U.S. presidential debate 2016 analysis: Clinton-Trump town hall - Macleans.ca

U.S. presidential debate 2016 analysis: Clinton-Trump town hall

Macleans.ca’s writers are back for the second presidential debate, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in a town-hall format at Washington University


The second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took the spotlight in the U.S.—and around the world—as American voters have just over four weeks to decide which candidate deserves their support. The town-hall style showdown broadcast live from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Trump’s latest crisis, an 11-year-old recording of lewd, widely ridiculed remarks about women, casts a long shadow over tonight’s debate. On the eve of the debate, the Associated Press reported that senior Republican leaders are considering a major shift in resources to down-ticket campaigns—an effort to salvage vulnerable congressional candidates who face tough fights of their own.

Our writers offered key context and analysis as many readers north of the border digested their Thanksgiving dinners. Catch yourself up on our live coverage of the first debate and the rest of our campaign reporting. And don’t miss Scott Gilmore’s very own Trump drama in four acts (spoiler: it doesn’t end well).

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:43 pm

What is ‘The Trump Effect’?

From Jason Markusoff:

Clinton cited “The Trump Effect” afflicting children, making some young minority Americans worried about getting deported, or facing discrimination. When she made this accusation in August, Politifact rated it “Mostly true.”

There have been stories for several months about this. A high school basketball team chanting Trump’s name at a Latino-heavy rival. An anti-discrimination group reported on bullying and intimidation at schools all around the country, finding that hundreds of teachers say there’s more anti-Muslim sentiment and even that they’re reluctant to bring up this quadrennial civics lesson. Clinton used an anecdote Sunday about an Ethiopian child wondering if he’ll be sent back to Africa.

There will also be some sort of Trump Effect from this weekend’s hot-mic release. There may be a few effects, actually. Many children might find his language and attitude more acceptable. One hopes another effect will be important discussions with children about how men should treat women?

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 201610:37 pm

How to make a Supreme Court

From John Geddes:

Among the starkest contrasts between Canadian and U.S. politics is the sort of talk we’re hearing right now on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancies. Presidential candidates talk about appointing top judges in a way that would be unthinkable in Canada. Is it indulging in Canadian smugness to suggest our tradition is far better? Always has been, but even more now that a new appointments process—partly designed by sometime Maclean’s contributor Emmett Macfarlane of University of Waterloo—has been put in place by the Trudeau Liberals. Worth reading what Macfarlane has written about the new Canadian nominations system.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 201610:36 pm

And the question of the night goes to…

From Charlie Gillis:

Karl Becker for President!

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:33 pm

Elites vs. “Deplorables”

From Jaime Weinman:

Clinton’s attempt to walk back her “deplorables” comment—claiming, improbably, that she only has a problem with Trump and not with his supporters—shows a weakness that has nagged at her a bit in this campaign: she is good at talking about working with Republican politicians (like when she mentioned that she worked with George W. Bush), but not always as good at expressing sympathy with rank-and-file Republicans.

The New Yorker’s recent piece, “In the Heart of Trump Country,” pointed out that when President Obama talks about immigration issues, he tries to include some expressions of sympathy for people who don’t agree with him and talk about how his administration has cut down on unauthorized border crossing, while Hillary Clinton is more likely to talk about immigration and diversity as moral imperatives, dismissing people who don’t see things the same way. This might explain the polls from a state like Iowa that went for Obama twice, but is leaning toward Trump. There are some people, strange as it may seem, who voted for Obama but will pick Trump over Clinton, and it could be that they think Clinton considers their views beyond the pale. It may be that she doesn’t need them to win, but if Obama—with his relatively bipartisan style and popularity—had trouble uniting the U.S., it’s hard to see how Clinton will do better.

