The Second US Presidential Debate and its Aftermath

debates-16Note: In quoting Donald Trump, this post includes crude and sexually explicit language.

Just 48 hours before the second presidential debate, the Washington Post released an eleven-year-old video in which, among other things, Trump boasts of sexually abusing women and getting away with it. In any relationship when it gets to the point where one person feels contempt for the other there’s usually no going back and that appears to be the point reached by a large number of senior Republicans. Apart from previous presidents, party nominees, and leading supporters, the list of those who had turned away from backing him by the beginning of the debate included six governors, fourteen senators, and twenty members of the House. That is unprecedented.


CNN/ORC did some scientific polling of debate watchers and they found that awareness of the video was extremely widespread. When asked about their knowledge of it, 52% said they knew a great deal about the video and another 29% said they knew a fair amount. Just 11% said they only knew a little and a tiny 7% said they knew nothing at all. As far as whether the video reflected Trump’s views on women, 59% thought it did and 37% believed it didn’t. Debate watchers were further asked whether Trump’s responses during the debate about the video changed their opinion. 25% said their opinion was now less favourable, 16% said they now felt more favourably towards him, and 58% did not change their opinion.

pussy-1For those few who haven’t seen it, the video included Trump boasting about forcing himself on a married woman:

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married… I moved on her like a bitch.

And being able to get away with assaulting women:

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

(See the full video here and a full transcript here.)

Thus it was with this video in mind that most sat down to watch the second debate.

Only ninety minutes before the debate, Trump held a press conference flanked by four women. One settled a sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton out of court in the 1990s with no admission of guilt. A second accused Bill Clinton of sexually harassing her, and a third had accused Bill Clinton of raping her. Both the latter later withdrew their allegations. A fourth made allegations of rape against a man that Hillary Clinton successfully defended in court. It is likely the man was guilty, but it should be noted that Clinton was appointed to defend him by the court and unsuccessfully tried to get the case allocated to another lawyer. This is also the case where there is a tape of her supposedly laughing about a rapist getting away with it. If you’ve listened to the tape, as I have, you’ll know that at no time did Clinton laugh at the victim as alleged by her opponents. (And you don’t have to accept my word for it – you can read Politifact‘s full analysis here.)

Frank Hancock, chair of the Missouri Republican party, had to intervene to prevent Trump from seating these four women up front in the family section of the audience. The presence of these women in the audience was obviously an attempt to upset Clinton. (Clinton wanted to seat Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) in the Clinton family section and was prevented from doing that also. Trump supporters consider that these two events are of equal significance.)

The public reaction to the video has clearly upset Trump. At the beginning of last night’s debate his breathing sounded asthmatic – he didn’t seem to be able to get enough air into his lungs to get his way through a sentence. As one human being to another, I was genuinely concerned. Towards the end of the evening the sniffing was back too, which to my mind is a sign of anxiety (and not any of the other conspiracy theories being promulgated).

The fact Trump was anxious is one of the few times he’s displayed genuine human emotion throughout the campaign, though the fact that it’s only for himself rather ruins the effect. The effect was also mitigated by his invitation to the debate of the four women mentioned above. Gone were his concerns about upsetting Chelsea Clinton by saying he wouldn’t even mention her father’s sexual indiscretions and abuse allegations (and thus did).

The subject of the leaked video was brought up immediately. Trump dismissed it as “locker room talk”  and pivoted to DAESH after only a couple of sentences, saying what he did was nothing when DAESH needs to be destroyed, which he vowed to do. He then commented on the divisive issue of Clinton’s and Obama’s failure to name Islamic terrorism as such. He didn’t even think to tell young men that what he did is not the way to behave. He doesn’t seem to have grasped that part of the president’s job is to represent the country as a person. The moderators and questioners brought the topic back on track, and asked the candidates about that aspect of the situation.

locker-room-3This time Trump pivoted away from his own egregious behaviour by bringing up that of Bill Clinton. Although advisors like Kellyanne Conway (campaign manager) and Reince Preibus (Republican National Committee chair) have surely told him that is a doomed strategy, he’s determined to go his own way. Trump’s base loves such tactics, but they do nothing to grow the vote. It’s got to the stage where it looks like he’s not actually trying to win the election anymore, he’s trying to build support for a new media network he’ll announce as soon as the election is over. (There have been rumours that this is the case for a few weeks, but now even his staunchest supporters like Fox News’s Eric Bolling are saying it out loud.)

We need to remember that phrase “locker room talk” too. He used it several times and that in itself is telling. There has been a lot of push back from athletes about whether it’s really locker room talk at all. That aside, at the time of the incident Trump was 59 years old and newly (eight months) married. There are men who engage in such banter, but by 59 most have long since grown out of it. There comes a point where most men recognize that carrying on like that is just lewd and crude, and that’s how most of us are viewing Trump – with disgust and contempt.

