Politics 2016: Trump-Clinton Second Debate–Nasty, Harsh, Personal

Donald Trump said he would put Hillary Clinton in jail.

He called his “Access Hollywood” comments “locker room banter.”  He said that Hillary  should be “ashamed of herself” for attacking Bill Clinton’s accusers.

Then, at the end, they said something nice about each other: Clinton said that Trump deserves credit for his kids, Trump says Clinton “never gives up” and has been a fighter.

 It was a hopeful note to end after one of the harshest of all presidential debates.

CBS News’ Bob Schieffer said aspects of the debate were like WrestleMania.  The Trump campaign invited four of Bill Clinton’s accusers into the audience.

Others compared his threat to jail Clinton as akin to a banana republic dictator.

Social media picked up shots where Trump seemed to be looming over his rival, pacing on the stage.

But it wasn’t a total Trump meltdown. Clinton was on defense much more for this debate than in the first.

Trump lashed out at her on Libya, on Syria, for 30 years of her public service. His answers at times became such a volley of accusations that, for the average voter, they became non sequiturs. Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton family confidant, sparks strong feelings in right wing media as a kind of Clinton henchman; most of the public would struggle to even know who he is.

Clinton got a little more tangled in her own email explanation — rather than answering and just moving on. Her answer about the WikiLeaks release of one of her speeches — in which she suggested the need to be “both a public and a private position” invited one of Trump’s strongest retorts of the evening.

After she explained that she had been talking about Abraham Lincoln after seeing Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Trump said, “Honest Abe never lied. That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”

Trump looked perturbed for much of the debate. He wandered a bit on the stage. He complained about the time he was given. Clinton smiled, sometimes in the wrong spots, as when Trump referred to her “deplorable” comment.


It was a landmark night in politics.  It was the first debate where one participant threatened to throw the other in jail if elected.  CBS News’ John Dickerson said at the outset, “In this reality show campaign, we are now going to have a reality show debate.”

Variety’s estimable Ted Johnson singled out some memorable moments:

The Trump tape

Trump continued to call his comments caught in 2005 by an “Access Hollywood” mic “locker room” talk. He continued to even after Anderson Cooper referenced what Trump actually said then — that it sounded like sexual assault.

Trump tried to answer with some regret and move on to the need to be fighting ISIS. To use an overused word this cycle — it was quite the pivot. “It’s just words, folks, it’s just words,” he said. He did deny that he did any of the acts he described on the 2005 recording, but I doubt this story is over yet.

Bill Clinton’s indiscretions

The message was that what he said to Billy Bush were “just words”; what Bill Clinton has been accused of was far worse. To prove his point, he noted that four of Clinton’s accusers were in the audience — some of whom are very familiar names from the 1990s. He called Hillary Clinton “disgraceful” for attacking the women back then.

Clinton responded by quoting First Lady Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”

It was a tabloid moment for presidential debates–Clinton’s response was clearly based on the notion that it would backfire on Trump.

Lock her up

Trump said that if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s handling of her emails. She seemed too much on defense in her answer, but Trump took it to the extreme.

Clinton tried to switch to the question of Trump’s temperament. “Good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.” Trump shot back, “You’d be in jail.”

The remark isn’t surprising as a chant at a Trump rally or even from the Republican convention, when attendees chanted “lock her up.” But it was definitely a first for this format.

Trump Vs. Pence

Trump revealed that he diverged from his running mate==Pence’s threat to strike the military targets of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree,” Trump said. It was an interesting comment — one that will likely continue to raise questions of Trump’s past praise of the Russians, who are backing the Syrian leader.

The End.

Each candidate was asked to identify a “positive thing” about the other. It actually was a good question from the town hall audience — whose questions otherwise were too open ended. It also was a reminder that Trump and Clinton have known each other for a long time.

One debate is left. The remaining four weeks of the campaign will be anything but what it has been all along — bitter and biting.