At sec­ond de­bate, Trump at odds with ev­ery­one

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist Dana Mil­bank is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writers Group.

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.

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