The Second U.S. Presidential Debate

A week of sexual-assault-themed events have led to tonight's second debate. Trump was caught on tape bragging about having sexually assaulted women, and then in the firestorm that followed dredged up decades-old unverified sexual assault claims against not Hillary. but Bill Clinton. What a night it will be.
A week of sexual-assault-themed events have led to tonight’s second debate. Trump was caught on tape bragging about having sexually assaulted women, and then in the firestorm that followed dredged up decades-old unverified sexual assault claims against not Hillary. but Bill Clinton. What a night it will be.

It has been a remarkable week for U.S. Presidential politics. The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, found himself abandoned by many supporters in his own party when videotape surfaced of him talking about having sexually assaulted women, using the pretense of his wealth and celebrity to then take advantage of them. He made those remarks when he was 59 years old. The Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, would have had to deal with allegedly leaked excerpts from paid speeches (in which she described a vision of a western hemisphere free to open trade… not a huge surprise for center-left Democrat) except that Trump stole all the headlines… and not in a way that he would have liked. Tonight, just 90 minutes before the second debate, Trump hosted a panel of women alleging sexual assault against Bill Clinton, women whose accusations were dismissed by earlier prosecutors due to their unreliability under interview by investigators (changing stories, etc). Trump has been using this to cast shadows on Hillary Clinton, alleging she threatened these women to keep quiet. The goal here is to use the shadow already on Bill and hope to cast an equal shadow on Hillary… an interesting strategy for a man who admitted on tape to sexually assaulting women and planning further such assaults.

So here we are. It’s less than 1 hour before the second debate starts. It’s a town hall debate. This Presidential election cycle has broken all the rules of all past such campaigns… I refuse to even predict what could happen tonight. I’ll post fact-checks as they roll in from various news agencies, and maybe add some of my own reaction to this mess.


Jodi made some taco dip and we have wine. One of these two things will make the possible sexual-assault-fueled shit-show that is likely to be this “debate” much more tolerable.


Hillary Clinton’s campaign responds to Trump’s panel of sexual assault accusers:


Trump keeps it classy 35 minutes before the start of the debate, and  while attempting to be funny also generally makes a point he probably doesn’t appreciate:


Wonder if this will come up tonight:


In rhetoric, there is a danger in escalating the manner of your attack against your opponent. If you stop using verified allegations of criminal behavior against your opponent, and instead turn to unverified allegations, you open yourself to the same attack. Social media has picked up on this, and there is a real danger to Trump now in having used the unverified rape allegations against his opponent’s spouse (not even against his opponent). To wit:

Correction to the above: it was Ivana, not Ivanka, that leveled these accusations. Others have leveled similar accusations against him, similar to those levelled against Bill Clinton. For actual reporting of any kind on these equally horrible allegations:


Will Hillary go low tonight? That’s the question. Trump has opened himself to the attack, and stands rhetorically exposed… but it would be a low shot.


SMU experts weigh in on Trump’s “panel of accusers”:

Correction: “distract Hillary”. C’mon, people. Proofread.


Some pre-debate fact checks:


More reporting from the Titanic:


Even our friends across the pond are getting in on the debate-night fact-checking. Welcome The Guardian to the party:


The Onion is, as always, at the party:


We are getting underway.


No shaking hands tonight.


First question: are you modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?


Clinton stayed positive in her response. “We are great because we are good.” Trump starts his scare-speech: jobs, terror, “stolen jobs”. Interesting contrast.

Trump basically avoiding question. Nothing about positive behavior. Just scare tactics about the nation… getting his stats wrong, too, no doubt.


Cooper: “You bragged that you sexually assaulted women.”

Trump: “No I didn’t say that at all, you misunderstood it. It was locker room talk.”

Then drags answer away to ISIS and their torture tactics. Dodge.

Cooper: “Are you saying that what you said on that bus was not true?”

Trump: “I have great respect for women.”

Cooper: “So you’re saying you never did that?”

Cooper turns the question to Clinton.

Clinton: Talks about disagreement with previous Republican nominees on policy. Never questioned their fitness to serve. She then talks about how she and many others had already questioned his actual fitness. Now to the tape. Talked about what he thinks about women and does to women. Denies the video represents who he is, but notes this is consistent with his behavior during the campaign and before: shaming women, rating women, denigrating a former Ms. Universe. This is who Donald Trump is.  Then she ties it to all the other groups he has targeted. The question for us: “Is this who we are?”

She then goes back to the first question: send a message to the world – we are great, but we are great because we are good, and work together, and celebrate our diversity.



