Should Donald Trump Bring Up the Clinton Sex Scandals in the 2nd Presidential Debate?

Short answer: “No.” A picture is worth a thousand words, and this one sums things up pretty well:


There’s a lot more to it than that though of course.


(Source: Fox News)

Everyone except Trump and his most blinkered acolytes accept that he lost the first debate. One of the reasons for that is the hit that Clinton got in right at the end regarding the way he treated former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. For almost a week following the event (until the New York Times moved the conversation to Trump’s taxes) this, and other negative stories about Trump’s treatment of women, was pretty much the only thing still being talked about.

The fact that Clinton prepared superbly for the debate was evident from start to finish. Her preparation included standing at a podium in real time, which meant that she looked fresh and strong throughout while Trump flagged after about thirty minutes. He leaned more and more heavily on the lectern and looked increasingly tired. It destroyed all the questions he’d been trying to raise about Clinton’s stamina; it was his endurance that was called into question.

sexiam-1More importantly, the Clinton camp had researched her opponent and were ready for him. Over and over again she dangled bait in front of his nose, and over and over again he took it. That culminated in the last segment where Clinton worked Ms Machado into her answer. As he had throughout the evening, Trump swallowed the fly. A week later it seems that the fly wasn’t enough – he’s also taken the line, the rod, and jumped into the boat.

He could have easily got past the issue immediately by just apologizing for his past actions, but Trump seems to see saying, “Sorry,” as a weakness. So. that didn’t happen. He could have just not talked about it. He could have pivoted to policy issues – all the ones that didn’t come up in the debate. But no, he blamed the debate moderator, he doubled down, he tweeted, and he threatened that at the next debate he will bring up the way Hillary Clinton treated the women who accused Bill Clinton of various indiscretions.

Trump continues to tell everyone he won the debate. As soon as he entered the Spin Room after the debate, when he couldn’t possibly have known, he was telling everyone that all the on-line polls were saying he won. On-line polls, of course, aren’t scientific and so their results are virtually irrelevant to election result. However, if he was confident enough to say they all called it for him, perhaps those Russian hackers are doing more than looking into the DNC? He couldn’t possibly have not realized how badly he did. And in fact, there was one poll that showed him losing on the night. CNN did a scientific poll of debate watchers and they overwhelmingly had Clinton winning the debate, just like all the later (scientific) polls that have come out since, including the Fox poll above.

base-2According to all polls, Trump is hugely underwater with women voters.  Women usually break for the Democratic Party but within that group, white married women, who are a huge demographic, usually go for the Republican candidate. This year, even they have moved to Clinton. Trump insists that’s because Clinton plays the “Woman Card” but that’s not it at all. Women don’t like Clinton any more than the electorate in general does. The problem is his sexism.

From a Republican point of view, there were several issues that came up during the week that Trump could have taken advantage of to get the focus off his appalling debate performance and back on the issues, which he insists is what he wants. But Trump was too busy with those 3.00 am tweets.

(It say’s 10.14 pm because my Twitter feed is, naturally, on New Zealand time. It was 3.14 am in Donald Trump’s bedroom!)

He’s trying to make 3.00 am tweets look like a good thing:

Unfortunately for him, most people see it more like this:




1st-debate-temperamentThis is the man millions of people think should be the next president. Millions more, which must include many who are voting for him, recognize something what is obvious from tweets like this – that he doesn’t have the temperament to occupy the most important office on the planet. It completely baffles me that they’re voting for him anyway.

In a week the second presidential debate will take place. In an apparent tit-for-tat move, Trump has been regularly threatening to bring up what he says is the appalling way Hillary Clinton treated the women who had, and were alleged to have had, sexual relationships with her husband. He says he didn’t do it at the first debate out of respect for the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, who he could see in the audience. That is actually a classy move, but he could have expressed it in a way that wasn’t designed to make him look like some kind of saint – it rather ruined the effect.

There has been a lot of discussion both about whether this is a valid tactic and whether it would be a good tactic. As far as it being a valid tactic, I have to say, “Yes.” It’s not what should be discussed at a presidential debate, but that’s not the same as whether it’s valid. Whether it’s a good idea is another matter. My opinion is that it would be a mistake for Trump to bring it up. (I’ll get to why in a minute.)

The problem with Trump (well, one of the many problems) is that he’s not able to look at himself clearly, or to recognize his faults. He develops a narrative in his own mind, believes it, and because he largely surrounds himself with people who don’t contradict him, that narrative never gets challenged. There are some recent extreme examples of this, the most obvious being his appearance on the Dr Oz show. When Dr Oz asked him what he saw when he looked in the mirror, Trump answered, in all seriousness, that he saw a 35-year-old man. It seems that he’s in pretty good health for his age, but he has always looked his age.

