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The Road to Pennsylvania Avenue: The Second Presidential Debate


The two main party presidential candidates faced off in the second presidential debate on Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. The candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, faced off on many issues, including vulgarity, taxes, energy use, gun reform, and immigration. The debate was a town hall style, with questions coming from two moderators, and as well as from a small audience. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and ABC reporter Martha Raddatz were the two moderators who lead the debate. They also directed the debate and kept the candidates in check. There were eight audience questions presented, and many of them lead to other topics and questions related to the two nominees and their histories. Both candidates didn’t answer some of the questions, deflected some of them, and avoided some of the questions altogether.

The first question in the debate came from a teacher in the audience, and the teacher asked the candidates if they believe if they model appropriate behavior for the children of the world. Following Clinton’s answer of how America must be made into a country for the children and Trump’s answer that required Moderator Cooper to clarify the question, Trump was confronted with the question regarding the now known as “Trump Tapes.” These tapes include a recording that has an audio recording of the Republican nominee saying incredibly derogatory and vulgar comments towards women in 2005. These comments have been written off as “locker room talk” from the Trump campaign. Trump himself apologized in a ninety-second video where he instead deflected towards Clinton’s husband having said “much worse.”

Moderator Cooper did an excellent job pinning Trump into a corner over if Trump had actually done the actions he described doing in the video, and Trump’s response of deflecting left much to be desired by both his supporters and his enemies. In fact, Trump made it known that he

is not the only candidate that has sexual assault related controversies in this election. Trump responded to the tapes by deflecting these accusations to Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has had many accusations over the years, and Trump has been mentioning these past allegations. Trump event went as far as to bring these accusers to the debate, and even tried to get them into his family box in the audience. Although Bill Clinton has never been formally charged with any criminal acts, many conservatives are still grilling the Clinton campaign over her husbands’ possible actions.

Clinton herself also has a scandal involving sexual assault, dating back to her days as a lawyer in the seventies. Clinton was appointed as a public defender to defend an accused rapist, and when he was found not guilty, she laughed about the “outcome.” Although argued to be taken out of context, this recording has been used to attack Clinton from her enemies.

The second audience question presented involved the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and how it can be fixed and reformed. Many people today are finding that the deductibles and copays have gone up, while being a less effective insurance overall. Clinton once again had a chance to respond first and answered that she would like to reform and fix Obamacare, citing that right now in America 90% of residents have health care, the highest in history, and she would like that number to hit one hundred.

In stark contrast, Trump instead talked about how he would like to repeal and reverse the Affordable Care Act, citing it as a “disaster” and saying it will implode in 2017. He would like to replace it with a different plan altogether and cites how Clinton would like to go to a single-payer plan, which he also believes would be a disaster. The question led to no conflicts, with the expectation of Trump stating that Canadians, who have a single-payer plan country wide, frequently come to America due to their poor health insurance. This statement by Trump has

raised many critics from Canada and America both who claim it is not true. However, this statement is backed up with statistics, and CNN’s fact check marking it as “True, but misleading” due to it being “technically correct.”

The third audience question addressed Muslims and Islamophobia and the candidates were asked how they would work with Muslim nations and deal with the consequences of all Muslims being targeted as threats. Trump answered first; he stated that Muslims have to report when they see possible terrorist acts and cited all of the recent terrorism disasters in the United States as “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he says the President and Clinton refuse to use.

Clinton then answered, and said that Trump is not helping anyone with his personal statements and islamophobia, saying that many Muslim countries are assisting in the fight against ISIS, and that comments like the ones Trump has made may drive them away. Clinton then brought up Captain Humayun Khan, an American Muslim soldier, who had been subject to criticism by Trump.

Moderator Raddatz then asked Trump question in response to Trump’s answer, regarding Trump’s past statements of banning Muslim immigration from America. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, recently said Trump no longer believed that. Trump answered this by saying that he instead supports “extreme vetting” now, saying that some people coming in as refugees are extremely dangerous and should not be allowed into America. Clinton then was asked why she believes refugees should come in at all, and she replied with an answer that appeals to emotion, referencing the photo from months ago of young Omran Daqneesh, a boy wounded in the bombings of Aleppo, Syria.

