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Government & Politics

The Second Presidential Ambush, er, Debate

"It's one-on-three," Trump rejoined at one point. He was right.

Nate Jackson · Oct. 10, 2016

This was not a debate, it was a seemingly coordinated ambush of Donald Trump by Hillary Clinton, Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper. The “moderators” asked questions from the town hall audience, from social media, and of their own. There were questions about ObamaCare, Clinton’s email and her deplorable remarks, but it was clear from the outset that Clinton had a tag team in the moderators, who incessantly interrupted Trump, chased him for the answer they wanted or flat out cut him off in the middle of answers. Not once did they do that to Clinton — they only pinged her when her time was up. They both actually debated him on his tax returns and Syria. “It’s one-on-three,” Trump rejoined at one point. He was right, and in spite of it all he had a pretty good night.

The bias extended to the treatment of the audience. Early on, Raddatz rebuked Trump supporters for cheering, but not 30 seconds later, Hillary’s fans went wild without a word from the moderators. Five minutes later, the moderators chastised Trump supporters again — Cooper even lectured, “You’re just wasting time.”

Clinton cleverly avoided the much-talked-about Trump tape while answering the first question about “modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth.” Perhaps that’s because she was biding her time for the second question, which, right on cue, hit directly on the recording. Cooper repeatedly badgered Trump to actually confess to a crime on national TV. Clinton then declared Trump to be the first Republican unfit for office. But remember: She is the alternative, and she is decidedly unfit to serve.

Trump hit back, though Raddatz stopped him in his tracks to ask again about the tape. So he attacked the Clintons’ record of deeds: “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, and his was action. His was what he’s done to women. … Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.” He even brought up Hillary’s treatment of a victim of rape. “Don’t tell me about words,” he said. “What President Clinton did…”

(Significantly, just before the debate Trump held a press conference featuring three of Bill Clinton’s victims — Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. Also present was Kathy Shelton, who was raped as a 12-year-old girl, only to see a young Hillary Clinton defend her rapist and besmirch her character. The press event was a brilliant stroke for Trump, and set the stage for the debate in a way even the Clinton Machine must envy.)

Briefly, a couple of other key moments.

At one point, Clinton launched into her feel-good leftist bromides, saying, “We are going to respect one another, lift each other up. We are going to be looking for ways to celebrate our diversity.” Later, she criticized Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, saying, “We are a country founded on religious freedom and liberty. … Are we going to have religious tests when people fly into our country?” We have one simple rebuttal: Let’s ask the bakers, florists and photographers being run out of business by the Rainbow Mafia for declining to service same-sex weddings whether they think we’re having religious tests or celebrating diversity in a country founded on religious liberty. Let’s also ask the “basket of deplorables” whether Clinton is tolerant.

Furthermore, the most dangerous thing for Muslims is not Trump’s rhetoric but the Clinton-Obama record. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are dead or facing humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq because Clinton and Obama created the Islamic State.

Taxes were another moment that Trump more than held his own, and that’s because, despite the Clinton-favoring question about the wealthy “paying their fair share,” Trump boiled it down to this: “She is raising your taxes and I’m lowering your taxes.” That was a moment to remember.

Best line of the night was when Clinton patronized, “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.” Without missing a beat, he said, “Because you’d be in jail.”

All in all, Trump kept himself in the race in the wake of his worst weekend yet. The firestorm over his “locker room talk” won’t soon go away, but he parried the charges well enough and counterpunched Clinton where it hurts. He also answered one much broader question — he isn’t going anywhere.

(Debate transcript here.)

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