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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Many Clinton, Trump replies at Hofstra debate can be foreseen

Signs in preparation for the upcoming presidential debate

Signs in preparation for the upcoming presidential debate are seen at Hofstra University, Tuesday Sept. 13, 2016. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Even if you can’t guess the text of the questions, you may already know the essence of the answers.

The three broad categories released as topics for the Hofstra presidential debate on Monday describe little — and may be stretched to encompass anything.

Half an hour will be devoted to “America’s Direction,” another half-hour to “Achieving Prosperity” and then another 30 minutes on “America’s Security.”

Donald Trump can be expected to reprise his assertion that America is all but doomed but for the prospect of his own triumphal ascent to the nation’s highest office.

Hillary Clinton will try to put her best polish on the overall goals of the Obama administration in which she served and argue the best way forward is threatened by Trump.

“Achieving prosperity” is an interesting phrase. In the personal sphere, Trump achieved prosperity at birth, and in recent years, Bill and Hillary Clinton did some catching up. But, of course, this is supposed to be about the rest of us.

“The economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House,” Clinton said in one forum last year. Based on past performance, she’ll talk about inequality, she’d sound pro-union, and cite stagnant wages and the tax code.

She could unveil new specifics for those who like such things.

Trump is known more than others for improvising positions and purported facts to suit his audience. But so far, he is basically on the record as saying he would “eliminate job-killing regulations” and “have massive tax reform and simplification,” which are standard GOP fare.

Great revenue flows will offset his increased or uncut spending on programs, he claims (most experts don’t think so).

One reality check that works in any presidential debate is the question of who will run Congress and how they will respond to the new president’s programs.

The legislature’s record of the past few years regarding health care and immigration — pretty much a zero sum — might give a clue as to which candidate can expect to face what treatment if majorities remain or change.

Security heats up again as an issue because of last week’s bombings in Manhattan and in Seaside Park, New Jersey, by another possible lone wolf or small cell member with jihadist ties.

Trump has been tapping into emotions rubbed raw by fright: “It’s a mess and it’s a shame, and we’re going to have to be very tough,” he said.

In a remarkable monthslong series of statements, he’s talked about imposing tortures worse than waterboarding, banning Muslims from immigrating to the U.S., claimed President Barack Obama is a literal founder of the Islamic State group, and talked of endangering suspects’ families and assuring the presence of “good guys” with guns, and so forth.

Clinton has spoken much more ambiguously, although with much less shrillness than Trump, proposing an “intelligence surge” and even blaming her opponent for effectively helping ISIS recruitment through pandering.

Unlike the San Bernadino and Orlando massacres, though, the alleged criminal acts of Ahmad Khan Rahami against the general public do not so easily yield to a Democratic discourse on gun control. Though he did shoot two police officers after being cornered, Rahami’s chosen devices were pressure-cooker bombs. Injuries but no deaths resulted.

Each broad topic will take up two of six 15-minute time slots during the debate show, NBC said.


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