Top 10 Takeaways from the Second Presidential Debate

1.     Our moderators last night were pretty firm on keeping our candidates from speaking past their allotted time (although there is much to say about how Trump and Clinton were handled individually). It was as though Trump was up against Clinton and the moderators, as he took hits from all sides. Clinton had the advantage of going over time with little to no interruptions; however, I would say that overall the moderators were an improvement from the first debate.

2.     No opening handshake? Within the first 10 minutes of the debate, the gloves came off and every scandal, every criticism, was thrown up in the air. From Trump’s audiotape, to Clinton’s emails, to Trump being “unfit” to run for president, to Hillary “viciously” attacking victims of sexual assault by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The thing is, all of these are important marks on their character. The difference is, Hillary has repeatedly laughed them off, whereas Trump has apologized. You can tell me different if you would like, but that is just the truth.

3.     Speaking of truth: time and time again Hillary tried to say that Trump is lying to us. Her entire campaign consists of delegitimizing him as a candidate, fact-checking him (which is really a chance for her campaign to attack him, if you take a closer look it is not fact based), and to paint him as a racist, misogynistic monster. He might already be that person but sometimes Clinton’s “fact-checking” doesn’t quite hit the mark. I’d like to take a moment to review two moments where Clinton has said Trump is NOT telling the truth.

Trump: “you get a subpoena, and after getting the subpoena, you delete 33,000 emails”

Clinton claimed that what Trump said was “absolutely false” and tried to side-step the question by telling people to go to her fact-checker. But when there is a follow-up question, she said that the email fiasco was a mistake and says she will never do it again.


“TRUMP: And yet she didn’t know the word — the letter C on a document. Right? She didn’t even know what that word — what that letter meant.

You know, it’s amazing. I’m watching Hillary go over facts. And she’s going after fact after fact, and she’s lying again, because she said she — you know, what she did with the e-mail was fine. You think it was fine to delete 33,000 e-mails? I don’t think so.

She said the 33,000 e-mails had to do with her daughter’s wedding, number one, and a yoga class. Well, maybe we’ll give three or three or four or five or something. 33,000 e-mails deleted, and now she’s saying there wasn’t anything wrong.

And more importantly, that was after getting a subpoena. That wasn’t before. That was after. She got it from the United States Congress. And I’ll be honest, I am so disappointed in congressmen, including Republicans, for allowing this to happen.

Our Justice Department, where our husband goes on to the back of a airplane for 39 minutes, talks to the attorney general days before a ruling is going to be made on her case. But for you to say that there was nothing wrong with you deleting 39,000 e-mails, again, you should be ashamed of yourself. What you did — and this is after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.

COOPER: We have to move on.

TRUMP: You did that. Wait a minute. One second.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you can respond, and then we got to move on.

RADDATZ: We want to give the audience a chance.

TRUMP: If you did that in the private sector, you’d be put in jail, let alone after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you can respond. Then we have to move on to an audience question.

CLINTON: Look, it’s just not true. And so please, go to...

TRUMP: Oh, you didn’t delete them?

COOPER: Allow her to respond, please.

CLINTON: It was personal e-mails, not official.

TRUMP: Oh, 33,000? Yeah.

CLINTON: Not — well, we turned over 35,000, so...

TRUMP: Oh, yeah. What about the other 15,000?

COOPER: Please allow her to respond. She didn’t talk while you talked.

CLINTON: Yes, that’s true, I didn’t.”

Clearly, Trump was speaking the truth and Clinton was just trying to get around saying it.


Trump: talking about the tax plan he said that he was going to lower taxes, get rid of carried interest and that Hillary is going to raise them. He then talked about how Clinton is in favor of carried interest and that it will not change any time in the near future.

Clinton: started her response by saying he “lives in an alternative reality” and that her tax-raises are targeted at the wealthy.


On the surface, this doesn’t seem much of a problem...until you go deeper to see Clinton’s history with carried interest. If you are really interested in finding out the truth, take a look at this article that details Clinton’s mixed record on Wall Street. But a quick sneak peak: her biggest claim of a bipartisan bill in June 2007 “that would have curbed the break” …turns out she never signed onto it and then-Sen. Barack Obama did.


4.  Jail threat: a lot of my friends are lowkey freaking out about Trump’s assertion to appoint a special prosecutor to put Clinton in jail. First, I’d like to point out that anyone with a brain (and some time to do unbiased thinking) can see that the investigation into Clinton was poorly executed. Here are two great articles that go in much detail about the legal lines that were crossed:


Now there is still a lot to say about how fluid the law is; Clinton could have easily side stepped the law (which is what she appears to have done). However, promising to appoint a special prosecutor to determine what actually happened, is not as absurd as some would have us believe.

5.  Syria: Clinton wants no-fly zones and safe zones, while Trump wants covert-style missions to decapitate ISIS leadership. Trump says Aleppo has fallen, and I tend to agree with him. I don’t see a solution for Syria, but what we can do is fight the terrorist groups that are growing at very fast rates. Unfortunately, the red-line debacle set a precedent for weak U.S. foreign policy and the world knows it. Russia and Iran are getting everything they want and are now strengthening their influence. I agree with Clinton that there should not be an American military footprint in Syria (some of her other components of her operation strategy make sense as well but I do not have full confidence they will be enacted in full).  

6.  Ken Bone is the meme we don’t deserve. I don’t think we can go more American that this guy: knit sweater, rimmed glasses, and a moustache to complete his “look”. Plus he cares about the environment, what a gem.

7.  Can we just agree that Karl Becker asked the lamest question of the whole debate: “regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name on positive thing that you respect in one another?” Give me a break. As one of my colleagues once said: this is politics, Karl, not pope school. Honestly, what a waste of a question when there are so many important issues to discuss: rising cyber capabilities, terrorism in Israel, crisis in Yemen, radicalization in Europe, etc. None of those topics were covered during the debate. But yes, let’s talk about our feelings instead. Hillary complimented Trump’s children and Trump actually complimented Hillary. So at least that kept it “interesting”.


8.  FLY! This moment Gave. Me. Life. Not only did Hillary not flinch even for a second, the fly came back for more when it landed on her shirt a few minutes later. If anything, this moment gave me a brief laugh amid the high stakes during last night’s debate.

9.   Now I’m all for the “political pivot” when it proves to be relevant. This is not what we saw during the debate. What we saw were two candidates searching for any moment to delegitimize the other: Trump pivoting from audiotape to ISIS, Clinton pivoting from audiotape to “racist lie that President Obama was not born in the United States of America”, Trump pivoting from immigration to “Bernie Sanders said she had bad judgment”, Clinton pivoting from a question about two-faced politicians to Trump praising Putin. I could go on and on. This debate was not about the issues but about how many jabs can we get in one debate.

10.  In hindsight, I was happy to see Trump push Clinton a bit more. I think at this point, those who hate the candidates are not going to change their minds. That being said, Clinton was lukewarm and overconfident and it appeared that Trump prepared a lot more for round two. I’ll be interested to see what happens during the next, and final, debate. I think we all expected this one to be a dirty fight and that is certainly what we got.


All quotes taken from NY Times transcript