He’s also been asked about his record in relation to his own marriages and said he had, “a good record.” He expanded on that in an interview with Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times on Friday:

Mr. Trump said he believed that his own marital history did not preclude him from waging such an attack. He became involved with Marla Maples while he was still married to his first wife, Ivana, who divorced him in 1991. He married Ms. Maples in 1993; they were divorced in 1999. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.

While Mr. Trump has bragged about his sexual exploits over the years, he charged in the interview that Mr. Clinton had numerous indiscretions that “brought shame onto the presidency, and Hillary Clinton was there defending him all along.”

But when asked if he had ever cheated on his wives, Mr. Trump said: “No — I never discuss it. I never discuss it. It was never a problem.”

Asked specifically about his affair with Ms. Maples when he was married to Ivana Trump, Mr. Trump said: “I don’t talk about it. I wasn’t president of the United States. I don’t talk about it. When you think of the fact that he was impeached, the country was in turmoil, turmoil, absolute turmoil. He lied with Monica Lewinsky and paid a massive penalty.”

It’s not just his marriages that are the problem though. There is an allegation against Trump that a tied up and raped a (then) 13-year-old girl, known only as Jane Doe, in 1994. The incident occurred at a party at the home of (now) level three registered sex offender (the worst level) and friend Jeffrey Epstein. In all Ms Doe says Trump initiated sexual contact with her four times. What strengthens this as more than just someone trying to make a name for herself is that there is a witness who, along with the victim, has sworn an affidavit about the event. This case, as the Huffington Post has pointed out, is being ignored by most media, but it should not be because there is a lot that makes it credible. The case is currently being investigated and it will be some time before it comes to court.

women-1What will not be brought up in that court case (and should not be, of course) is the huge quantity of sexist and misogynistic statements that Donald Trump has made over the years. They do need to be part of the discussion about whether he is fit to be president though. Just in the primary and presidential campaign there are multiple examples of questionable behaviour. He has frequently made comments about women’s weight and appearance (both positive and negative), his behaviour in relation to Megyn Kelly was abominable, and though it’s ten years since his feud with Rosie O’Donnell he’s still bringing it up!

gingrichThen we’ve got the men who are defending Trump and telling him he should go after Clinton. There’s Newt Gingrich, who was being unfaithful to the second of his three wives when he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes. Or the twice divorced Rudi Giuliani who, when Chuck Todd (Meet the Press) said yesterday, “You have your own infidelity charge,” replied, “Well, everybody does.” And though they’re keeping in the background, two of his biggest advisors currently are men with disturbing histories when it comes to women: Roger Ailes who has just left Fox News because of his inability to keep his hands to himself or to refrain from sexist comments, and former Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon whose former wife accused him of assault. There is only one woman who is close to Trump in relation to his campaign who is not a member of The Family, and that’s Kellyanne Conway. She naturally tries to defend Trump’s history with women as his surrogate but it’s really not possible. As the heading to the video says, ‘Megyn Kelly Tears Kellyanne Conway to Bits Over Trump’s History of Misogyny’.



The Clinton campaign has even made a very effective ad using Trump’s own words relating to women (this is the campaign ad referred to in the Kelly/Conway interview above):


And so we come to Clinton. Now there’s no doubt she said some pretty terrible things about women who had, or alleged they had (some of them later denied it) sexual relationships with her husband. But just imagine for a minute that you’re Hillary Clinton, and a woman says she had an affair with your husband, or that he sexually assaulted her in some way. We know that Bill’s first instinct is to deny it, and if you’re deeply in love with your husband you’re going to want to believe that denial more than anything. And if you believe the man you love, that means the women making the allegations are liars and worse. Even once she’s found out it’s true, she’s got an incredibly deep emotional pain to deal with. Is it any wonder if she lashes out? Yes, she said some awful things, but personally I’m inclined to forgive her in the circumstances.

Separate from the situations involving her husband there is absolutely no evidence of any anti-women behaviour by Hillary Clinton. On the contrary, she has fought for girls and women all over the world her entire adult life. One of her best known quotes is the one from the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing:

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.