Trump responds: calls Clinton’s speech “just words, folks, just words.” Tries to skewer her on her record as Senator.

Moderators try to pull him to next question: “So she gets to do that and I don’t get to respond? Sounds fair. Sounds fair.”

Setting up ad hoc excuses for the failure during the debate and of his Presidency. Consistent with pattern of his past excuses.


Moderator: when you walked off that bus at 59, were you a different person then than you are now?

Trump: Just locker room talk. I am not proud of it. It happened. Turns to Bill Clinton. Claims there has never been anyone in the “history of politics who was so abusive to women.” Notes four accusers are in audience tonight. “I apologize for those words,” then turns back to Clinton and takes fight to Bill Clinton.

But Bill is not running for President.

Trump: “I think she’s ashamed of herself.”



Clinton: “So much of what he just says is not right, but he can run his campaign any way he wants.” Talks about going high when the opponent goes low. “He never apologizes for anything to anyone.” Raises the Khan family attacks. Raises the attacks on the judge based on his Mexican heritage. Raises the attacks on the reporter with a physical disability. Raises the lie about Obama’s birth origin. Trump should take action for his action and his words

Trump: You started the birther movement. You should apologize for the email and missing things from an office.

Trump: I hate saying this, but I am going to say it. I will instruct my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor. There has never been anything like this.

Trump’s mic must be broken. Picking up every sniff and snuff.


Clinton: everything he just said is absolutely false. Can’t fact check this person in real-time. It’s awfully good that someone with the temperament of Trump is in charge of the law in the US

Trump: You’d be in jail.

Moderators have to chide audience for whooping and hollering.


Raddatz asks about emails.

Clinton: That was a mistake and I take responsibility for using a personal email account. I wouldn’t do that again. I am sorry about that. There are misleading accusations from critics. After year-long investigation, no evidence server was hacked; no evidence that any classified materials wound up in the wrong hands (note she didn’t deny this time having handled classified materials… in the past, she’s not said it this way).

Trump: She didn’t know what a letter “c” meant on a document. She’s lying again.

More back and forth about emails.


Cooper tries to get Trump to get him to stop interrupting Clinton. Trump keeps interrupting Clinton every sentence or so. Clinton moves things on to the next question. Trump attacks Cooper. “Nice. One one three.”


Audience question: want to hear about how to address the problems with “Obamacare”

Clinton offers to let Trump go first, though it’s her turn. “No you go first, because I am a gentleman.” You’re actually not if you point it out.

Clinton: talks about reforming Affordable Care Act. Talks about benefits of law (no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, no lifetime limits, etc.). Save what works and fix the rest. Don’t repeal and start over. Preserve the good and fix the broken.

Trump: Obamacare is a disaster. “Numbers going up at rates nobody else has seen.” Spends a lot of time saying it’s a disaster. Talks about reducing boundaries to companies coming into different states. Claims there are boundaries they cannot cross in the market. Claims Clinton wants single-payer system.


Cooper brings up Bill Clinton’s remarks about Obamacare. Asks Clinton to comment.

Clinton: Gets off Bill’s remarks quickly by saying “he clarified those.”

Clinton overruns time on this… she and Trump are overrunning time. Trump ignoring moderators.


Cooper asks Trump to clarify his plan for accomplishing all he claims he wants.

Trump: we’re gonna have such a good plan. Talks about competition. Then gets off this and talks about Obamacare as a fraud. Dodges question. Avoids talking policy again. Block grants into the states.


Next question: with islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me avoid being labeled as a threat to the country after the election:

Trump: “Islamophobia is a shame.” (HEIGHT OF IRONY). Make sure Muslims report what they see in their neighborhoods. Seems to be blaming Islam for the problem of Islamophobia. Now he’s off on a tangent about the name of the act. To solve it, you have to say the name.

Clinton: Thanks audience member for question. Notes “divisive dark things” said about Muslims. Warns about “demogogic rhetoric” that Trump engages in. Need Muslims to be eyes and ears, since they are on the front-line. Inclusion is crucial. We are not at war with Islam. Plays into extremist hands.


Raddatz: Asks him about “total shutdown of Muslims coming into U.S.” Pence said ban is no longer his position. Was it a mistake to have a religious test?

Trump: claims Khan would be alive today if Trump had been President. (Yikes). Muslim ban has morphed into “extreme vetting”.

Trump: “Why don’t you interrupt her?” he asks Raddatz when Raddatz asks him to answer the original question. Claims we have no idea who is coming into your country.

Raddatz: Clinton did ask for an increase in Syrian refugees. We know you want vetting, but vetting is imperfect. How do you handle those problems.