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:23 pm

Clinton borrows from the Canadian playbook

From John Geddes:

Very interesting to hear Hillary Clinton calling for arming the Kurds, or at least musing about it. There’s a Canadian interest here, in that our military trainers are working with Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling ISIS in northern Iraq. This was the element of Canada’s contribution to the fight against the terrorist group that the Trudeau Liberals increased to offset their withdrawal of Canadian CF-18s from air assaults on ISIS. In fact, just this past week a Canadian Forces briefing for reporters in Ottawa revealed that Canadian special operations troops helping the Kurds had come under fire repeatedly. As well, we learned that Canadian trainers, who are assisting and advising Peshmerga fighters near the front lines—while not actually engaging in combat—are involved in preparations for the widely anticipated battle to try to take back Mosul from ISIS. So if the U.S. decided to arm the Kurds, they’d be increasing the clout of fighters Canadians soldiers know well.

It has been reported that Barack Obama is considering the move Clinton mentions in the debate. The problem is that Turkey is nervous about any increase in Kurdish power. Delicate power balance issue, then, between two key strategic players in the region.

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:12 pm

The blessing of faint hope

From Charlie Gillis:

It was suggested that Trump would benefit tonight from low expectations. True that. To hear him talking about taxes or ISIS is to not hear him talking about … well, we know what. I feel a little isolated on this, but I think Clinton would do well to play the shame card more often—if not about the tape, then about Trump’s racial and religious prejudice and his financial failures. Her moral outrage needled him last time. She should bring it more fiercely if she really believes Trump poses a threat to the social fabric and security of the United States. It’s authentic, and authenticity is a valuable commodity to Clinton.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 201610:10 pm

An update from Rogers Centre

From Aaron Hutchins:

Baseball update: Toronto Blue Jays 6 – 6 Texas Rangers (End of 7th)

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:08 pm

A fact check on Trump and taxes

From Aaron Hutchins:

The interesting thing about Trump saying he understands the American tax code better than anyone is that one person who disagrees with that assessment is his former accountant, Jack Mitnick.

Originally an employee of Trump’s father, Mitnick told Inside Edition, of Trump’s taxes: “He never saw the product until it was presented to him for signature.” So if Trump can use tax loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes for 18 years, shouldn’t Mitnick be the one taking the blame (or the credit for knowing it so well)?

Joe Rayment October 9, 201610:04 pm

Donors, candidates and taxes

From Jason Markusoff:

“Of course I do, and so do all of her donors,” Trump says about not paying federal income tax because of his 1995 return’s $916-million loss. Americans dislike the donor class, and they also dislike Trump and Clinton. But I cannot imagine they like the idea of drawing equivalence between the donor class and the candidates.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:59 pm

Trump’s position on taxes

From Aaron Hutchins:

The worst thing for Trump about the New York Times story on his taxes is that if Trump never releases his taxes for the American public, they now have reason to suspect the worst. Trump did lose nearly $1 billion in a single year, but could he really go 18 years without paying federal income tax? Instead of refuting the story, Trump merely said how he was working for his shareholders, a point of pride. Now, he’s working for the people. The only thing is, the people pay taxes. Most of them, even Republicans, consider it a civic duty.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:56 pm

‘I don’t know Putin’

From Jaime Weinman:

You know, when the Cold War ended, I thought that would be the end of people accusing the Kremlin of trying to influence U.S. elections. And I definitely thought it wouldn’t be a Democrat accusing the Kremlin of trying to get a Republican elected. We live in very strange times.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:55 pm

A double standard on leaning

From Jason Markusoff:

As Hillary Clinton spoke to questioner Gorba Hamid about Islamophobia, Trump gripped the back of his stool and leaned against it. Given all the fevered speculation and conspiratorial spewing about Hillary Clinton’s health—particularly around the pneumonia-fuelled stumble as she left a Sept. 11 memorial—the mind boggles at how the anti-Clinton camp might have reacted if she was doing that sort of leaning.

Or if she was sniffling? How many hardcore Trump fans would have done what Howard Dean did with his odious cocaine suggestion?

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:53 pm

From Russia with love

From Charlie Gillis:

The Putin reference was bound to come. The Clinton campaign has put considerable energy of late into playing up Trump’s curiously close relationship with the Russian president. The idea is to undermine Trump’s credentials as a statesman—Russia under Putin, after all, represents the greatest threat to NATO-enforced global security—while reinforcing the GOP nominee’s perceived predilection for dictatorial politics. The two men certainly seem happy to pump each other’s tires. Trump has complimented Putin’s strength as a leader, while last week Russia registered an official complaint to the United Nations over the UN human rights’ chief’s criticism of Trump.

