The second presidential debate of 2016 took place at Washington University in St. Louis, and was moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz. If there is any argument among future historians about the reality of progressive media bias, this debate will be cited as the event where the media unashamedly, conclusively revealed its true colors. Both moderators, but particularly Raddatz, constantly interrupted Trump, stopped him the second his two minute answer periods were up, framed questions to help Hillary, and gave her every opportunity to rebut Trump, but did not extend the same courtesy to him. If she were paying them, they could not have been more effectively in her pocket.
Cooper and Raddatz routinely allowed Clinton to run overtime, as much as a minute and more (their response allocation was two minutes), and their few attempts to stop her were very gentle and often dropped. Raddatz was very loud and aggressive, and obviously angry at points, even angrily arguing with Trump on Hillary’s behalf. It was impossible to tell if her microphone volume was too loud, but her tone was unmistakably harsh and even rude. Cooper and Raddatz did ask a few relatively tough questions of Clinton, but in their rambling formulation, usually gave her several outs and softened the implications with qualifications.
As expected, Cooper and Raddatz kept the pressure on Trump’s eleven-year old video, rattling off their own attacks, giving Hillary plenty of opportunities to attack, and even giving one of the town hall participants a shot. They were able to keep that topic alive for nearly 24 minutes, nearly a third of the total debate.
Americans have terribly low expectations of the media. Cooper and Raddatz have dropped them to Mariana Trench depths.
The Winner: Donald Trump. It wasn’t close. He’ll never win a debate on traditional debate criteria, but neither will Hillary if for no reason other than that she constantly evades questions (a particularly incredible example shortly), and her delivery is reminiscent of a robot with glitchy voice production software. He had all the effective one- liners–Hillary had none–and by the last third of the event, he wiped Hillary’s smug smirk entirely off her face. When he talked about hatred in her heart, the waves of hatred were positively radiating from every pore of her body. If looks could kill…
Hillary Clinton: Her answers, and even some of the people she mentioned–the iconic photo of the little Syrian boy after being dug out of bombing rubble–made me think she had been given the questions in advance, just like in the first debate. When Raddatz brought up the same little boy later in the debate and Hillary gave a knowing grin/grimace and nod, I felt a shiver of revulsion. She began with her patented superior smirk and arrogant tone. It didn’t take long for Trump to unbalance her, and later in the debate, she had no responses for many of his charges, and those she tried were so bizarre as to be actually nonsensical. She had no apparent medical episodes. I’m assuming she’s so full of drugs she won’t be coming down until just before the next debate.
Donald Trump: His visage was serious from the start. He rarely smiled, and his reactions to Clinton’s many lies and evasions were restrained, and all the more effective for it. Oddly, he sniffled more or less constantly, and his voice was a bit congested, perhaps from a cold, a rather common illness politicians get during campaigns.
Impressions: The debate, in town hall format with no podiums, began without a handshake.
Answering an early question, Clinton wants to be president for all Americans. Strange. I recall Barack Obama saying that, which did not work out so well. I found that, in light of her deplorables commentary, and her assertion that all Americans are racists, just a bit disingenuous.
In the early 24 minute attack Trump fest, Cooper stridently said Trump was advocating sexual assault and kept repeating it as Trump answered. Trump handled it as well, saying the tape was locker room talk. He apologized to his wife and family, and to America, and was embarrassed by it, and would do better. He made the point that in light of all our problems, including ISIS, this is not important, but Cooper kept interrupting and trying to put words in Trump’s mouth, but he fought Cooper off well.
Clinton said the video is exactly who Trump is and he’s unfit. Trump tried to respond to Clinton’s very personal attack and Raddatz immediately cut him off. She added a related social media question and added her own attack on Trump.
Trump absolutely nailed Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, and Hillary’s aiding and abetting. He also said if he’s president, he’ll have his AG appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton on her 30,000 destroyed e-mails. He several times made the point those were under subpoena when she destroyed them. That wiped the smirk off her face, and ensured that Obama will pardon her and anyone that could cause her–actually him–any difficulty. Trump surely knows this.
Great Zinger #1:
Clinton: (smirking broadly) “It’s good someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of law in America.”
Trump: (immediate and deadpan, with perfect timing) “Because you’d be in jail.”
That one drew an appreciative “oooo! from the audience.