For her part, Hillary Clinton never addressed her husband’s actions directly. She made more general comments about Trump and said, quoting Michelle Obama from the Democratic convention, “When they go low, we go high.”

debate-7While Clinton said such (admittedly canned) lines as “We’re great because we’re good,” Trump moved in for the attack again. Before the debate was a few minutes old, he had outright called Clinton a “liar” multiple times and said she had “hate” in her heart, “believe me.” Even worse, he literally demonized her – saying she was the “devil.” This is simply outrageous for a debate for the most powerful job in the world.

Imagine what we would be saying if it had been a debate in Russia, Zimbabwe, Iran, or North Korea (if they had debates)? We’d be pointing to it as proof of all sorts of negative things about both the leader and the country. The United States is supposed to be the “shining light upon the hill.”

As the debate wore on, Clinton also said Trump wasn’t being truthful on several occasions. However, in each case she was correct and she never actually outright called Trump a liar.

After getting past the video, Trump said “something [he] thought he wouldn’t say.” He announced that he when he was president he was going to instruct his attorney general to get a special prosecutor to investigate her. He went on at length about all he thought she’d got away with because of her position.

debates-15This is a very popular stance with his base and one that’s bled through to the wider electorate to a certain extent. However, as the head of the FBI James Comey said to the House Oversight Committee, anyone who had all the facts and was viewing the situation through non-partisan glasses would have made the same decision he had – that it was not appropriate to prosecute her.

More importantly, it is not actually legal or appropriate for a president to direct his attorney general to go after certain people as Trump said he would do. Clinton responded to the declaration he would use the office of president to go after her with the comment:

… it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in this country.

Trump interrupted her to respond:

Because you’d be in jail.

And with that, Trump is destined to feature in every presidential pre-debate show until the end of time.

It also brought another well-known Republican Tweeting into the argument:

I gasped out loud when I heard Trump announce he would put Clinton in jail. That was scarier than anything else he said that night, and it seems Ezra Klein of Vox had a similar response:


The debates then moved on to Syrian refugees, which, at his xenophobic, paranoid, and fear-mongering best, Donald Trump referred to as a “Trojan horse.” He focused on Clinton’s desire to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country, and the 550% increase to 65,000 he named is accurate. What’s not accurate is his statement that “we have no idea who they are” or “where they come from.” I have written about this extensively previously. Refugees are actually the safest of all immigrants to the United States. Because the United States, like New Zealand, receives all their refugees via the UNHCR, they are extensively checked out over an extended period (minimum 18 months) before they even enter the country. They should not be directly correlated with the situation in Europe.

debate-6For her part Clinton barely mentioned the leaked video. This was a good tactic. From her point of view it’s better to keep out of the whole debacle. The Republicans are tearing themselves apart over this – Trump has done serious long-term damage to a party that was already in trouble because of his candidacy.

I think there’s more to it than that as well. Clinton is extremely risk-averse. She personally would not want to insert herself into the narrative in case she causes unforeseen damage to her campaign. Anything she says could and would be twisted by her opponents whether or not that was fair. She’s currently winning, and when the polls for the last few days come out her standing will likely have improved even more. Better to leave well enough alone.

After that first half hour, Trump did much better. Who you thought won the second thirty minutes will depend pretty much on where you stand on the issues. As much as Trump wanted to appear like someone who is too good to need to practice, he obviously had. His performance was vastly improved from the first debate and as a result that showed once the debate moved past the issue of the leaked video.

deplorable-1An example of this was that Trump managed to pivot an answer to the fact that Hillary Clinton had called half of his supporters “deplorables” and “irredeemable.” He did get a bit carried away though:

Believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart, and when she said, “deplorables,” she meant it.

As so often this comment had Clinton grinning because she knew Trump had once again gone too far. for her part, she noted that she apologized the next day then flipped the answer back to a criticism of Trump rather than his supporters by naming all the different groups Trump has insulted throughout the campaign. The list was long but was fact-checked by several news outlets, all of which declared her statement “true.” Nevertheless, the “deplorables” comments was a bad error by Clinton that Trump was able to capitalize on.

At this point of the debate, co-moderator Anderson Cooper asked Trump:

In 2008 you wrote in one of your books that the most important characteristic a leader can have is discipline… “If a leader doesn’t have it, he or she won’t be a leader for very long.”

