The somewhat substantive debate voters have been waiting for finally arrived Wednesday night in Las Vegas, and voters now likely have a clear picture of which major party nominee they support.
Wednesday night had a smoother finish, but it was still cheap whiskey.
Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE each had some big hits and misses during the final debate, leaving their supporters with room to subjectively claim each “won” the contest, but neither really made their case very convincingly to those turned off by what 2016 has had to offer.
Trump round-housed Clinton on economic stagnation, foreign policy failures, her alarming support for partial-birth abortion, political ineffectiveness and corruption. Clinton trampled Trump on hypocrisy, past reckless statements, policy realism, hurtful rhetoric and knowledge gaps. Both came out with a fairly solid debate performance, but not much added appeal.
Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonBiden broadened Democratic base, cut into Trump coalition: study New Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor Judge throws out murder convictions, releases men jailed for 24 years MORE (@GovGaryJohnson) October 20, 2016
Trump had a deplorable Mussolini moment in the eyes of the media when he said “I’ll keep you in suspense” about accepting election results. Of course, Trump was indicating that if there is large-scale voter fraud accepting the results would be untenable. Thus, the outrage over Trump’s attack on “democracy” appears to mainly be a disagreement that large-scale voter fraud could conceivably occur in the first place.
The debate followed on the heels of the release of several damning videos by conservative investigative journalist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. The undercover videos showed various Democratic operatives claiming they had hired provocateurs and mobs to incite violence and disrupt Trump rallies, including one who said she had organized the massive protest that turned physical and led to the cancellation of a Trump rally in Chicago this past March.
Another video showed Democratic activists and consultants discussing the potentiality of committing large-scale voter fraud to bulk up Democratic results, if not during this election then during 2018 midterm elections.
Clinton channeled Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions MORE for much of the debate, vowing to get “dark, unaccountable money” out of politics and railing against the Citizens United decision. She promised several times to stand up against “powerful interests” and “corporations.”
Trump quite effectively deconstructed her populist talk and attacks on his tax-dodging by asking why she hadn’t worked over her political career to end the kind of tax write-offs he uses. Trump alleged that it’s because those funding her campaign also use the same tax write-offs he does.
Those not on the stage also chimed in with their take.
Why has the debt ballooned? Reckless wars for oil. Tax cuts for the rich. Economic meltdown. Caused by Democrats & Republicans. #debatenight— Dr. Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) October 20, 2016
Trump also hit Clinton on considerable campaign funding from countries not in line with her view of women’s and gay rights, asking “why don’t you give the money back?” Voters undoubtedly took note of Clinton’s refusal to respond, as well as her muted answer to accusations of influence peddling between the Clinton Foundation and State Department.
Bizarrely, Clinton implicitly defended Ronald Reagan, while Trump acknowledged he didn’t feel Reagan was tough enough on trade. It is a rare time indeed that one hears any criticism from a Republican in the direction of the Gipper.
Clinton gave a decent debate performance and managed to get under Trump's skin, but she also slipped up on multiple occasions in failing to defend her record.
Trump has improved immeasurably since his first debate, and shows signs of having done preparation, helped along perhaps by the guidance of Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon. He approached the debate with a toned-down but resolute manner, dispensing by-the-book conservative responses to moderator Chris Wallace’s questions and staying off the personal insults to Clinton.
Although Trump has never had the specificity or control to really throw his opponent for a loop this election it can be said that he’s succeeded in making the Clinton coronation a food fight instead of a feel-good festival.
As the attacks started coming his way during the debate, however, Trump became visibly flustered. He began intoning “wrong” into the microphone when faced with his own on-the-record statements. Clinton called him out for using Chinese materials to build his buildings. She poked at Trump for doing Celebrity Apprentice while she was busy getting rid of Osama bin Laden.
Clinton defended President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTo Build Back Better, improving Black women's health is a must Rahm Emanuel has earned M since leaving Chicago's city hall: report 60 years after the Peace Corps, service still brings Americans together MORE, saying he “saved the economy” during the Great Recession. She said it will be good for the economy and citizens if illegal aliens are brought “out from the shadows.”
“We cannot take four more years of Barack Obama and that’s what you get when you get her,” Trump said, earlier claiming he’ll grow GDP by up to six percent and create “tremendous jobs.”
Trump decried how “stupid” American leaders are and claimed Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and Iran are all playing the United States for a fool. He mocked Clinton, claiming she would now say he admires al-Assad, whom Trump acknowledged is a “bad guy.”
Clinton, called to task by Wallace on supporting a no-fly zone but not supporting greater involvement in Syria, contended that a deal could be struck to avoid violence but still enforce a no-fly zone. She avoided Wallace's actual question of whether she'd enforce it by shooting down Russian aircraft.
“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said as Clinton described her strategy on entitlement reform, elsewhere calling her a “puppet” as she militantly accused him of being a beneficiary of cyber-attacks from “the highest levels of the Kremlin.”
Clinton laughed openly in split-screen as Trump asked what would be so bad about getting along with Russia. Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle noted that Clinton constantly returns back to the topic of Russia when something is brought up that makes her look bad.
Overall, despite the headlines that will come out about Trump fomenting a hideous insurrection, Las Vegas was fairly predictable and oddly anti-climactic. In gambling, they say the house always wins.
That seems to be the case here, except the house is a fraternity during rush week with posters of bare-chested Putin all over and a large golden wall around it, being stalked by “dark money”-wielding, violence-inciting Democratic operatives as they warm their hands in the courtyard outside next to a raging dumpster fire full of burning, classified e-mails.
Remember, you still have options.
Paul Brian is a freelance journalist whose interests include politics, religion, and world news. His website is www.paulrbrian.com.
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