Moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper forcefully and effectively kept the conversation going last night at the town-hall style presidential debate held at Washington University in St. Louis.
Donald Trump was clearly more prepared this time, while still falling a bit off the rails.
Despite attacking Secretary Clinton coherently on the email scandal, Benghazi and bringing up former president Bill Clinton’s infidelities, there were many moments from Trump that were disturbing, including when he called her "the devil."
At one point, Trump embodied a non-democratic dictator, saying something rarely if ever heard from presidential candidates: “If I win, I'm going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there's never been so many lies, so much deception.”
First, presidents can’t “instruct” the Justice Department to open a case, they can only request.
It is frightening that either Trump doesn’t know that, or he thinks he can overrule laws of our nation. The segment closed with Trump suggesting Clinton would be in jail were he to become president.
What separates our executive from Russia’s Putin or Turkey’s Erdogan, or any other authoritarian, is that the office doesn’t imprison political opponents, nor does it ever threaten to do so.
It was clear early on that Trump has wholeheartedly embraced the Alt-right of Steve Bannon, Breitbart News and Infowars, leaving the conservative establishment in his wake.
Another incredible moment had Trump overtly standing at odds with his VP pick Mike Pence on the issue of ground troops in Syria. Quoting from last Tuesday’s VP debate, Martha Raddatz asked Trump about one of Gov. Pence’s responses, to which the GOP nominee answered: “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.”
The "Access Hollywood" tape released on Friday came up early in the debate. Trump dismissed it as “locker-room talk,” while offering a brief apology. He missed a chance to seem remorseful, instead launching an attack on Bill Clinton and minimizing the horrific nature of sexual assault by saying it's not as bad as ISIS.
(That was another head scratching juncture in the debate, as was Trump's odd stage demeanor, standing behind Clinton and glowering petulantly when she spoke.)
Hillary Clinton was again poised and prepared for the inevitable attacks from the Trump camp. She spoke earnestly with those in the audience who asked questions, and ignored interruptions from her opponent. She was prepared for the insider attacks, pointing to the litany of legislation donning her name.
Clinton spoke sincerely of the constant and powerful push for women and children’s rights she has been engaged in for most of her adult life. She effectively juxtaposed her focused and steady approach with Trump’s unnerving, jittery answers, coupled with his strange pacing around the debate stage.
In one of the more friendly and docile moments of what has been a raging presidential cycle, the last question of the night prompted the candidates to say something nice about each other. Clinton admired Trump’s children, while Trump spoke of Clinton’s never-give-up attitude.
Prior to the debate, there was talk of Republican lawmakers leaving Trump in droves. His performance last night may have briefly stemmed the tide. With less than 30 days until November 8, however, Clinton’s lead in almost all swing states appears to make Trump’s task of making up the difference next-to-impossible.Again there was a hefty amount of sniffling from Trump, and a new cameo from a fly that seemed keen to get on camera.