Cooper then asked Trump about Tweeting at three o’clock in the morning, and Tweeting about a sex tape. Trump denied he’d done that and said that Clinton also Tweeted at three in the morning but “I won’t mention that.” He then pivoted to Benghazi, which in itself was a good move. But before making any actual points against Clinton he said, “I’m proud of it, to be honest with you.” Exactly what he meant was unclear, but as far as the sex tape Tweet is concerned, it exists and is completely unambiguous:

The Tweet also accuses Clinton of illegal behaviour and, by extension, State Department staff. Again, this is completely outrageous.

This part of the debate was also though where Clinton showed she was the one able to make the people asking the questions feel that she cared about them as individuals. It was something she was better at throughout, but because of camera angles and frequent split screens that mostly didn’t come across well. Frankly, it seemed producers were so focused on the relationship between the candidates and making sure they didn’t miss a money shot they all but forgot this was supposed to be a town hall debate.

loom-1This meant that while we got plenty of irrelevant shots of Trump looming creepily in the background and prowling the stage, we didn’t see much of whether and how the candidates related to the questioners. Clinton did a better job of speaking to them as individuals – she has the effective politician’s trick of remembering their names and drawing them in for example. However, viewers were unable to tell if the candidates were even speaking to the questioner or had their back to them, which was an error Trump made from time to time.

Overall Clinton was better on style throughout, but Trump supporters will naturally dismiss this as an experienced politician up against an outsider and see that as a positive for Trump. The problem is that Trump doesn’t need to shore up his base. They will vote for him no matter what he does. Before the first debate he had managed to get the, albeit grudging, support of most Republicans, and was doing slightly better than Clinton with independents. Now I expect the polls to show he’s bleeding from both those groups, and that the loss of women voters after the Machado hit has become a haemorrhage. The “blood coming out of her wherever” line has become an analogy for his campaign.

Although it’s an error that I suspect confirmed voters’ decisions rather than caused new problems, Trump’s ongoing vulnerability on foreign policy was also exposed when he had his own Aleppo moment. Despite being pressed, he could give no answer on what he’d do about the crisis there and kept pivoting away to things like what he saw as tactical military errors in Iraq. He got into an argument with co-moderator Martha Raddatz on the announcement of the impending attack on Mosul. Raddatz was correct in her comments, but they were made with barely concealed contempt for Trump and it was inappropriate for her to insert herself into the debate like that.

smart-2The issue of taxes came up of course and after being pressed by co-moderator Anderson Cooper, Trump admitted that he had taken advantage of the provision in tax law that enabled him to not pay taxes for many years. Trump stated that Clinton’s donors had taken advantage of the same law he had in relation to his taxes, and he knew because he knew them all.

(Which makes you think: they know Trump and they know Clinton, and Clinton would increase their taxes and Trump would reduce them yet still they choose to put their money behind, and vote for, her.)

Clinton talked about her own tax plan, including the Buffet Rule she plans to introduce which would increase taxes for the highest income earners, and re-stated her promise that no one who earns US$250,000 or less would face an increase in taxes. She also stated that Donald Trump’s tax plan would give more than double to the rich what the Bush tax cuts had. This claim has since been analysed at length by Politifact and found to be true.


Anyway, Warren Buffet, the billionaire for whom Clinton’s “Buffet Rule” is named, came out with a statement about his taxes following Trump’s statements:


putin-2Trump continued his praise of the last few months for Russia, and incorrectly announced that Russia was focused on eliminating DAESH in its bombing campaigns. He also threw his running mate under the bus as described in the Vox video above: when asked about the fact that what he’d just said was completely different from what Mike Pence had said in the vice-presidential debate he said, “He and I haven’t spoken and I disagree.” Despite that, Pence remained loyal and tweeted his support for Trump following the debate:

One of the most important parts of the debate, which seems to have received little follow up, is when Clinton and Trump were asked about their choices for Supreme Court justices. Clinton’s list was: reverse Citizen’s United, maintain and improve voting rights for all, maintain Roe v Wade, and maintain marriage equality. She also criticized the failure of Republicans to allow a vote on the Judge Garland.

Trump used his two minutes to praise the late Justice Antonin Scalia and said, “I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mould of Justice Scalia.” He further said that the Second Amendment was under siege then talked about Clinton being influenced by special interests. (I guess the NRA doesn’t count as a special interest.) Clinton came back to say that she supported the Second Amendment but wanted to close gun show and on-line loopholes.

Throughout the debate, Clinton ran over the allotted two minutes for answers on virtually every occasion. However, her answers were also constantly interrupted by Trump. Clinton, on the other hand, almost never interrupted him. Her answers were consistently better crafted than his, which tended to waffle. However, he has made a marked improvement since the last debate. There was much less ramble and more substance than before though he did dodge multiple questions altogether, simply talking about what he wanted to talk about rather than what he was asked. In the CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers, 68% thought Trump spent more time attacking Clinton, 16% thought it was Clinton who attacked more, and 15% thought they attacked equally.

debates-18Trump whined several times that he wasn’t getting equal time to speak and accused the moderators of letting Clinton dominate. However, at the end of the debate, the CNN estimate was that Clinton spoke for 39 minutes and 5 seconds while Trump spoke for 40 minutes and 10 seconds. I can’t help but comment that to someone like Trump, equal time probably feels like he’s missing out. Either way, someone needs to tell him that complaining you’re missing out always looks bad. If you really are, let the media fight that battle for you when the debate is over. Take the high road in the moment.