The fourth question asked about taxes and how the candidates will ensure the rich and wealthy pay their fair share. This question allowed for Trump’s tax returns – or rather the lack of them to be brought. For years, there has been a tradition of candidates releasing their tax returns to show how they spend their money, creating an illusion of transparency. However, Trump has refused to release his tax returns, citing that he is under an “audit,” or tax review, and will release his taxes after the audit is complete. However, it has since been found that Trump does not pay taxes, manipulating loopholes to deprive the US government of eighteen years worth of federal income taxes. After Trump’s comments that this “made him smart” at the previous debate, in this debate he deflected to saying that many other billionaires also do not pay taxes, saying that “Many of her [Clinton’s] friends took bigger deductions. Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.” This caused Buffet to release all of his tax returns, including a caption where he broke down all of his income and taxes since 1944, when he started paying taxes. This only continues the trend of many celebrities and political figures taking anti-Trump stances. One of the questions an audience member proposed involved taxes and how each candidate will make sure the wealthy will pay the fair share in taxes. Trump had the first answer, and knowing it would quickly devolve into his own tax history, deflected to Clinton about how she has not fixed the taxes in her 30 years of being a politician. Clinton then naturally responded with Trump’s returns, and the debate carried on without any real answer from either candidate.

The fifth question was simple, and each candidate was asked if they believe they are devoted enough to be the President of the United States. Trump was first to answer, and he attacked Bill Clinton’s position on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Hillary Clinton’s support of the trans-pacific partnership, and Clinton’s comments on Trump supporters and how she called them “deplorable.” Clinton fired back, boasting her history as a politician and

how she started out as a lawyer working against discrimination. She also cited her landslide numbers from her re-election as Secretary of State and reasserted her point as a spokesperson for the children.

The sixth question addressed the currently vacant seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court is subdivision of the government that deals with deciding what is and is not constitutional. After Justice Scalia’s sudden death earlier in the year, there is a seat open that will shift the court towards the right or left. Clinton had the first answer and cited that she would pick a justice who would repeal Citizens United v. FEC, a case that affects campaign funds in elections. Clinton also said that she would pick a candidate who would stick with marriage equality and Roe v. Wade for abortion rights. She then attacked Trump, saying he would do the opposite by appointing judges who would reverse decisions involving marriage equality and abortions.

Trump then responded by stating he would elect a judge who would respect the constitution, mainly citing the second amendment as very important. He then went on to attack Clinton on the usage of her campaign funds, and how she would attack the second amendment with her Supreme Court justice. Clinton finishes by saying that she respects the second amendment, and wishes for gun reform, background checks, and the eradication of possible loopholes.

The seventh and penultimate question was about energy and came from Ken Bone. Bone asked how the candidates would remain environmentally friendly, while still maintaining the energy and job needs required by the country. Trump answered for first two minutes and criticized the Obama administration on its “attack on energy.” He stated that he will bring back the energy companies to America and said it is the EPA’s fault that the companies are leaving.

He also stated that Clinton is trying to put miners out of business. He also said he will bring thousands of more energy jobs to the country and use energy to pay off the 20 trillion dollars that America is in debt.

Clinton made the claim that America is now energy-independent for the first time in history, which was rated false by PolitiFact. Clinton then went on to make the first and only mention of climate change in the entire night, stating that renewable resources are key and that her plan is too comprehensive to talk about in the debate, so people interested should visit her campaign website.

This issue raised some criticism of Clinton and the debate as a whole, with people saying that climate change should have played a much larger role in the debate, and that Clinton could have used this point to strike Trump on his skepticism on global warming.

The eighth question of the night came from Karl Becker, and he asked if the candidates could say a single good thing about one another. Clinton went first, and she recognized that Trump’s children are extremely devoted, saying that his children’s characters send a message about his own character. She then went on to almost pseudo-apologize for how nasty and personal this election is, recognizing that there is a lot at stake in a lot of ways.

Trump, with a very respectful response, recognized that Clinton is extremely dedicated and just won’t quit, citing that she is a “fighter.”

Finally, after all the questions had been ask responses have been given and interrupted, the debate was over. Critics had already begun to say that the moderators were biased towards Clinton, or that Trump didn’t move or walk during his responses and elected to stand still. Many sources state that this debate was neutral, with no winner on either side. Both of the candidates

made mistakes and told lies, and both also had great answers in other places. Following this debate, there are only 29 days until the election, and one more debate. Despite the polls indicating Clinton’s lead, it is not yet possible to see who may still be standing the day of Nov. 8.

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