Pretty Good Zinger #2:
Clinton defended her e-mail practices with the usual lies and evasions, claiming there is no evidence anyone hacked her server, no classified materials ended up in the wrong hands, and she takes classified information very seriously.
Trump immediately responded “yet she didn’t know what a ‘C’ on e-mails meant.”
She glared angrily at him and had no response. He followed that up by nailing Bill Clinton and Loretta’s Lynch’s airport meeting, which also did not please Hillary.
They actually had an Obamacare question from a town hall participant. The answers were what one would expect. Clinton thinks it needs only to be fixed because it has accomplished so very much good for so many. Trump characterized it as a disaster and exposed Obama’s main lies, even mentioning the thuggishly smug Jonathan Gruber. He wants to repeal and replace it with the usual reasonable proposals such as insurance portable over state lines, etc. Cooper aggressively and repeatedly questioned and interrupted Trump.
Throughout the evening, Trump handled their abuse well, occasionally commenting on their unfair tactics, at one point calling it “three against one,” which it manifestly was.
A Muslim town hall participant asked a generic question about Islamophobia. Trump didn’t handle it smoothly, but made the point that we need to be careful about who we’re admitting to the country, and the government has admitted it can’t vet these people. He did nail Hillary on the huge numbers of Syrians she wants to import, and that she wants open borders, but strangely did not specifically bring up her comment about open borders from her leaked speeches to Wall Street. Raddatz repeatedly, very loudly, and aggressively interrupted Trump, obviously trying to give Hillary breathing space.
They did question Clinton about her public vs. private positions speech, and Clinton gave the most bizarre answer I’ve ever seen a politician give in a debate. She said “it” was about an Abraham Lincoln movie, which she liked, and it was a good movie, muttering something about Lincoln saying something about something or other, and then shifted to hacking by Russia, which is designed to help Trump win the election because the Russians are apparently very fond of Trump, and then tied the Russian hacking into Trump’s tax returns because they might show some kind of connection–or something–to Russia, all in one long, run-on sentence/stream of consciousness thought.
I’m not kidding. It took me a few seconds to realize my mouth was hanging open.
Great Zinger #3:
Trump observed Clinton was blaming her lying on Lincoln (with perfect timing and deadpan delivery, and a slight, sly grin): “Honest Abe never lied. That’s a big difference between him and Hillary, big difference.”
It was an absolute rim shot moment.
A town hall participant asked an entirely loaded Hillary question about how they would ensure the rich paid their fair share of income taxes. Trump went on about how he pays hundreds of millions in taxes, and used the tax laws well, as all wealthy people did, like George Soros who gives Hillary lots of money. He also said he’ll release his taxes as soon as a routine audit is done. He spent quite a bit of time on an arcane tax issue that virtually no one watching understood, but did say he knew more about the tax codes than anyone ever running for president, and took Hillary to task for being in the Senate and politics for 30 years and doing nothing about the tax code and other issues. Hillary will raise taxes; he’ll massively lower them.
Hillary attacked Trump on the usual progressive tax arguments, and then began to brag about herself and her many wonderful accomplishments, which were in the “I flew all over the place” category. Did you know her name is on 400 pieces of legislation? She didn’t bother to mention if any of those passed into law, and of course, Cooper and Raddatz didn’t follow up. Raddatz, did refuse to allow Trump to respond.
What should Trump have said? It’s income tax. If you have no income, you pay no taxes. If you lose a billion, the tax code lets you try to make it up. Anyone can understand that.
On Syria, Hillary claimed she has “stood up to Russia,” and we have to, in some unspecified way, “get leverage over Russia.” Russia wants Trump as president, apparently because her reset button convinced them she would be too fearsome to contemplate (Trump didn’t pick that particularly low-hanging fruit). Oh yes: she “put a lid on” the Iranian nuclear program “without firing a shot.”
Trump brought up her Libyan debacle, but glancingly, and also said she messed up with Russia. Their nuclear weapons are new, ours are old.
Raddatz aggressively went after Trump for going over time.
Most Bizarre Exchange Of The Evening:
Trump was really getting the better of Clinton observing how stupid it is to tell your enemies what you’re going to do or not do and when you’re going to do it. Raddatz, nearly screaming, aggressively flung the answers she obviously wished Hillary would say but didn’t, actually briefly arguing with Trump.
