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By Amber M. Henry

Read full transcript of debate

October 18, 2016 (Washington University) -- Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump walked onto the stage from opposite sides as the town hall in Washington University erupted in applause at the second presidential debate on October 9th. Clinton smiled, nodded and called out “Hello!” to the audience. Trump walked in with his hands close to his sides, a guarded but friendly expression on his face.

At center stage, the candidates acknowledged each other with a nod, but no hand shake was offered - by either candidate.  This simple non-gesture spoke volumes to unbridled intensity in the debate. That intensity was echoed on the Internet, with more than 17 million debate-related Tweets sent, making it the most Tweeted debate ever, Twitter reported.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz facilitate the second Presidential debate which includes questions from local undecided voters, questions submitted online and follow-up questions from the facilitators.

In first question, a town hall member asks the candidates if they saw themselves as good role models for the youth in America.

Clinton replies first, saying it is important to convey to our children, “Our country really is great, because we are good. And we are going to respect one another, lift each other up. We are going to be looking for ways to celebrate our diversity…”

She continues, “If we overcome the decisiveness that sometimes sets Americans against one another and instead make some big goals… and come together to achieve them, there is nothing in my opinion that America can’t do. That’s why the slogan of my campaign is ‘Stronger Together’.”

Finally, she states, “I want to be the President for all Americans. Regardless of your political beliefs where you come from, what you look like, your religion. I want us to heal our country and bring it together. Because that’s – I think-  the best way to get the future that our children and our grandchildren deserve.”

Trump steps forward to address the audience for the first time, and he quietly acknowledges Clinton. “Well, I actually agree with that. I agree with everything she said. I began this campaign because I was so tired of seeing such foolish things with our country. This is a great country. This is a great land. I’ve gotten to know the people of the country over the last year and half… My whole concept was to ‘Make America Great Again’.”

Cooper follows up with a question to Donald Trump regarding the tape recordings released exposing his comments about women. In particular, Trump was heard on the tape stating that he can’t help himself when “kissing women without consent and grabbing their genitals”. Trump’s responded, “No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood. This was locker room talk.”

“You’ve bragged that you have sexually assaulted women- do you understand that?” asks Cooper.  Trump quickly deflects attention from his own flawed behavior to a greater threat that instills fear in many.  “I’m not proud of it, but it’s locker room talk. It’s one of those things… You know when you have ISIS chopping off heads, and drowning people in cages and wars. When you have horrible, horrible sights all over, so many bad things happening in the world… it’s like medieval times.”

With over 17 million people on Twitter responding to the debate, it appears over all viewer response was not positive to Trump’s answer on this question. Twitter comment by Charles Clymer states, “Make no mistake: this sorry excuse for a "man" bragged about sexually assaulting women. If you support him, you're condoning that.”

Not everyone on Twitter agreed.  A Trump supporter, Brian Fraser, tweeted the message, “WAKE UP AMERICA I’m far more concerned about #HillaryClinton ACTIONS than what #DonaldTrump may say.”

Again, Cooper presses Trump. “What you are saying though, is that you have not actually kissed women without consent or groped women without consent?  For the record … Have you done those things?”

Trump replies, “No, I have not.” (Since the debate, 12 women have come forward to claim that Trump did sexually assault them without consent.)

He then goes on to fault Clinton for standing by her husband and criticizing women who claimed he engaged in sexual misconduct. In an attempt to rattle his opponent, Trump seated those women in front of the stage.

(Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a consensual affair and paid a settlement decades ago to one other woman. He has denied any non-consensual acts and one accuser recanted her claim. Ironically, since the debate, Trump has engaged in attacks on women who accused him of sexual assault, accusing them of lying and making derogatory remark about their appearances.) 

Hillary Clinton remained calm and refused to be baited into discussions about her husband. Regarding Trump, she responded, “I said back in June, that he was not fit to be president and commander in chief... He has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is. But I think it’s clear … [the recording] represents exactly who he is.  Yes, this is who Donald Trump is. But it’s not only women and it’s not only this video that raises questions about his fitness to be president. But he has also targeted immigrants, African Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, POW’s, Muslims and so many others,” Clinton says.

Trump was asked if it was still his position to have a Muslim ban. He stood firm, responding, “It is called extreme vetting… I don’t want to have a hundred thousand Syrians coming in when we don’t know about their values… or their beliefs about our country.”

He continues, “When Muslims come in [to the country], we have to be sure that they report when they see something.”

Author Moustafa Bayoumi then sent the most retweeted Tweet of the debate: “"I'm a Muslim, and I would like to report a crazy man threatening a woman on a stage in Missouri. #debate.”

“We will have vetting as tough as it needs to be,” Clinton responds, “but we cannot have a policy that bans on religion.”  She asks how would you even implement a test to evaluate a person’s religion? Our constitution protects the rights of freedom of religion, to change this and implement a ban on religion would be “… extremely dangerous.”

“It’s just words, folks. It’s just words… I’m going to help the African Americans, Latinos, and I’m going to help the inner city,” says Trump.

On Twitter, one responder, Linda Sarsour, tweets, “Why can’t we talk about Muslims without talking about ISIS? We are more than that. Tired of this same old talking point.”

A Muslim woman, Hind Makki wrote on Twitter, “Hi, I'd like to report that I know many African Americans & Latinos who don't actually live in inner cities."