In the end the CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers had Clinton winning by a wide margin of 57% to 34%. That was despite a majority of them (63%) considering that Trump performed significantly better than they expected him to. 21% thought he did worse than they were expecting and 15% about the same. The figures were very different for Clinton. 39% thought she did worse than they expected, 26% thought she did better, and 34% about the same. Importantly for Clinton, she did much better than Trump with men: 49% thought Clinton won the debate and 38% thought Trump won. Clinton usually wins with women, but this time the win was bigger than usual – 64% to Trump’s 30%.

On individual issues, debate watchers also judged Clinton to have performed better on every issue, including those where Trump often beats her like the economy, which she won 56% to 42%. I was generally surprised by the strength of her win. She did well, and better than Trump, but not so well as to explain these results. I think voters personal feelings towards Trump have influenced their judgment. Further, a Wall Street Journal poll taken before the debate has come out in the last few days which has Clinton eleven points ahead of Trump nationwide. This also surprised me. It may be that the collapse in Trump’s support that those of us who could see he wore no clothes have been predicting for over a year is finally happening.



re-election-1The release of the tape and Trump’s ongoing inability to appeal to new constituencies via the debates means he has lost any hope of gaining the presidency, and possibly irreparably damaged the Republican party’s ability to hold the Senate and maybe even Congress too. House speaker Paul Ryan announced on Monday that he would not be campaigning with Donald Trump and in addition, would not defend him or his actions. This leaves room for all those Republicans up for election to distance themselves from Trump if they wish to and need to to win their own elections.

Political reporters have announced that the Democratic party will be doing all they can to tie state candidates to Donald Trump in order to try to discredit them. For himself, Trump has stated that he doesn’t care about down-ballot candidates and has, naturally, Tweeted his response:

Ever since Ryan’s announcement Trump has been regularly sending out petulant Tweets, even praising the Democratic Party for sticking together.

There are people who are still supporting Trump strongly of course, but from my point of view, many are people whose opinion I have little respect for. As well as the universally discredited Alex Jones of the ridiculous Infowars, according to the Washington Post, they include “Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Focus on the Family founder and Family Talk host James Dobson. Also continuing to support Trump is televangelist Pat Robertson, as he announced on his show the 700 Club.

Pussygate may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A man who feeds off the Internet should know better than to screw with cats. There’s even a hashtag #PussiesAgaisntTrump, which has it’s own Twitter page. Here are some examples:

And it seems Trump isn’t too happy about all this:

Pence will forgive Trump anything. Someone gave him some advice for this one:

I noticed Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump talking together in the aftermath of the debate. The two have been friends for many years and I strongly suspect Ivanka apologized for her father, perhaps asking Chelsea to understand the circumstances. Whether or not that guess is an accurate one, Ivanka has a level of class her father will never achieve. I also noticed that when the Clintons were leaving, Bill was holding Hillary’s hand. This showed me the difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Both have histories with women that leave a lot to be desired but Bill has the sensitivity to recognize the pain he has caused his Hillary and that with the women that Trump invited to the debate present, she needed to feel the man she loves physically close.

But the last word has to go to #PussiesAgainstTrump:



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63 Responses to “The Second US Presidential Debate and its Aftermath”

  1. Ken says:

    Marathon piece, Heather. Love the goldfish pussy! My favourite debate meme is #MuslimsReportStuff. I love it when people use humour against buffoons like Trump.

    You said I should remind you about the back story to the wikileaks emails that claim Hillary has “both a public and a private position” on issues, so when you have time…

    • Clinton attended a special screening at the White House of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’. It was after that she commented about having a public position and a private position. She was referring to Lincoln using different arguments to persuade different people (which he did) and thought it was a good example of leadership.

      It was Dana Perino I was referring to who thought this explanation rang true. She has also defended Clinton in other aspects of the Podesta e-mails. Perino is smart, honest, and always tries to be fair. Whatever you think of her political views, she is a person to be respected imo.

      • Ken says:

        Thanks, I’ll look for her comments, but is the context the same, i.e. is that what Podesta is referring to in the email? And what did Hillary say during the debate about it?