She hasn’t just made speeches either. She has fought for girls’ and women’s education, healthcare, equal wages, and more her whole adult life.  Her post-graduate study was at the Yale Child Study Center and centered around children and medicine, so she was involved is such work long before she was involved in politics in case anyone is tempted to suggest she’s doing it for political reasons. Her first published scholarly article, published in the Harvard Educational Review, was entitled ‘Children Under the Law’. Among many other organisations, she co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. In addition to all the work she’s done personally, the Clinton Foundation, to which she has donated millions of her personal income, does extensive work helping and supporting girls and women all over the world. There are literally millions in Africa, for example, who are alive today because of her. The Trump Foundation, which Trump himself hasn’t donated a penny to since 2008 and is worth only a fraction of the Clinton Foundation, paid fines for one of his business, and bought two giant portraits of Trump himself and a signed Tim Teebow helmet.

Many women have to deal with the pain of the man they love being unfaithful. Hillary Clinton has had to do it multiple times with the whole world looking on. She’s made the effort to work on her marriage, and her husband has obviously decided he’d rather be with her than any of the other women in his life. I don’t know how she does it.

So go on Donald Trump, bring it up. Unlike you she’s prepared, and you will go down screaming in metaphorical flames.






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20 Responses to “Should Donald Trump Bring Up the Clinton Sex Scandals in the 2nd Presidential Debate?”

  1. E.A. Blair says:

    Should he? No.

    Will he? Probably.

    He can’t help himself. For the snarky version, go here, here or here.

  2. Max Wallace says:

    Great stuff! A mountain of work. Would donate but we don’t use PayPal. Any alternative?


    • Thanks Max. 🙂

      I don’t think you have to be a member of PayPal to donate, but I will ask the company that does my support stuff for me if there are other options available that I could add.

  3. Diane G. says:

    Heather, you know that particular twitter exchange is fake, right?

    In an apparent tit-for-tat move, Trump has been regularly threatening to bring up what he says is the appalling way Hillary Clinton treated the women who had, and were alleged to have had, sexual relationships with her husband. He says he didn’t do it at the first debate out of respect for the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, who he could see in the audience. That is actually a classy move…

    Except that in this case, “not bringing it up” was in effect bringing it up, since in the weeks before he’d widely spread the news about inviting Gennifer Flowers to the debate (who spread the news even further).

    BTW, you might enjoy this article about the upcoming debate:

    Do have a look at the vid of one of Hillary’s answers.

    • I took that bit out of the post – I caught the error after I posted it, but you obviously got to read it before I noticed my screw up!

      The way you describe him not bringing it up is what I meant about him screwing up what could have been a classy move. I should have written it that way in fact – changed that sentence from “That is actually a classy move …” to “That could actually have been a classy move…” It would have made my meaning much clearer.

      I subscribe to the Washington Post, but I hadn’t read that article yet – thanks, it’s an interesting one. I watched both vids. It is simply impossible to imagine Trump giving that answer to the rabbi. He just wouldn’t know how. As the article says, unless he’s made some big changes (and all indications are that he hasn’t) he’s going to get slaughtered on Sunday.

      • Diane G. says:

        Oops, now I’m sorry I mentioned the Twitter thing! (With what we’ve heard from the actual Trump, it wasn’t a far stretch to think that was plausible. 🙂 )

        And yes, I see how we’re on the same page with the coulda-been-classy bit. I really doubt this man is capable of classy–he might blunder into it by accident and still wouldn’t recognize it.

        I know, I can’t wait till Sunday! 😀 There’s a lot of speculation about whether he’ll actually show up, though, rather than come up with some cockamamie excuse for skipping out of it.

        Anyway, great article!

        • Yakaru says:

          Interesting WaPo article. I would guess that Trump’s answer to that question from the Rabbi would be along the lines of his bone-headed response to Mr Kahn’s question about what has he sacrificed.

          And as a contrast, and seeing as you too are a fan of Angela Merkel, here’s a photo just posted by a Yazidi refugee in Germany–

          • Nice pic. I’ve RT’d it. I discovered a really good segment by John Oliver on ‘Last Week Tonight’ about the debate which I would have included in the post if I’d seen it before I wrote it. I’m on the wrong device to provide a link at the moment, but I’ll add one later today.

  4. What an extraordinary read. It’s a perfect companion piece to That being said, I would like your permission to reprint this, with full attribution, at my place. Thanks much.

  5. Mark R. says:

    Great piece Heather.

    I think most people who are reasonable (which means those who don’t support this wreck of a man) would forgive Hillary or any woman for lashing out after finding out about an affair. One of my aunts actually stalked a woman my uncle was having an affair with. She ended up grabbing sunglasses off her face and throwing them over an ocean bluff. Love, especially when coupled with betrayal, makes people do crazy things.

