By Bonnie K. Goodman
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump forgot that they were attending a presidential debate and instead treated it as a boxing match. On Sunday evening Oct. 9, 2016, the two nominees met for the town hall-style second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and moderated by ABC News’ chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. The media deemed the debate the ugliest in history for the harsh and constant personal attacks between the nominees and little focus on policy.
Pundits agreed Trump stopped the bleeding in his campaign. Trump needed to perform well at the debate after the Washington Post released a report on Friday, Oct. 7 on a tape in 2005 where Trump bragged about groping women and attempted to have an affair with a married TV host. Trump apologized in a video and went on to attack former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandals. Two dozen Republican leaders withdrew their support for the nominee, and many called for him to drop out the race. He needed to show his campaign still had a chance and he did.
Trump vowed never to withdraw and made the debate an attack on Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and Hillary being complicit by attacking the women afterward. Before the debate, Trump held a press conference with four of Clinton’s victims, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey. Bill Clinton was accused of raping Juanita Broaddrick in 1978, sexually harassing Paula Jones in 1991, and fondling and groping Kathleen Willey in 1993 as president in the Oval Office. Additionally, Kathy Shelton was in attendance, Shelton was raped in 1975 when she was 12, Hillary Clinton defended the 41-year-old man accused of raping her and ensured he received convicted of lesser charges with jail time of less than a year.
All four women also appeared at the debate a Trump’s guests. Early on in the debate, when asked about his tape and lewd remarks Trump admitted, “I hate it but it’s locker room talk. This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.” Trump also responded with an attack. Trump said, “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse, mine are words, and his was action. His was – what he’s done to women, there’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women….Hillary Clinton attacked those same women. And attacked them viciously, four of them here tonight.”
The debate was ugly; neither nominee wanted to shake hands from the start, although they did at the end. With Trump personal encroaching Clinton’s personal space as she spoke and interrupted both Clinton and the moderators, however, less so than the first debate. While Clinton refused to keep with the time rules and was constantly, cut off by the moderators.
Instead of focusing on the questions from voters, both chose to attack the other throughout the 90-minutes. Including demanding each other apologizes to President Barack Obama for the birther controversy. Clinton attacked Trump on his Muslim Ban and his income taxes. The New York Times reported that nearly billion dollar loss in 1995 led Trump to use a tax loophole that year that let him avoid personal federal income taxes for 18 years.
Clinton also attacked Trump on his lewd remarks on women saying, the video represents “exactly who he is.” Continuing, she said, “We have seen him insult women. We’ve seen him berate women; on their appearance, ranking them from one to 10. We saw him after the first debate spend nearly a week denigrating a former Miss Universe in the harshest, most personal terms. So, yes, this is who Donald Trump is.” She also accused him of going on the offensive because his campaign is exploding over the tape, “Ok, Donald, I know you’re into big diversion tonight. Anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and Republicans are leaving you.”
Trump, in turn, was vicious about Clinton’s email scandal and decision to erase over 30,000 emails after receiving a subpoena to preserve them and hand them over. Trump demanded she apologizes to the nation, saying, “I think the one and the thing you should be apologizing for and the thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted.” The GOP nominee also accused her of wanted to move on from her emails after Trump’s response telling the moderators she would like to move to an audience question, to which Trump quipped, “And get off this question.”
Trump’s greatest attack on Clinton ended up being on the private email server she used as Secretary of State. Trump threatened to appoint a special prosecutor and in a line that received cheering from the crowd and told Clinton, “you would go to jail. The GOP nominee said, “I’ll tell you what, I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it, 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, there has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” The insults did not end there Trump also called Clinton the devil, and “Believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart.”
Another recent controversy for Clinton is WikiLeaks release of some of the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street, which showed a more pro-business less little guy friendly attitude that she has displayed throughout the campaign. The moderators asked her about being “two-faced” and it I s OK to have a “public” and “private” self. Clinton tried to defend herself and invoked President Abraham Lincoln’s method of dealing with Congress on ending slavery. Trump was quick on the attack, saying, “She lied. Now she is blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe never lied. That’s the difference between Abraham Lincoln and you. That’s a big difference.”
The news media was quick to call the debate the ugliest in presidential debate history. Politico called the debate, “nearly nonstop name-calling and nastiness.” While The Hill said, “The debate was both nasty and personal, especially in its early stages, potentially turning off more voters from both candidates than it won over for either.” CNN called it the “debate that darkened politics.” While the nominees tried to play nice with a question on the quality they respect of each other and shaking hands at the end of the debate, the debate was the pinnacle of both candidates attacks, showing the nastiest campaign in history will descend into a dark abyss as they cross the finish line.