All this feeds into a Democratic Party narrative of Trump’s placing his personal interests and relationships above the security of the United States and its allies. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, recall, resigned after it emerged he’d been working for the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia has been repeatedly accused of cyberattacks on European NATO countries. On Friday, Washington officially blamed the country for hacks of the Democratic National Committee, leading to damaging leaks of emails between party officials that Trump then used to attack the Clinton campaign. Democrats say this is a clear attempt on Russia’s part to interfere with the election in Trump’s favour.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:49 pm

Death by talking point?

From Jaime Weinman:

One of the strangely fascinating things about Trump is how he will get stuck on a particular talking point and repeat it over and over even when it deprives him of an opportunity to do the “pivoting” that we in the media are so often urging him to do. The question about Islamophobia was an example of that.

Most politicians, even those who share his views, would use such a question as an opportunity to present their views in the most moderate-sounding way, saying a few words about why Islamophobia is wrong and then going on to defend “extreme vetting” anyway. Instead, Trump said that Islamophobia is “a shame” and then got hung up on talking about the importance of saying the words “radical Islamic terrorism” and why it’s terrible that Clinton and Obama won’t say those specific words. Which not only denies him the opportunity to sound moderate, but denies him the opportunity to make a case for why his policies are the best policies. It may be a sign of his political inexperience, because even bad politicians usually know how to choose the nicest-sounding talking points.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:46 pm

Making the mods the story

From Charlie Gillis:

As you watch Trump try to make Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz an issue tonight, bear in mind Trump’s long-standing antagonism toward Cooper, and his frequent claims that CNN is in the bag for Hillary. A bit of reading on that subject.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:44 pm

Obamacare disaster?

From Aaron Hutchins:

Does Trump agree with Bill Clinton on something? Trump calls Obamacare a disaster, while Bill called it “the craziest thing in the world” last week. Bill quickly backtracked, not wanting to insult the president’s signature piece of legislation. He clarified the Affordable Care Act has his support, but requires some tweaking. That appears to be Hillary Clinton’s policy now: fix, not repeal. For a master campaigner, Bill’s not exactly helping out her cause all that much.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:43 pm

Why they’re talking about Obamacare

From Jaime Weinman:

I feel sorry for the poor guy trying to ask a serious question about health care on a night like this. But it does occur to me that “Obamacare” has been in a very odd place in this election. Democrats expected that after it passed, it would become popular, just as most social programs have become popular after they were passed—but this one simply has not been popular, and it has been a drag on the Democrats in midterm elections.

And yet in presidential elections, the Republicans have been unable to capitalize on its unpopularity. In 2012 it was because they nominated Mitt Romney, whose Massachusetts health-care plan served as the inspiration for Obamacare. And Trump is trying to talk traditional Republican party orthodoxy on Obamacare, but he rarely talks much about it, and has praised Canada’s health-care system in the past. On some issues, I think a conventional Republican might not do as well as Trump, but on healthcare, I think he’s less effective than a real conservative Republican would be.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:40 pm

The Bill Clinton card: played

From Charlie Gillis:

After 17 minutes, Trump goes to the Bill Clinton well. And Hillary Clinton responds. It’s worth remembering that this exchange was plotted out on both sides over the last 48 hours. Clinton’s response in particular was rehearsed. Trump not so much—he’s out there on his own now, as GOP elders discouraged him from playing this card. Anyway, it seems pretty clear that Clinton’s people don’t want her directly address the Bill Clinton sexual conduct stuff, but to instead attack Trump’s credibility. Her language on that front is much stronger tonight than in the last debate. The birther gambit is now a “racist lie.” For my money, that’s a good idea for Clinton.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20169:37 pm

What happened to policy debate?

From Aaron Hutchins:

This opening 30 minutes of the debate seems to be a “greatest hits” of all the worst scandals of the campaign thus far. Clinton brings up Trump’s feuds with the Khan family, the birther scandal that claimed President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, Trump’s sexist comments, and Trump saying a judge couldn’t be impartial based on his Hispanic background.