Trump forwards the momentum of the debate, pointing out that Clinton has been in politics for thirty years, and she has not yet been able to make the changes she claims to want.  This strategy puts Clinton on the defensive, and several times in the debate, she put her attention onto speaking to her accomplishments in public service.  (The allegation, however,  ignored the fact that as Secretary of State she could not influence domestic policies and during much of her time in public service,  the Republicans controlled the presidency,  one or both houses of Congress.)

Trump also brought up allegations that the election process is rigged. He said he is surprised that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “made a deal with the Devil” when after the primary nominations were concluded, Sanders publicly endorsed Clinton—a statement not likely to win over Sanders supporters.

Clinton responded, “First let me start by saying, so much of what he just said is not right, but he gets to run his campaign any way he chooses.” She moves on to point out that Trump is not focusing on answering the questions asked, but rather perpetuating his personal attack on her. “I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all, ‘when they go low, you go high’.”

Trump continued to attack Clinton saying, “If I win, I’m going to instruct my Attorney General to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation … honestly you should be ashamed of yourself.” 

Clinton told the audience to go to where there is a link to fact check Trump’s statements.  She points to Trump’s temperament and concerns about him being Commander in Chief.

Trump retorted, “Yeah, because you would be in jail.”

Core supporters for Trump responded eagerly at this retort, as crowds have done at Trump rallies, chanting “Lock her up.” Peter Schiff states on Twitter, “Hillary Clinton going to jail is reason enough to vote for #DonaldTrump.”

But the New York Times warned, “the move would take American democracy to a dangerous new place, legal specialists across the ideological spectrum said.

“It’s a chilling thought,” said Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security and head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in the George W. Bush administration Chertoff, who has announced that he will vote for Mrs. Clinton, added, “It smacks of what we read about tin-pot dictators in other parts of the world, where when they win an election their first move is to imprison opponents.”

Online responders had many concerns on the body language of both candidates.  In particular, several camera shots show Trump pacing the stage and standing close behind Clinton’s shoulder while she spoke. Twitter posts ranged from, “It’s just weird” to a more concerned response, “I am physically uncomfortable watching him pace and stand behind her. I’ve had men do that to me trying to intimidate.”

Some likened his actions to stalking Clinton; critics added music such as “Jaws” and horror movie sound effects to video clips.

Clinton raised Trump’s ties to Russia, stating that Trump “…should release all of his tax returns, so that people can see what are the entanglements and the financial relationships that he has with Putin and other foreign powers.”

“I don’t know Putin,” Trump responded, “I think it would be great to get along with Russia. Because then we could fight ISIS together…  She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hackings… But, I don’t know Putin. I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia, I have no dealings, I have no loans with Russia.”

“Russia is killing ISIS,” Trump states.

“Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS…” responds Clinton, “I advocate to implement some no fly zones and safe zones. We need to some leverage to come to the table for a diplomatic resolution.” As president, Clinton says she would stand up to Russia, “I think wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that’s fine…. I do support we have to investigate war crimes in Syria and in Russia.”

Trump continues to appeal to his base supporters and find ways to turn the debate focus back to his core message. Cooper asks Trump, did he use the New York times reported 916 milling dollar loss to avoid paying personal income tax and federal taxes?

“Of course I do,” Trump states “So do all of her donors. I know many of her donors. They take massive write offs…. And she always has allowed this.” Trump moves on to point out that Clinton has been in office for years and yet these loop wholes have never been fixed. “Hillary Clinton has friends and they want these provisions.”

Trump turns directly toward the camera and emphasizes with his pointer finger vigorously, “Look at me! Clinton is raising your taxes. With me, it will lower. She is raising. I will lower.”

On Twitter, Maria Shriver sent a message, “Talk about thirty years of accomplishments. Talk it up, girl! You've got them, speak truth.”

This hotly contested debate came to a close with a final question, asking the candidates, “can you name one positive thing you respect in one another?” 

Clinton responds first. “I think that is a very fair and important question. I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted. And I think it says a lot about Donald… I think that is something as a mother and grandmother that is very important to me.”

“I think this election has become in part so conflict oriented, so intense because there is a lot at stake. This is not an ordinary time and not an ordinary election. Because of some of the important decisions that we have to make …we will be choosing a president… in one of the most consequential elections we’ve had.”

“This is why I’ve been trying to put forth so many plans. To get it off of the personal and put it onto what it is I want to do as President. … Yes, I’ve spent 30 years to help kids and families. And I want to take all that experience to the White House and do it every single day.”

Trump responds, “I will say this about Clinton. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it as it is. She’s a fighter. I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. 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.”

Twitter had a flurry of responses to this final question, including one comment from Joseph Hernandez, “That last question was so perfect. It reminded me of what teachers do to preschoolers who don't get along.”

The question of who won the debate varies by political persuasion and national polls. Most major polls showed Clinton won the debate and also has pulled ahead in the polls, including among voters in some key swing states.

According to a CNN poll, 47% thought Clinton won with 42% believing Trump won.  However, on social media several Trump supporters posted polls such as from the International Spectator, who showed Trump winning 58% to Clinton 42%.

Bill Mitchell wrote on Twitter, “WAPO [Washington Post] poll has Clinton winning the second debate by a mile. Of course we all know Trump destroyed Clinton in that debate.”

Hillary’s supporters were as equally resolved.  Monika Bayerlein tweeted, “At this stage, there is little need to debate anything but Trump’s ability to function as a sane, decent person.”


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