Trump faces up­hill bat­tle in sec­ond de­bate with Clin­ton

Stakes sky-high

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

White House can­di­date Don­ald Trump des­per­ately needs a strong de­bate per­for­mance against Hil­lary Clin­ton, with stakes sky-high fol­low­ing in­tense scru­tiny of his treat­ment of women and dam­ag­ing footage of him mak­ing lewd re­marks.

His un­prece­dented, out­side-the-es­tab­lish­ment pres­i­den­tial bid, and the em­bat­tled Repub­li­can Party with it, was thrown into dis­ar­ray by his misog­y­nis­tic com­ments, with grow­ing calls from top Repub­li­cans for him to step aside. Even be­fore the lat­est fall­out, Trump was al­ready in need of a mo­ment of political magic to re­verse his slide in the polls barely four weeks from Elec­tion Day on Novem­ber 8.

Now his cam­paign has been rocked by its worst cri­sis, with his crude com­ments echo­ing in vot­ers’ ears, day in and day out. Na­tional me­dia have dug up ev­i­dence of some of his bad and bizarre be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing agree­ing with an in­ter­viewer that his daugh­ter Ivanka was a “piece of ass”. In a 2002 in­ter­view with Howard Stern, Trump also said he pre­ferred leav­ing women over a cer­tain age.

“What is it at 35? It’s called check-out time,” he quips. At 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Mon­day), the real es­tate mag­nate will face the for­mer sec­re­tary of state in their sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate which will take place at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St Louis. The for­mat poses its own dif­fi­cul­ties for Trump: half of the ques­tions will be asked by un­de­cided vot­ers. He will want to build a per­sonal con­nec­tion with these ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans and show his ca­pac­ity for em­pa­thy, a qual­ity that of­ten has been ab­sent in his large, rau­cous cam­paign ral­lies.

De­spite an an­gry back­lash over Trump’s re­marks boast­ing about his abil­ity to grope women as he pleases with­out im­punity, he in­sisted there is “zero chance I’ll quit”. Late Satur­day, the defiant Repub­li­can stepped out­side of his Trump Tower sky­scraper in New York, bran­dish­ing his fist to cheers from dozens of sup­port­ers.

Asked if he was stay­ing in the race, he re­sponded: “100 per­cent”. Trump’s own wife Me­la­nia said she was of­fended by her hus­band’s “un­ac­cept­able and of­fen­sive” com­ments, caught on a hot mic just months af­ter the two mar­ried. But she urged vot­ers to sup­port him. “I hope peo­ple will ac­cept his apol­ogy, as I have, and fo­cus on the im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing our na­tion and the world,” she said in a state­ment.

In the footage, re­leased Fri­day by The Wash­ing­ton Post, Trump can be heard us­ing vul­gar and preda­tory lan­guage as he de­scribes hit­ting on a mar­ried woman and grab­bing women’s crotches. It forced a rare apol­ogy from a cam­paign al­ready pep­pered by con­tro­ver­sies over Trump’s treat­ment of women, roil­ing his Repub­li­can Party. The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee ap­peared to have halted part of its “Vic­tory” pro­gram to elect Trump, ask­ing for a mail pro­duc­tion to be “put a hold”, the Politico news web­site re­ported.

CNN said the RNC was con­sid­er­ing end­ing a joint fundrais­ing agree­ment with the Trump cam­paign. But Trump called the dis­clo­sure a “dis­trac­tion”, de­fi­antly hit­ting back at the Clin­tons over hus­band Bill’s past in­fi­deli­ties, and hint­ing he would say more dur­ing Sun­day’s de­bate.

Bri­tain’s Nigel Farage, who co-founded the UK In­de­pen­dence Party that led this year’s shock cam­paign to leave the Euro­pean Union, dis­missed Trump’s re­marks as lit­tle more than “al­pha male boast­ing” and “the kind of thing men do.”

Repub­li­can re­ac­tion to the video­tape came fast and fu­ri­ous, with some call­ing on him to step aside or al­low run­ning mate Mike Pence to take over, while others sim­ply with­drew their en­dorse­ment. Pence, the gover­nor of In­di­ana, said he was “of­fended” by Trump’s re­marks. But Trump’s cam­paign re­leased a sched­ule show­ing the bom­bas­tic bil­lion­aire would be back on the trail for ral­lies start­ing Mon­day. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Repub­li­can of­fice­holder, said he was “sick­ened” by Trump’s com­ments, and with­drew an in­vi­ta­tion for him to at­tend a political event in Wis­con­sin. By Satur­day, about a dozen sen­a­tors, a dozen mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and three gov­er­nors-all Repub­li­cans-had with­drawn their sup­port. Among them was for­mer sec­re­tary of state Con­doleezza Rice, who said: “Enough! Don­ald Trump should not be pres­i­dent. He should with­draw.”

Se­na­tor John McCain, the 2008 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee with whom Trump has sparred re­peat­edly, said “Don­ald Trump’s be­hav­ior... make(s) it im­pos­si­ble to con­tinue to of­fer even con­di­tional sup­port for his can­di­dacy.”

Gover­nor John Ka­sich of Ohio said Trump’s com­ments were “dis­gust­ing” and Illinois Se­na­tor Mark Kirk called for an “emer­gency re­place­ment”. Ac­tor-di­rec­tor Robert de Niro also weighed in, say­ing: “I’d like to punch him in the face.” But top Trump sur­ro­gate Rudy Gi­u­liani, a for­mer New York mayor, in­sisted that there was “noth­ing that would cause his dropping out.” “That is wish­ful think­ing of the Clin­ton cam­paign and those peo­ple who have op­posed him for a long time. He is in the race to win,” Gi­u­liani added. — AFP

HEMP­STEAD, NEW YORK: This com­bi­na­tion of file pho­tos taken on Septem­ber 26, 2016 shows Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton fac­ing off dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity. — AFP

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