve to go out and vote Trump on election day. You can never discount the voices of angry supporters.
Similarly, Clinton did the best to play up to all the Trumpisms of the past. For example when questioned about Trump’s policy to deport illegal immigrants, she argued for a compassionate, reasonable case that America has to do its fair share, like other countries in Europe, to help the refugee crisis. It made Trump’s bullish counter claim, “They’re murderers [and] drug lords”, seem uneducated and vicious. It was very useful for appealing to the middle ground, who while may not be informed enough about the refugee crisis in Europe, could form their decisions between a reasoned response and a vicious one.
Hillary didn’t win this debate. This is not to say Trump won either, but it certainly wasn’t a walkover like the previous one.
Again, taxes proved to be a problem. This should have been an area where Clinton excelled, after the allegations of Trump’s tax avoidance. Instead she allowed him to continually probe her about her own tax arrangements to fund her campaign – a claim which in the year of anti-politics is very profound indeed. This expanded into the classic Hillary attack: the emails. Again, this is an issue which has not gone away for Clinton and it questions a core value of the Presidency – trust. To viewers she seemed evasive, keen to get away from this issue, though she allowed Trump to keep putting that figure, 33,000 emails, to her. He even went so far as to suggest he’d hire a special prosecutor. The fact she was unable to shut these sustained attacks down or destroy him on the allegation he threw towards her husband is the reason Hillary didn’t win this debate. This is not to say Trump won either, but it certainly wasn’t a walkover like the previous one.
To sum up this debate perfectly, you had to look towards the middle portion of it, when the email debacle was going on. Trump continued to throw allegations at her, she kept refuting them and she argued what half the country was thinking: “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.” To this, Trump curtly replied: “Because you’d be in jail.” The problem here, for the Clinton Camp, is that despite all the things Trump has done and all the things Trump has said, the other half of the country was thinking the exact same thing.