To paraphrase Sally Field at a long ago Oscar ceremony: “You hate him; you really hate him!”
Trump pointed out Cooper and Raddatz let Hillary go a minute over her time, but if he went a second over, they attacked him. He did it calmly and ironically. Very effective.
Second Bizarre Hillary Comment:
Hillary introduced “the Trump Effect,” which she said is causing bullying–it’s on the rise, you know– among children, and a general sort of uneasiness…and stuff…
Great Zinger #4:
Cooper: “Does Donald Trump have the discipline to be a leader?”
Clinton: “No.” (long pause)
Trump (deadpan, with perfect timing): “I’m shocked to hear that.”
The audience liked that one. They liked all his zingers.
A townhall participant asked what the most important characteristic a Supreme Court nominee should have. Clinton’s responses were stereotypically leftist:
*They should understand the way the world really works. Translation: ignore the law and make decisions based on progressive desires.
*They should be willing to reverse Citizen’s United. Translation: Get rid of that pesky First Amendment. How dare anyone criticize me!
*Realize that Voting Rights are under attack. Translation: We have to let the dead vote, illegals vote, felons vote, and let everyone vote early and often. None of this identification silliness allowed.
*Preserve Roe v Wade forever. No translation required.
*Preserve marriage equality. No translation required.
Strangely, she didn’t mention doing away with the Second Amendment, but rectified that omission quickly enough.
Trump said he would appoint judges in “the mold of Antonin Scalia.” He would want them to have respect for the Constitution. Translation: what a madman! They would also have to respect the Second Amendment, which he said was “very important.”
Clinton responded: “I respect the Second Amendment,” but we must have universal background checks, we must close the gun show loophole, and the On Line loophole.
Fact Check: Universal background checks would not in any way assist in preventing or investigating crime, and are a necessary first step to universal registration and eventual confiscation. There is no gun show loophole. Clinton wants to criminalize all transfers of guns, even between parents and children, and insert the federal government into every such transaction. Almost no criminals buy guns at gun shows. There is no such thing as an “on line loophole.” While people may order guns via the Internet, they must be shipped to a licensed dealer who is required to do all federal paperwork and background checks.
On energy, Trump wants an “all of the above” strategy, and went after Clinton on wanting to destroy the energy industry, particularly coal.
Clinton tells us that America is energy independent. That would be a substantial surprise to the energy industry that can’t so much as build a pipeline from Canada, and that is still importing mountains of oil from the Middle East and other nations. Of course Clinton thinks this mythical, energy independent America must remain energy independent. But we really have to keep fighting climate change, and be the leaders in “clean, renewable energy,” which will create millions of new jobs and businesses. She also has a plan to “revitalize coal country.”
Trump missed a great opportunity for an epic zinger by noting that she needed a plan to revitalize coal country because she told coal miners she intends to destroy it–and them–first. He also failed to mention all the wonderful clean energy firms the Obama administration subsidized, only to see them all throw billions into a composting toilet. He did note that the EPA is destroying our energy industry and harming the economy.
The final question, from a town hall participant, asked it they could each say something nice about each other. Sigh. Clinton likes Trump’s children. Trump said Clinton was a fighter, which was a better answer, and made him look gracious and statesmanlike. They did end with a handshake.
Pundits forecast Trump’s doom before the debate, opining that he would have to just do better than very low expectations to save his crashing campaign. They weren’t singing that tune at the end of this debate. For the first time, a candidate for president did what John McCain and Mitt Romney couldn’t or wouldn’t: they actually exposed their opponent for the criminal fraud and incompetent they were. Trump kept on the pressure merely by telling the truth about her. Hillary really didn’t like that. I suspect many establishment Republicans were not pleased either.
Trump’s zingers were particularly effective because they were not obviously rehearsed or planned. Trump is fast on his feet with insults, and his more restrained demeanor allowed him to deliver them with perfectly ironic deadpan precision. He was serious and substantive, but there was no hint of condescension or meanness. When Trump went places Hillary’s debate preparation didn’t cover, she was unable to do the same.
This debate just might change some minds, and it certainly is putting sunshine, summer Republicans in a bad position. Their support could put Trump over the top, and they’ll have a damned hard time explaining why they wouldn’t support him after tonight.