Trump—almost never to apologize—fires back, blaming Hillary for the birther movement, the email scandal, her treatment of women during her husband’s scandals. Then he doubles down again saying if he’s elected, he’d hire a special prosecutor to look into Clinton. This is isn’t a proud moment for American politics. This isn’t even good for TV.

Maybe we’ll get a question on policy?

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:32 pm

Trump on a stump?

From Jason Markusoff:

Trump seemed to be standing behind an invisible lectern, with invisible fences hemming him in on the other three sides — until he began pacing when it came time for him to begin interrupting his opponent. He’s not looking around the crowd. This is a town-hall debate, where candidates are supposed to interact with voters and respond to their questions. Clinton has been doing these for years. Trump has had many chances to prepare for this, and his organizers even held a practice round of sorts last week. He blew it off.

Lordy, does it ever show.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:26 pm

Hoping something sticks

From Jaime Weinman:

Now Trump brings up Bill Clinton. “There’s never been anybody in the history of politics that’s been so abusive to women.” Hillary Clinton’s response, clearly planned (since he signalled this line of attack in advance), is to treat these accusations as beneath contempt—and instead harp on Trump’s record. He then replies by bringing up the accusation that her adviser is really responsible for birtherism and that the race was rigged against Bernie Sanders. Trump also pledges to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her email scandal. He’s basically decided to bring up every talking point against her and hope something sticks.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:19 pm

Trump’s ‘locker-room talk’

From Jaime Weinman:

Anderson Cooper, wearing his Serious Reporter Glasses, confronts Trump with his 2005 comments, and Trump replies with what is likely to be one of the big catch phrases of the night, calling it “just locker-room talk.” He doesn’t immediately bring up Bill Clinton, so either he’s listening to the people who told him not to bring it up, or he’s saving it for later.

Hillary’s response, in which she mentions that she disagreed with other Republican candidates but Trump is the first one she’s considered unfit, plays to one of the strategies she’s been trying throughout this campaign: to drive a wedge between Trump and the suburban voters who might have voted for any other Republican—but might have second thoughts about this one. It’s a plausible strategy when she’s ahead, but if she slips in the polls again, it might turn out that she spent too much time courting fence-sitting Republicans and not enough time shoring up her base.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20169:19 pm

For the record: Trump’s lewd remarks

From Aaron Hutchins:

When the Associated Press published a major investigation on Trump, they found many former Apprentice cast and crew members talking about how crude and sexist Trump was behind the scenes. But since few of them were willing to speak on the record, Trump simply said the story was a media hit-job and there was no proof.

Then the entire world saw just how lewd Trump could be—in his own words, no less—thanks to a hot microphone 11 years ago as he was filming with Access Hollywood. Out of all his scandals, it’s the one that’s likely to put the final nail in the coffin of his presidential aspirations.

Trump’s only defence thus far is saying Bill Clinton is worse. (Even though Bill isn’t running for president.) And if Trump can somehow pull off a miraculous comeback, there’s plenty more to sink him, according to an ex-Apprentice producer. Apparently there’s more hot-mic footage of him saying things that are far, far worse.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20169:19 pm

Ask the teacher

From Charlie Gillis:

Trump agrees with Clinton that they should be exemplars for young people. I think the mods should come back to that teacher near the end of the debate to find out whether she feels like they delivered.

Joe Rayment October 9, 20169:19 pm

Clinton’s boilerplate start

From Jaime Weinman:

Hillary opens with a bunch of boilerplate about bringing America together, which doesn’t really answer the question about whether she and Trump have been talking about too many “adult” subjects in this campaign. She says, “I want to heal our country and bring it together” (for the children, of course), and Trump replies with a bunch of boilerplate of his own, trying to give his talking points in a more moderate-sounding tone. Sometimes it makes me wish a candidate would openly say, you know, America is clearly bitterly divided and any policy that appeals to half the country will clearly make the other half very angry. Because it’s quite possible that the idea of unity is a leftover concept from the mid-20th century, when the two big parties were more similar ideologically.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20169:12 pm

No love lost

From Jason Markusoff:

Would you shake hands with a xenophobic boor who boasts about groping women and appears with your husband’s accusers? Would you shake hands with a woman whom your advisers believe should be in jail and who bullied women her husband abused? This is the tone both candidates have set for each other. How much of a surprise is it that they didn’t provide a veneer of politeness with a handshake?

