At second debate, Trump at odds with everyone
About 90 days ago, when Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, he had a moment of equanimity. As convention delegates chanted “Lock her up!” Trump shook his head no. “Let’s defeat her in November,” he counterproposed.
It was a very different Trump who appeared at Sunday night’s second presidential debate: on his heels, facing a revolt in his party over a video unearthed by The Washington Post in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women. And Trump declared that, if elected, he would subvert the justice system to go after his political opponent.
“I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it,” Trump began — always a sign that he was about to say something ill-advised. “But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.”
Special prosecutors, of course, are designed to remove political influence from the justice system; Trump was proposing a special prosecutor for the express purpose of punishing a political opponent.
“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Hillary Clinton replied.
“Because you’d be in jail!” Trump interrupted.
Sunday night called for contrition from Trump, as his campaign implodes because of his taped performance as sexual predator. But Trump, though turning in a more even debating performance than he did in his debut, does not do contrition.
Before the debate, he lined up women who claimed they were victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds and posted a video of their meeting, with poor audio, on Facebook. Sixteen minutes into the debate, Trump invoked Bill Clinton’s infidelities. After 22 minutes, he started interrupting his opponent.
Before long, he was pacing, scowling, pursing his lips, shaking his head and hectoring her: “Oh, you didn’t delete them? ... Oh, 33,000? Yeah . ... Oh yeah, what about the other 15,000?”
“Please allow her to respond,” interjected moderator Anderson Cooper. “She didn’t talk while you talked.”
“Yes,” Clinton agreed, “that’s true, I didn’t.”
“Because you have nothing to say,” Trump snapped.
Trump then started arguing with the moderators. “I’d like to know, Anderson, why aren’t you bringing up the emails?” In fact, the previous question had been about Clinton’s emails.
Trump had his moments and hit Clinton in all her areas of vulnerability. But throughout the debate, he was a man at odds with everybody — even his running mate, Mike Pence. When moderator Martha Raddatz reminded Trump that Pence had said America should use force against Syria, Trump replied: “OK. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.” On the most important foreign policy issue of the moment.
Trump repeated his grudging apology for the new video of his predatory sexual language, but he repeatedly chalked it up to towel snapping. “It’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS.”
But mostly, Trump was angry, with everybody and everything.
“Why don’t you interrupt her? You interrupt me all the time,” he complained to Raddatz.
And again: “Excuse me. She just went about 25 seconds over her time.”
And again: “You know what’s funny? She went over a minute over, and you don’t stop her. When I go one second over, it’s like a big deal.”
Will arguing with the refs win Trump more votes? Probably not any more votes than he wins by dismissing his aggressive sex talk as locker room banter. But Cooper and Raddatz have reason for concern: If Trump wins, maybe he’ll send a special prosecutor after them, too.