        • Yeah, the context is the same. Trump called her out for the phrase, which admittedly sounds really bad, and her explanation was pretty much what I said though she didn’t say it was a private showing at the White House, just that she had just seen the film and was writing about it. As so often, the phrase is one that’s been taken out of context.

  2. rickflick says:

    Good analysis of the debate. He’s scary. His supporters are scary.

    • j.a.m. says:

      At Trump’s next wedding, he, the Clintons and the Obamas will share a hearty guffaw at all of our expense, we the gullible and deplorable.

      • Trump’s candidacy is not a conspiracy. He will never be friends with the Obamas, and he’ll never be friends with the Clintons again.

        For this to be a conspiracy, Trump would have to be willing to sacrifice himself. He would never do that. Once he has lost I guarantee he’ll spin it all in some way, and his explanation will include accusations of a rigged system, but there’s no greater good for the Democratic party here. He’s done too much damage to himself.

      • Ken says:

        Gullible fits the ignorant who vote for Trump, and deplorable those who know better yet vote for him anyway.

      • rickflick says:

        If you consider yourself a male chauvinist, don’t include me in your “we”.

    • They talk of all the voters Trump’s candidacy has brought in – people who’ve never voted before. But when you see some of those people interviewed, I can’t help wondering if it’s better if they’re not involved in the choice. They say, in all seriousness, Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya, Michelle Obama’s name is really Michael (she’s a man) and their daughters were stolen as babies. Obama is the anti-Christ, and he could’ve prevented 9/11. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      • rickflick says:

        I idealism of democracy is that people, regardless of their intellectual fitness, can be educated and and be expected to caste votes that are in their own best interest. I sometimes wonder if that is actually true. So many low information voters seem to vote against there own interest. the Dunning–Kruger effect may ultimately prove Thomas Jefferson wrong.

          • rickflick says:

            Yes interesting. It fleshed out my rudimentary thought. I’m just now reading Jefferson and at that time (1780s) there was a strong group who believed the US should adopt a monarchy. Many Federalists were of this inclination, including to a degree John Adams. Jefferson’s Republicans won the day and we preserved a republican form of government. Over time, very slowly, it seems to work. But it is frightening to see the possibly of instability that has come about in the current election cycle.

          • Wow! I never knew that. I have to say a strictly constitutional monarchy certainly works for us. Maybe it helps that the monarchy is about as far away from us as you can get physically too.

          • Diane G. says:

            Yes, nice article. Pretty much still boils down to, “the best form of government except for all the others.” Tho not having famines is a rather low bar…

          • HaggisForBrains says:

            Depressingly true

        • j.a.m. says:

          No, contra the leftist mantra of recent times, democracy is NOT about voting according to self-interest, but rather the public interest and common good. It was a Democrat who expressed that thought memorably (if unoriginally): Ask not what your country can do for you. Sadly, since those words first rang out, that man’s party has become the party of lawlessness and “gimme”.

          • rickflick says:

            I agree. But, working toward the public good is an advanced, more mature attitude that we would like to aspire to. We are talking about millions of folks who are mostly self interested but fail even at the beginning level of being a responsible voter.

          • Ken says:

            Yet it’s not as if those supporting Republicans have been selflessly casting their votes for the common good either. Rather they have been sacrificing themselves to the 1%, which is what people mean who question why they vote against their own interests. They’re pretty slow, but they’ve caught on that they’ve been lied to by establishment Republicans, hence their raised middle finger in the form of Trump. They are particularly slow if they think the Donald will solve their problems, but at least he’ll provide an outlet for their violence, which they’ll agree is the next best thing.

      • j.a.m. says:

        If you haven’t checked out the many YouTube interviews of average Obama supporters, it’s well worth it.

  3. Randall Schenck says:

    Very fine review of the train wreck, up close and personal as they like to say. Over here close to Omaha we get all the news and happenings about Warren Buffet as he is the home town boy. A few months ago he offered to reveal all of his tax info for 2015 if Trump would do the same. Heard nothing back on that one. And buy the way, Buffet could buy whatever Trump has without going into his second pocket.

    If you are not familiar with it, Bill has several good articles on the debate and stays up with everything political. I receive emails weekly from his site with all the latest going on in politics. Fine reading if you are so inclined.

  4. Pliny the in Between says:

    Great job as always Heather. Only wish CBS news, ABC news, NBC news and CNN dod half as good a job.

  5. Kevin Henderson says:

    Brilliant. Every part of this post. Brilliant. Thank you. Happy day ahead.

  6. Mark R. says:

    Your piece is spot-on Heather. Thanks for your mighty efforts. Those cartoons were awesome… Think how easy it is for talented cartoonists during this election cycle. The buffoonery almost writes itself.

