In a somewhat surprising twist, the second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton focused more on policy than personality than the first. With a more measured performance than in their previous meeting, Trump may have given his campaign a lifeline.
With the revelation on Friday of a 2005 tape where Trump is heard making crude comments about women, many expected that this debate would devolve into name-calling and not much else. The debate started out that way, with a focus on the Trump tape and his comments. Trump characterized his remarks as “locker room talk” and said he was “not proud of it,” but then pivoted and said he’ll “knock the hell out of ISIS” and that we should be focusing on much more important things. He also brought up Paula Jones and other women allegedly victimized by Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton said that Trump isn’t fit to be president, and that his remarks on the tape “represents exactly who he is.”
The beginning of the debate also got into the issue of Clinton’s private e-mail server, with Trump pledging to appoint a special prosecutor for to look into her actions. After Clinton remarked that she was happy someone with his temperament wasn’t directing the Justice Department, Trump said that was because “you’d be in jail.” After these discussions, however, the debate questions began to focus on more policy issues. Both candidates laid out their ideas on how to deal with things like taxes, terrorism, health care, and energy policy.
On the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Clinton acknowledged problems with the law and vowed to fix them. She said that if it is repealed, as Trump advocates, then all the benefits of Obamacare are lost to everyone. Trump retorted that “Obamacare is a disaster.” He then vowed to replace it with “something that works” by allowing interstate sales of health insurance. He said that will create enough competition to lower prices dramatically.
The candidates also differed on taxes, with Trump advocating eliminating the carried interest deduction and cutting corporate tax rates. Clinton said that Trump’s tax plan is a massive gift for the wealthy and that it would raise taxes on middle class families. They also touched on Trump’s tax returns, with him saying that he used tax deductions that Clinton condemns. However, he claimed, Clinton’s friends like George Soros and Warren Buffet do the same thing.
Clinton took a hard line on Syria, supporting a no fly zone and advocating that the U.S. be more closely involved with allies on the ground. She said the real issue there was Russia, and that Russia wants Trump as president. Trump countered that “almost everything she’s done in foreign policy has been a mistake and a disaster.” He also said that he disagrees with his running mate, Mike Pence, on confronting Russian provocation.
The Supreme Court also came up, with Clinton condemning Citizens United and saying that she wants a court that understands the problems with voting rights. She also pledged to nominate justices that will continue to support legal abortion and gay marriage. Trump said he would appoint judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.
The candidates also discussed energy issues, with Trump contending that energy is under siege by the Obama Administration and that the EPA is putting energy companies out of business. He said that Clinton wants to put miners out of work, while Clinton said the nation should move towards more clean, renewable energy.
The final question from the audience asked the candidates to name one thing they respected about each other. Clinton said that she respects his children while Trump said that he respects that she is a fighter that doesn’t give up.
The next presidential debate will be Wednesday, October 19, in Las Vegas.