Clinton, Trump get personal at second presidential debate

Elizabeth Stoeger, Staff Writer

The second presidential debate devolved into vicious personal attacks issued to and from each candidate, with Trump on the offensive for most of the debate about his treatment of women and Clinton defending her not only her actions as Senator and Secretary of State but also Bill Clinton’s well-documented history with women.

More than 30 students gathered to watch the debate as part of the Pizza and Politics series put on by the Political Science department.

The debate was conducted in a town hall format  in St. Louis, MO, where undecided voters from the area chosen by the Gallup Organization asked questions directly to the candidates.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz moderated the debate.

Cooper cut to the chase and addressed the recent audio tape of Trump, “You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you sexually assaulted women, do you understand that?”

Trump downplayed the issue, “No I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it . . . but this is locker room talk.”

He denied having done the things he talked about, “I have great respect for women. No one has more respect for women than I do” and continued to refer to the tape as “locker room banter.”

Clinton used this issue to question Trump’s ability to serve. She stressed that while she might have disagreed with a Republican’s platform or argument, she had never before questioned their ability to serve.

“Donald Trump is different . . . What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about 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.”

Trump accused his opponent of enabling Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual misconduct.

“Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women — attacked them viciously,” he said.

Throughout the evening, Trump brought up Clinton’s use of a private email server repeatedly, going so far as to threaten Clinton with jail time.

Exasperated, Clinton countered, “Donald, I know you’re into big diversion tonight. Anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you.” The remark was met by applause and laughter from students.

Clinton outlined several specific policy proposals regarding taxes, health care, and her plans for handling the situation in Syria. She condemned the situation in Syria as “catastrophic” but said she she would not use American ground troops in Syria, deeming it a “very serious mistake.”

When pressed by Raddatz on what she would do differently in Syria, she said, “I would specifically target [Sunni political leader Abu Bakr al-] Baghdadi.” She also would consider arming Kurdish and Arab forces on the ground in Syria.

Trump said he disagreed with his running mate’s views on Syria, had not spoken to him, and advocated destroying ISIS before dealing with the devastation in Syria.

The last question drew the most raucous laughter from the students assembled, “Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Clinton said she respected Trump’s children, she called them “incredibly able and devoted and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does but I do respect that and I think that is something that, as a mother and grandmother, is very important to me.”

Trump, in a surprising moment of civility, said, “She doesn’t quit, she doesn’t give up. I respect that . . . She’s a fighter, I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for . . . but she does fight hard and she doesn’t quit and she doesn’t give up and I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Sara Gomez, ‘16, said she thought Clinton had clearly won the debate, “Trump continues to spew his rhetoric of hate and xenophobia and continues to be an unfit person for the presidency.”

Abby Thomas, ‘16, agreed, “I think she did a better job responding to the questions . . . and trying to do less of a back and forth that’s kind of about insulting and attention and more about laying out a strategic plan.”

“I don’t think I could walk away from this debate and tell you what Trump’s policy was on a lot of the issues, whereas I could do that with Hillary Clinton,” said Thomas.

After the debate, Dimitri Kelly addressed the students and gave his opinion, “He’s not actually a joke, he really did tell his political opponent in the United States of America that she would be in jail if he was president. That’s not the kind of thing that happens in a Democracy. That’s the kind of thing that happens in a fascist dictatorship.”

He passionately urged students to take action, “Don’t just laugh and act like it doesn’t matter,” get out and vote.