    It’s going to be interesting (or should I say scary) to see what Trump’s deplorables do when he loses. Riots in the street? Wanton violence against minorities? Hillary will probably get more death threats than Obama. The reason this is scary is because his followers, the deplorables, are actually behaving as if they are in a cult. The “Lock her up” chants at his events are reminiscent of Nazi rallies, and I’m not using hyperbole. It’s hard to break free once the brain washing is complete (just like religious people) and there is going to be some serious withdrawals. Maybe Trump’s new network “News for Nutjobs” will keep the mob sedated.

    I also read a Daily Kos article that said Trump is cancelling millions of dollars worth of advertising in battleground states. I can’t wait for a time when Trump can only be found when you look for him.

  7. darrelle says:

    A very good read Heather, but that is not unusual coming from you. My wife and I watched the debate on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). At times I had trouble looking at the screen.

    A thing that has always bugged me, but bugs me to the 2nd power with Trump, is how nearly all “experts” who review these debates almost never do so from the perspective of which candidate better demonstrates their merit for the office but rather from the perspective of which candidate has utilized debate / carny tactics to their best advantage. I understand the benefit of some analysis of who has better carny skills, but the over-emphasis on that kind of analysis contributes, in my opinion, to selection for candidates that are carnies of little substance rather than candidates of substance with some carny skills. It also, in my opinion, contributes to selection for citizens that are swayed by carny tactics rather than by substance.

    “For her part Clinton barely mentioned the leaked video. This was a good tactic.”

    It didn’t quite seem that way to me. In the opening phase of the debate she very prominently and directly focused on the video and what it appeared to reveal about Trump’s character.
    Though she was careful to maintain a thoughtful even demeanor while doing so. At the moment I was thinking it was a bad idea, that she should not have addressed the video at all unless directly asked about it, and then as briefly as possible. Let the press and the people take him apart on that.

    Regarding “going high when they go low,” I would have liked to see Hillary trade barbs with Trump even less than she did. I thought she did a fair job of taking the high road, but there was room for improvement. It seemed that Trump got under her skin once or twice, but she did a pretty good job of not engaging with his insults and lies. I’d recommend to her, if I could, that she never give Trump the respect of addressing him directly at all.

    It seemed obvious to me that both Anderson and Martha were biased against Trump, which I think makes them reasonable and decent human beings. But, I agree with you that they both should not have let that show while mediating the debate. At one point Martha nearly lost it and her disgust / contempt showed brightly for a moment. No way could I do their job. I’d be completely unprofessional about it.

    • Thanks darelle. You’re right in your criticism of the sentence, “For her part Clinton barely mentioned the leaked video.” I actually did write about the bit Clinton actually did say about the video, and you’re completely correct about the way she addressed it. You will have noticed that this post is extremely long. It was originally even longer – about 1500 words longer. What I wrote about Clinton’s response got cut and I didn’t properly edit what was left.

      I agree that Clinton could have done a better job too in that Trump managed to bait her a couple of times. She didn’t perform up to her potential. You’re on the money about Cooper and Raddatz too I think.

      • darrelle says:

        It was long, but your writing is so easy to read, and the interesting information / fluff ratio so high that I liked that about it. I hope you write more about this election.

        I’ve lately been wishing that Christopher Hitchens were still with us just so I could read, and hear, what he would have had to say about Trump’s run for the White House. Given his strong dislike of the Clintons, plus Trump, I’m sure he would have had a lot to say about this election.

  8. E. Harding says:

    Trump continued his praise of the last few months for Russia, and incorrectly announced that Russia was focused on eliminating DAESH in its bombing campaigns.

    -It is, far more than the United States:

    “Trump’s ongoing vulnerability on foreign policy was also exposed when he had his own Aleppo moment.”

    -No; Trump clearly knew what Aleppo was and gave a perfectly reasonable answer, correctly rejecting the dangerous views of his VP pick. Foreign policy is Trump’s greatest strength. It is also Clinton’s greatest weakness, due to Her disastrous experience.

    In the CNN poll, the sample was skewed to Obama supporters. There were more Democrats than people who thought Clinton won. Pointing to people’s expectations is, I think, a correct choice of yours.

    Clinton’s list was: reverse Citizen’s United, maintain and improve voting rights for all, maintain Roe v Wade, and maintain marriage equality. She also criticized the failure of Republicans to allow a vote on the Judge Garland.

    -There was no mention of the Constitution in Her answer.

    Clinton’s mindless Russophobia is an explicit rejection of Obama’s remarks four years earlier:

    • Trump knew what Aleppo was, but, despite being pressed several times, was unable to say what he would do about the humanitarian crisis there. He pivoted to getting rid of DAESH and the campaign to re-take Mosul (which is more than 600 kilometres from Aleppo!). Each time the moderator tried to get him to say what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo he talked about attacking DAESH instead.