Clinton: talks about plight of refugees and suffering children. Blames Russian aggression for suffering of children. Compares our low load of refugee assistant to Europe’s bigger contributions. As a policy, we cannot say we base people based on religion. Talks about founding principles of nation.


Trump is whining about time.

Both of them are going over.

Trump: now talking about how illegal immigrants are murders who have to be forced back into their home country.


Next question from open debate forum. This one is about Wikileaks excerpts of paid speeches Clinton refused to release. Is it OK for politicians to be “two-faced” – to have a private stance on issues?

Clinton: Recalls that the two personas statement was about Lincoln getting congress to approve the 13th amendment. (She clearly rehearsed for this). President Lincoln was trying to convince some people with some arguments, different arguments for others. A great display of presidential leadership.

Clinton now talking about cyberattacks on US.


Turns to Trump.

Trump: she got caught in a total lie and is blaming lie on Abraham Lincoln. “Honest Abe never lied.”

Trump talking now about how great his balance sheet is and the old post office in DC. Yikes. He is way off message. Now attacking deductions of donors to Clinton. Double yikes.


Next question: what specific tax provisions will you change to make sure the richest Americans pay their fair share?

Trump: Says something about carried interest provisions, then turns to attacking Clinton for not changing tax code in past. “So you can fund negative ads against Donald Trump.”

Trump claims our “GDP is going lower. That’s my opinion.” Let’s see some numbers!

Clinton: Trump’s tax plan will give more tax cuts to wealthy than Bush tax plan. That’s a gift to the wealthy. And will raise taxes on middle class families. Then Clinton talks about her plan: no one making less than $250,000 per year will have taxes raised. Cites record as Senator: closed loopholes in tax cuts, including “the one I think he used to avoid paying taxes.”




Cooper brings up Trump tax returns. Did you use $916 million dollar loss to avoid paying taxes?

Trump: “Of course I do.” Then points to “all of Clinton’s rich friends” who do the same thing. Hmmm. What about Trump’s rich friends? Bad accusation.

Trump now on about ISIS claims, Clinton causing ISIS.

Trump attacking Clinton during her response. Clinton notes she was for the same tax code modifications Trump wants. Trump attacks her for inaction. Clinton notes she was in the Senate under a Republican president and “Presidents have this thing called the ‘veto'”.

Trump fighting with moderators again at end of segment.

and this is hilarious:


Questions move to Syria. Raddatz notes boy pulled from rubble in Alleppo. Question focusd on bombardment of Alleppo. If you were President, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Alleppo.

Clinton: Need leverage with the Russians, since they are not willing to come to the table without it. Work more closely with partners and allies on the ground. What is at stake is the ambition and aggressiveness of Russia. Now she’s off about Russia supporting Trump for President.

Trump: You were in the White House when the line in the sand was drawn.

Clinton: (Interrupts) I was no in the White House any longer at that time.

Trump: Well, you were in contact with the White House.

Wah Wah. Stumbles on his recovery from this flub.

Trump: criticizes use of rebels to fight proxy wars. Notes Ghaddaffi, Libya, and ISIS. (Should have gone for Afganistan – better example, Trump). Starts talking about Syria, gets lost on Iran deal, never gets back to point. I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS, Russia is killing ISIS.

Raddatz: let me repeat the question: what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Alleppo. Quotes Pence on use of force to strike Assad regime.

Trump: Pence and I haven’t spoken and I disagree. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. But Syria is now Russia and Iran, thanks to Obama, and Clinton, and Kerry. We have to get ISIS. Worry about ISIS before we get too much more involved.

Raddatz: What will happen when Alleppo falls.

Trump: Alleppo has already fallen. Let’s talk about Mosul. Dodges question again. Why can’t the attacks be sneak attacks, then inform American public? Why say we will have to attack Mosul. How stupid is our country.

Raddatz: Might be for psychological warfare, or to help get civilians out.

Trump: I can think of no reason to do that!

Raddatz: Tell me what your strategy is.

Trump: rambling rambling on ISIS leaders in Mosul. Keeps up on “stupidity of what we are doing in the Middle East.”

Raddatz: back to Clinton to talk about failed diplomatic efforts, and use of force beyond no-fly zone.

Clinton: I would not use American ground forces in Syria. It’s a serious mistake. American troops should not be holding territory as an occupying force. However, use of special forces and enablers/trainers in our interest.

Raddatz: What would you do differerntly then Obama?

