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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met Sunday night for what is being called the ugliest debate in American history. The second debate of the 2016 election season had a town-hall structure, in which American voters questioned the candidates regarding the specifics of their policy proposals — but that didn’t stop them from attacking, interrupting or insulting one another.
Here are some of the highlights from the night.
Trump was unable to deflect questions about the infamous recording.
On Friday, The Washington Post released a recording of Trump talking with talk show host Billy Bush in 2005. In the recording, Trump makes lewd statements about women, some of which suggests that he may have committed sexual assault.
When asked by debate moderator Anderson Cooper if he was in fact bragging that he has sexually assaulted women, Trump said:
“Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.”
With this, Trump essentially tried to argue that the statements he made in the recording did not matter, since he is “going to make America safe again.”
Trump, however, is unlikely to move on from this scandal with ease. Voters have been voicing their outrage over the recording, and it has cost him the support of many prominent Republicans.
Clinton used the recording to her advantage.
What she said.
“What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women. And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is. But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is.”
Throughout her campaign, Clinton has argued that Trump is unfit to be president, and is using the recording to emphasize this point. Clinton is not alone in this position regarding Trump — a Fox News poll found that 54 percent of voters do not believe that Trump is qualified for the job.
Clinton was asked if it is okay for politicians to be two-faced.
The question was framed around the WikiLeaks release of excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches. Her response, more or less, implied that she thinks this is okay, if not necessary and strategic. Clinton then quickly turned the conversation to cyber-security and suggested that Russia was behind the recent hacking events:
“We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected. They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump.”
Trump took this as an opportunity to use his “crooked Hillary” rhetoric, before suggesting that there is no evidence that Russia has been engaging in hacking.
There is, in fact, evidence that Russia has attempted cyber-security attacks on top Democratic Party groups — so much so that the U.S. has formally blamed Russia for the hacks, which they claim were intended to interfere in the election.
However, Trump is not alone in viewing Clinton as untrustworthy — a New York Times and CBS poll conducted in July revealed that 67 percent of voters agree.
The candidates’ priorities in a Supreme Court justice revealed key differences between them.
Clinton said she would “appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience.” More specifically, she wants justices who would reverse the 2010 Citizens United ruling, seek to address the issue of voting rights and not seek to repeal Roe v. Wade or marriage equality.
Trump, on the other hand, wants justices who would “respect the Constitution,” especially the Second Amendment.
The topic of potential Supreme Court nominations is especially important in this election, given the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the Senate’s refusal to even vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
Specific questions about the candidates’ policy proposals were also asked throughout the night; a few major topics were the Affordable Care Act, the Syrian humanitarian crisis, Islamaphobia, taxes and energy policy.
One question: “[The] Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, it is not affordable. Premiums have gone up. Deductibles have gone up. Copays have gone up. Prescriptions have gone up. And the coverage has gone down. What will you do to bring the cost down and make coverage better?”
What Clinton had to say.
“So I want very much to save what works and is good about the Affordable Care Act. But we’ve got to get costs down … if we repeal it, as Donald has proposed, and start over again, all of those benefits I just mentioned are lost to everybody, not just people who get their health insurance on the exchange. And then we would have to start all over again.”
She then went on to describe her plan for fixing the flaws in the Affordable Care Act.
Trump, on the other hand, said “Obamacare is a disaster,” as well as this:
“We have to repeal it and replace it with something absolutely much less expensive and something that works, where your plan can actually be tailored.”
He also added that, globally, healthcare has never been as expensive as it is in the U.S. right now. Trump did not provide many details regarding his healthcare plan, but did say that he will “get rid of those lines” to increase competition and give block grants to states.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was enacted by Obama in March 2010 despite the controversy that existed, and continues to exist, around it. However, the law appears to have been largely successful, except for one key caveat: the cost of healthcare has been surging.
Furthermore, the U.S. does spend a larger percentage of its gross domestic product on healthcare than other countries, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, both Trump’s and Clinton’s plan would be costly. However, Clinton’s health care plans would cost substantially less, mostly due to the estimated cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s plan would greatly increase the number of uninsured, but has the potential to generate savings.
