One thing that was apparent from the beginning of Sunday night’s debate was that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton don’t care much for each other. The two refused the traditional handshake at the start of the debate, and after that the debate turned into a slugfest with neither candidate backing down.
Trump attacks Bill Clinton
The first question of the evening had to do with Trump’s remarks about women which he made in 2005 during a taping of Access Hollywood. Trump repeated his words of apology and then proceeded to attack Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump claimed that Clinton had “smeared women who accused her husband, Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting or harassing them.” Trump had invited three women who have claimed they were assaulted by the former President to attend the debate.
Hillary not deterred
Hillary Clinton was not deterred by Trump’s attack and said that Mr. Trump had shown no contrition for his 2005 remarks or any of the other inflammatory statements that Trump has made during the campaign.
The town hall format allowed the two candidates to roam the stage and often Trump appeared to loom over Clinton when she was speaking. While Mr. Trump maintained his aggressiveness, he seemed more confident than in the first debate.
Those that were hoping for a debate about the issues were left disappointed. The few times that questions attempted to promote a discussion among the candidates quickly brought forth the standard personal attack on the character of the other. Clinton’s central theme is that Mr. Trump is unqualified to be President, while Trump’s refrain is that Mrs. Clinton cannot be trusted.
Trump disagrees with Pence
Trump did appear to diverge from a position put forth by his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence on how to deal with Syria. Pence had said in the vice presidential debate that the U.S. should consider striking Russian ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Trump has maintained that he’d prefer to work with Russia in Syria. During last night’s debate, when Clinton raised the issue of what Gov. Pence had said, Trump responded with a dismissive “He [Pence] and I haven’t spoken and I disagree.”
Those that were looking for a contrite or humble Donald Trump were disappointed. And, those that thought that Mrs. Clinton would wilt in the face of attacks on her husband’s history with women were also left wanting.
Asked to say something positive
In the final moments of the debate, a questioner from the audience asked each candidate to say something positive about the other:
Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. — Hillary Clinton
I will say this about Hillary: She doesn’t quit, she doesn’t give up. She’s a fighter. — Donald Trump
Both sides and their supporters claimed victory in the debate. By simply showing up and being defiant, Mr. Trump heartened his core group of supporters. Hillary Clinton weathered Tump’s attacks with a bemused smile and came across as a strong woman.
The losers were those that had hoped to hear a thoughtful discussion between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, one of whom will be elected President in less than a month.