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20169:02 pm

Trump shows his cards

From Jason Markusoff:

In the last debate, Donald Trump carved into Hillary Clinton for posting her strategy for fighting ISIS on her website. “She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much… you’re telling the enemy everything you want to do.” In other words, Trump says it’s terrible to show your poker hand to your opponent.

Not only does this sound like a screen for Trump’s own lack of a plan to fight the terror organization. It’s also advice he’s wholly ignored in the battlefield against his current opponent, and given up the element of surprise. He has given the Clinton camp about two weeks to prepare for the attack against Bill Clinton’s past philandering and his wife’s own reactions to it, because Trump previewed this attack specifically in his last debate. He treated the debate’s end as though it was the end-of-show sneak preview to the next Apprentice episode. Or, to use a baseball analogy because that’s on my mind right now, he’s told Edwin Encarnacion the next pitch will be a slider.

The attack seems to be a terrible tactic. Its foreshadowing is unambiguously dim-witted.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20168:59 pm

Donald Trump vs. Bill Clinton

From Jaime Weinman:

The question before the debate is just how far Donald Trump will go with his “I know Bill Clinton is, but what am I?” strategy to defuse the impact of his leaked comments from 2005. Earlier today, Trump decided to hold an impromptu press conference with three women who have previously accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, and most observers expect him to bring up the issue of whether Hillary Clinton “enabled” her husband’s behaviour in the past. The potential problem with this line of attack is partly that it’s not Bill Clinton he’s running against, but also that the concept of a double standard doesn’t necessarily mean much.

In 1992, there were complaints that some voters who criticized Clarence Thomas over the Anita Hill allegations were turning around and supporting Bill Clinton, who had his own share of allegations against him. But those were often people who vote on the issues that matter to them, not necessarily on what they think of the candidate as a person. The people who care deeply about the things Trump is promising—like maintaining a conservative majority on the Supreme Court—will vote for him no matter what they think of his character, just as liberals who don’t like Hillary Clinton personally will still vote for her. The argument tonight will be over the few undecided voters who vote on what they think of the candidate personally, and if Trump comes off as the aggressor, blaming Hillary Clinton for things her husband did, it may just make those voters like him less.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 9, 20168:56 pm

What are we in for?

From Charlie Gillis:

So, not much has happened in the last couple of days.
Just the seismic revelation of a tape in which the GOP nominee boasts about how he can get away with sexual assault. That prompted a slew of Republicans, including his running mate, to distance themselves from him, or to call for him to drop out of the race. Then came a compendium of clips of Trump chortling with Howard Stern on the radio about the sexual desirability of Trump’s own daughter (eww). And finally, an impromptu news conference tonight featuring Trump and women who’ve levelled complaints of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton—the latter apparently intended to expose Hillary Clinton’s role in shaming and threatening the accusers. If this is the prologue, the mind reels at what the main event might bring.


U.S. presidential debate 2016 analysis: Clinton-Trump town hall

  1. Three things that are the most memorable from this debate for me tonight was, the snorting, the pursing of the lips, and a trench walked into the rug, very creepy moving around that stage tonight, he was stalking Hillary the whole night, if I was a women, that would have freaked me right out. The continued pursing of the lips, bad sign, sign of rage, and finally the snorting, now that was even creepier. Hillary left the gloves off of Trump tonight because she wants to finish him off in the last debate, and if she did knock him off, the Rank in File of the GOP would have went head hunting for Trump to resign tonight.

    • Forgot one last thing, Trump goes after the Canadian healthcare system, I think Trudeau should defend that.

      • Character will still rule the election, one is racing to the bottom, the other wants to move to the top.