      Further, the biggest problem with Russia in Syria is that instead of going against DAESH and other extremists exclusively, they are bombing the moderate rebels. It is because of Putin that Assad is still in power. He has been arming him for years, and is now intervening directly on his side, bombing ALL the opposition to Assad. When Putin first got into Syria, there wasn’t a single attack on DAESH – all the bombing raids were against the moderate opposition. It is Russia that is bombing the hospitals in eastern Aleppo. Trump’s support for Russia in this circumstance is a disgrace.

      It is not “mindless” to oppose Putin. During the Bush year’s he invaded Georgia. He invaded and annexed Crimea two years ago. He has provided massive support to the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. It was a Russian soldier manning a Russian missile launcher in Ukrainian territory that shot down flight MH17. Russia has been flying provocative sorties over the Baltic States and as far south and west as Britain. Just days ago they moved nuclear weapons into a small Russian enclave bordering the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and it is generally accepted that the only thing stopping Putin from invading is NATO. He has also been moving more and more troops onto the border with Poland in the last two years. There is a fu*king good reason that the world is wary of Russia. It’s not a phobia when the feat has a genuine basis. Trump would do well to develop a bit of Russophobia.

      And so what if Clinton disagrees with what Obama said four years ago? Putin has become more dangerous in the last four years. Positions change as circumstances change, as they should.

      The idea of Trump anywhere near foreign policy frankly scares me sh*tless. You may not agree with Clinton, and sometimes I don’t either, but at least you know her position will be well considered.

      • Ken says:

        No, it’s not mindless to oppose Putin and I’m no fan at all, but as we’ve discussed before, the west isn’t helping the situation by threatening Russian boarders with NATO and this is part of Putin’s motivation, both externally with land grabs and general destabilisation activity, and internally where he can appeal to Russian nationalism to distract from their terrible economy and strengthen his position. It also gives Putin an excuse to crackdown on internal dissent. It’s a dumb and dangerous strategy and one that Clinton the hawk is likely to exacerbate.

    • Mark R. says:

      “Foreign policy is Trump’s greatest strength.”

      hahahahahahaha Oh I can only laugh at the posts from the uninformed and/or deluded. But how do you know it’s his greatest strength anyway? He has absolutely no experience and all he says is he’s going to fix everything “believe me”. Well, you obviously have drunk the kool-aid. Cheers!

  9. Diane G. says:

    Great read, Heather! I don’t know how you manage to produce this much compelling reading so quickly and thoroughly. And I always love that you illustrate your posts so aptly. 😉

  10. Ken Kukec says:

    Trump’s having the Clinton accusers seated in the audience was a move right out of the Corleone family playbook — like Michael silencing Frankie Pentangeli by bringing his brother over from Sicily to sit in the gallery during his Senate committee hearing testimony in Godfather II.

    It’s not accurate to say that two of them “were women Bill Clinton had an affair with[.]” Those two women — Pauline Jones and Kathleen Willey — both accused B. Clinton of initiating unwanted sexual contact with them.

    • Yeah, I did get that wrong. I’ll fix it. Thanks

    • Diane G. says:

      Didn’t they do that after they suddenly had a whole lotta new friends and attention and publicity from the right wingers, though?

      • We can’t know whether that’s the reason they’re doing it. They might also be being paid. They have a right to support who they want and say what they want.

        However, there’s video of Paula Jones being called a loser by Trump when he was still friends with Bill. Also Trump has commented about how unattractive some of the women who accused Bill were, and I think that included two of these, but would have to check. So if it was me I wouldn’t want to be standing up for Trump whatever Bill had done to me.

        There might be an even bigger scandal to come. There’s already a rape allegation against Trump being officially investigated involving someone who was 13 at the time. A former Miss Teen Arizona has said Trump came into the changing rooms when the contestants were topless and naked, and he confirmed that himself by talking about doing that on the Howard Stern show at the time. And apparently the production company has even worse stuff than the bus tape that started Pussygate.

  11. j.a.m. says:

    Trump is not “being officially investigated”. The allegation is leveled in a civil case that even pro-Clinton outlets find a little fishy. The Clintons aren’t going to call attention to it because — you guessed it — they’d have to explain Bill’s conduct: “Bill and Hillary Clinton have remained mum about their ties to the Palm Beach pedophile—despite evidence that shows Bill was one of the most famous and frequent passengers on Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ and that Epstein donated money to the Clinton Foundation even after his conviction.”

    • You can’t have it both ways – either the claim is fishy or Bill Clinton is involved. It’s a bit like Trump’s claims that the election is rigged, but only if he loses.

      It is sensible for anyone to keep away from unproven claims. No one knows for sure what Bill’s involvement was and whether, if it occurred, it was more or less than Trump’s. And I repeat, Bill Clinton’s name isn’t on the ballot.