Clinton: There is a good chance to take Mosul. Criticizes Trump’s military knowledge over that of the Generals, and notes that public announcements are ways to signal allies. Specifically targeting leaders of ISIS is a strategy. Arm the Kurds.

Trump: she went a minute over and you don’t stop her.



Question: can you be devoted to all the people of the US.

Trump: Riffs on Clinton’s “deplorables” comment. I will be a President for all people. Now off on trade deals. Trump way off topic. JObs are nonexistent in the US. What do you have to lose? It can’t get any worse. Now off on inner cities. Clinton is all talk. I would get her tax plan benefits by osmosis. Her friends get the benefits and I get them to.

Clinton: Talks about her work on Children’s Defense Fund out of law school. Proud of her public service. Young lawyer working against discrimination against African American children in schools and justice system. Worked for education for the disabled. Worked in SOuth Texas registering Latino citizens to vote. Uses this to show her deep devotion to make sure every American feels they have a place in the country. People worry they would not have a place in Trump’s America. Uses anecdote about child worrying about being sent back to Ethiopia if he is President. Notes claim of “Trump effect” on bullying in US.

Cooper: tries to call time on Clinton.

Cooper: Brings up the “deplorables” comment.  How do you unite a country if you write of tens of millions of supporters?

Clinton: notes her regret for the remark. Her problem is with him, not his supporters. Notes comments on women, African Americans, Muslims, POWs, immigrants, and the disabled… notes his lack of apology for these comments.



Trump: She has hate in her heart. We have a divided nation.

Cooper: In your book, a leader needs to have discipline. A good leader has discipline.  But you tweeted about checking out a sex tape.

Trump: I never said “check out a sex tape”. Moves to attack Clinton on tweeting at 3am. Then goes to defending Twitter. I am not “un-proud of it.”

Cooper: Does Trump have discipline to be a good leader?

Clinton: “No”

Expands on this:

Clinton: not just my opinion. It’s that of Republicans, former Republicans, leaders, and others.

(I have never been more grateful that you cannot edit Tweets than I am now)


Moderators in scramble with Trump and Clinton to move to next question.

New question: What would you prioritize as the most important aspect of selecting a Supreme Court Justice?

Clinton: Wants a Supreme Court that recognizes that voting rights are still a real problem in the US. Stick with Roe v.  Wade. Stick with Marriage Equality. Then turns to Trump’s list of possible nominees. She wants a supreme court that doesn’t always side with corporate interests, and that money doesn’t give you more rights than those without. Notes ongoing battle with President and Senate over lack of vote on nominee. Calls it a “dereliction of duty.”

Trump: Starts with praise of Scalia, notes his death. Looking to appoint judges like Scalia. Wants people who will respect the Constitution. Respect the second amendment, “under seige by Clinton.”  Talks about using his money in his campaign. Boasts about investing $100M in his own campaign and “raising money for the Republican party” and cites donations. Claims Clinton uses power of office to make money. Why not put money into your own campaign…

I thought this was about Supreme Court justices?

Clinton: I respect second amendment, and talks about closing loopholes.


Question: what steps will your energy policy take to preserve environment and jobs for energy sector workers.

Trump: EPA killing companies. All for wind and solar. Need more than that. Need clean coal. Coal will last for 1000 years in this country. Natural gas. “So good”. Now onto Chinese steel, steel companies, etc. Have to “guard our energy companies.” EPA putting energy companies out of business. See what EPA is doing to miners. It’s a disgrace.



Clinton: Trump is buying that illegal steel to build his buildings. Claims she fought against it as a Senator. We are now energy independent, she claims, but prices controlled by OPEC. This has had a damaging effect on the oil companies. Natural gas is a bridge to renewable fuels. Have to remain energy independent, prevents being tied to politics of the Middle East. Fight climate change with her energy policy. Support moving toward renewable energy ASAP. Become clean energy superpower, with millions of new jobs and businesses. Can’t leave people behind. Have a plan to revitalize coal country.


Last question: Regardless of current rhetoric, would either of you name 1 positive thing you respect about one another?

Clinton: I respect his children. Incredibly able and devoted. It says a lot about Donald. I respect that as a mother and grandmother. (This question may be the hardest one of the night). Now onto talking about herself.

Trump: I consider her statement about my children to be a nice compliment. I am proud of my children. Talks more about children. Hillary doesn’t quit, and doesn’t give up. I respect that. She’s a fighter. Disagree with cause and judgement, but she fights hard and that is a very good trait.

Moderators close debate.


Note: after debate, Trump walks to side of stage to greet family. Melania allows him to kiss her on the cheek, but does not kiss him.

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