“If you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Isn’t it a lot like the Holocaust when the U.S. waited too long before we helped?”
“I think wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that’s fine. And I did as secretary of state…but I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”
Trump disagreed with his running mate, Mike Pence, and said he would work with Assad and Putin despite potential war crimes:
“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”
He also denounced the Obama administration for allowing America’s nuclear program to fall behind, while Russia has kept theirs up-to-date.
Many world leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are calling for an investigation on potential war crimes committed in Syria by the Russian and Syrian governments. If, and when, that investigation is completed, it will become more clear what actions the U.S. should take.
However, what is certain is that the situation in Syria between Assad, Russia and Iran is far more complicated than Trump suggests. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Russia’s nuclear program is superior to America’s.
“You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?”
“Well, you’re right about Islamophobia, and that’s a shame. But one thing we have to do is we have to make sure that — because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not, and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”
He then criticized Clinton and Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” and later said that his proposed ban on Muslims “has morphed into an extreme vetting from certain areas of the world.”
Trump was wrong in saying that Clinton will not use the phrase radical Islamic terrorism; she has used it, or at least a version of it, as recently as the mass shooting in Orlando. Obama, however, does not like to use the term.
Furthermore, it is unclear what exactly Trump means by “extreme vetting.” But, if it is simply another way for him to suggest a ban on Muslims, it would most likely be found unconstitutional or be met with extreme opposition from both parties, or both.
Clinton was hard on Trump regarding Islamophobia.
What she said:
“It’s also very short-sighted and even dangerous to be engaging in the kind of demagogic rhetoric that Donald has about Muslims … We are not at war with Islam. And it is a mistake and it plays into the hands of the terrorists to act as though we are. So I want a country where citizens like you and your family are just as welcome as anyone else.”
She also said that what Trump says about Muslims is being used by ISIS to recruit new members.
Clinton’s statement is true — ISIS has released at least one recruitment video that featured an audio clip from Trump.
“My question is, what specific tax provisions will you change to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes?”
One specific dispute emerged regarding carried interest; Trump, who plans to get rid of carried interest, says that Clinton is not now, and has never been, in favor of doing so — something that Clinton quickly denied.
Carried interest is “the share of investment gains earned by a professional investor, in exchange for managing someone else’s money,” according to Fortune Magazine. It is considered a capital gain, not an income, and therefore taxed at a lower rate.
Both Trump and Clinton have proposed abolishing carried interest — Trump’s claims suggesting otherwise are false, though Clinton took this position later than she claimed — and instead taxing the money as ordinary income.
“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?”
Trump said that energy is “under siege by the Obama administration” and that Clinton would bring more of the same. He would, however, do things differently:
“I will bring our energy companies back. They’ll be able to compete. They’ll make money. They’ll pay off our national debt. They’ll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous. But we are putting our energy companies out of business. We have to bring back our workers.”
Trump claimed he would be able to do this since “coal will last for 1,000 years in their country.”
Clinton denied Trump’s allegations and said he is doing more to harm American workers:
“First of all, China is illegally dumping steel in the United States and Donald Trump is buying it to build his buildings, putting steelworkers and American steel plants out of business..”
She also said that she has a “comprehensive energy policy” that includes combating climate change and moving towards cleaner energy, while revitalizing the coal industry.
Trump is correct in stating that the coal industry is suffering, and while the regulations put in place by Obama and the EPA may have added to this, they were not the cause. Furthermore, the Energy Information Administration has found that U.S. coal reserves will only last another 256 years, not 1,000 like Trump claimed.
As for Clinton’s statements, a Newsweek investigation did find that Trump purchased steel and aluminum from Chinese, and not American, manufacturers in at least two of his last three construction projects.
The ugly night did conclude, however, on a light note.
Clinton said that she respects Trump’s children, and Trump said that Clinton is fighter.
With that, the debate concluded — but the ugliness of the campaign is likely to continue.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at firstname.lastname@example.org.