  12. nicky says:

    Excellent comment on the second debate, possibly the best I’ve read. I’m getting used to your good posts, but this one is outstanding.
    Donald was not just creepily looming and prowling in the background, he was towering threateningly over Hillary (never noted their difference in physical size so clearly) and breathing in her neck. I do not think that will go down well with potential female Trump voters -if there are any of them left, that is.
    The Second Amendment is not under siege. Donald is mistaken there, Hillary only wants some background checks and registration. Want a real threat? *nickies* would put it seriously under siege: they would want to limit the citizen’s right to bear arms to well organised militias (gasp!)! Now *that* would be a real threat to the Second Amendment, wouldn’t it?

    • Thanks Nicky. As you say, Clinton is no threat to the Second Amendment, and has repeatedly stated she will make no efforts to repeal it, despite what Trump says. She has only ever proposed measures to stop guns getting into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them – measures, incidentally, that even most NRA members support.

      One of the perennial claims about Clinton is that she is a political animal, which is accurate. How then do her opponents square that with her taking a position that would be political suicide i.e. repealing the 2nd Amendment. Besides, even if she wanted to, she’d never get the support. Despite what Trump seems to think, the president isn’t a dictator.

      • nicky says:

        I’m sorry you didn’t like my joke. I admit it was a bit corny.

        • It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I didn’t get it because it’s outside my cultural understanding as a Kiwi. 🙂 I did get you were making a joke but, among other things, I’ve no idea what “nickies” are. Sorry.

          • nicky says:

            ‘nickies’ are me and comparable deplorable mortals.

            Deplorable because they want to be billionaires, but have difficulties to make ends meet by the end of the month, despite having a ‘good’ income.
            Deplorable because they had some great research projects, but little came from it.
            Deplorable because they wanted to make the world a better place, but could only partly achieve that in their own district.
            Deplorable because they had some great inventions, but did not know how, or were too busy, to get it going.
            I hope that answers your question about ‘nickies’. If you hadn’t asked -forcing some introspection- I would not even have known myself what ‘nickies’ actually are ?

            As for the Second Amendment, maybe a Hillary nominated/dominated SCOTUS could possibly get it right: it is *explicitly* about well organised militias, there is no reason at all to allow *any* private citizen to bear arms outside a well structured militia (such as National Guard, Police, etc). I completely fail to comprehend it can be read otherwise.

            [Now I do not say that e.g. hunters (many of whom have become some kind of conservationist, c.f. Teddy Rooseveldt) should not have hunting rifles, just that the second amendment has nothing to with that]

  13. HaggisForBrains says:

    I’ll just add my voice to the people praising this post – great work. Thanks, Heather.

  14. Thank you to everybody for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. 🙂

    I also appreciate that so many of you take the time to comment and to engage with others about the topic, and especially the thoughtful way you engage. It makes a real positive difference to the site I think.

  15. j.a.m. says:

    Heather, your readers in Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Iowa and Oregon will want to remember that they can write in your name.

    Unfortunately, in most other states it will be necessary for you to file and list your respective Electoral College slate in order for your write-in votes to be tabulated. I imagine deadlines have passed in many cases, but you do have until next Tuesday in New York.

    • nicky says:

      They will doubt she’s born in the USA, and will deny her citizenship (which in her case might be correct?).

      Note, almost anybody with 4 neurons in their brains would be a better candidate than a Trump, with the exception of would be ayatollahs like Cruz or Pence and their ilk.

      I’d vote Clinton, without even pinching my nose.

      • I was born in New Zealand.

        • nicky says:

          I assumed as much….And I guess none of your parents were US citizens. Your chances at the US presidency are as good as mine (0).

          I just hope the US electorate does not get complacent: Hillary defeating Donald so comprehensively in these debates, that people might think it is a forgone conclusion and have no need to go out and vote. That is precisely the (only) scenario that might see Donald win.

          • Ken says:

            Turnout is the final big unknown of this election. In a delicious irony, Republican leaders are now countering Trump’s claim that the whole election is rigged, because they are becoming afraid that his rhetoric is discouraging the Republican turnout that is critical to hold onto Congress. As an example, the North Carolina Election Board publishes stats twice a week on early voting and they show that while Dems and Indies are early voting at roughly the same rate as in 2012 (both are slightly up), Rep early voting is down nearly 50%. Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

          • Both my parents were born in New Zealand as well. One of my paternal grandparents was born in Scotland, which gives me the right to work in Britain (has to be a paternal one to be eligible!!!) but that’s the best I can do in terms of other countries. 🙂

  16. nicky says:

    Has to be a paternal one? In the 21st century’s ‘West’? Still? ?

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