    Re. the next debate, I have a feeling the town-hall setting will make Trump look even more the fool. I can’t wait for women in the audience to ask him questions about his misogyny, or his views on abortion or past affairs if he attacks Hillary. I also hope someone asks him a question about climate change. It pisses me off that this topic is never brought up with either candidate. Hillary has good answers, Trump is a denier. I think it’s the one issue that could really get the Millennials out to vote. Either way, I hope the public exposes more of his delusional views. If he chickens out, I think it would be even worse for him. Can you imagine Hillary at center stage, having the whole room to herself. And if she is the only one standing, afterwards, Trump will probably tweet that he won the debate!

    I pitched in…keep up the great work!

    • Thanks so much Mark. I really appreciate it. 🙂

      I think you’re right that the Town Hall style will suit Clinton much better. As Diane alluded to above, Trump just doesn’t have the empathy to respond to questions directly from voters. He might sometimes manage a sentence or two, but he’s just not capable of sustaining an answer beyond that. He will always turn the conversation back to himself and how wonderful he is.

      When Bill Clinton made the stupid move of joining Loretta Lynch on her plane and said they talked about their grandchildren for thirty minutes, Trump was completely unable to understand that. He couldn’t accept that anyone could talk about their grandchildren for that long. He thought 1-2 minutes was the limit. That says it all imo.

      I think you’re right about the Climate Change thing too. I suspect Clinton will find a way to work it in even if the subject doesn’t come up because she knows she has to appeal to millennials, as you say.

      And if we’re making bets about what will come up, I predict abortion and same-sex marriage will come up in tonight’s VP debate. Despite what social conservatives think, a majority are actually for both those things in the US now, so it could help. Also, though Trump is anti-choice like Pence these days, they have different positions on same-sex marriage. Unlike Pence, Trump is for it – one of the few things he gets right.

  6. Ken says:

    The latest sordid details of Trump’s life that have emerged make this question suddenly way more relevant. With the news cycle on this still hot leading into the second debate, how will the candidates handle it? Some have speculated that Trump won’t show, which seems very out of character, or that Clinton won’t shake his hand – I predict she will, but with a scowl of disgust on her face.

    Of course, the wise will council Trump to be contrite, to show he really thinks he made a mistake (though we know that’s not what he thinks), to even take a few hits from Clinton without reacting, to take the heat out of it as much as possible. This would give desperate supporters some space to spin that he’s learned, or some other similar crap. But this is narcissist Trump. He isn’t capable of taking a hit for his own good and keeping quiet about it. So, just as he did in his statement of non-apology, instead look for him to raise the stakes even more than he might otherwise have, by using Bill to lash at Hillary.

    I almost want to watch, just out of academic interest :-). Look forward to your commentary, Heather.

    • I don’t think he’s capable of keeping quiet, though I’m sure his advisors are trying to tell him to do that. He’s a classic narcissist as you say, but also like a spoiled child – Billy did it so it’s OK that I did it.

      I can’t remember if I said this here or elsewhere, but dismissing it as “locker room banter” just doesn’t cut it. He’s talking about getting away with sexually abusing women in the past and doing the same again in the future. And “locker room banter” is something young guys do. Normal, decent men aren’t still doing it at 59 years of age. By that time their character is fully formed.

      Trump was supposed to be appearing at an event with Paul Ryan today in Wisconsin, but Ryan uninvited him. Trump responded that he wasn’t going because he was busy with debate prep (after all day and several times previously mocking the need for debate prep) so he was sending Pence instead. At the last minute Pence pulled out too, and reading between the lines I’m wondering if it was Pence’s wife that made him pull out.

      Multiple senior Republicans who previously supported Trump are now speaking out against him.

      This is part of something I wrote as a comment on WEIT:
      At this point he’s meant to be increasing the number of white married women and independents who vote for him – those, along with a greater portion of the Hispanic vote are what he needs to win. He’s already lost too much of the Hispanic vote, and now, with this, he’s lost a whole lot more women and a majority of independent voters. In addition, many men, especially those under 50, are now taking a principled stand against him. Hillary’s share of the male vote was already increasing after the Machado incident – this will turn the leak into a flood.

      Of course, many traditional Republicans still won’t vote for Clinton, but a lot will just not vote at all.

      The rest of the world has been wondering for months how Trump got anywhere near the most powerful job on the planet. This is making us breathe a sigh of relief. Just imagine Trump dealing with yesterday’s news that Putin has moved nuclear weapons to the borders of the Baltic states and the increased activity detected at the North Korean nuclear launch site. Further, tension between India and Pakistan is increasing, and the Middle East is at war. Similar things always happen during US presidential election campaigns. The rest of the world doesn’t want Trump anywhere near the situation.

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