Race to the bottom
The tone for the second presidential debate of 2016 was set before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton walked onstage and did not shake hands.
Desperate to steady his campaign after the instantly infamous video of him bragging about his womanizing antics set off a wave of Republican defections, Trump went where he had congratulated himself on not going at the Sept. 26 Hofstra debate — the Bill Clinton sex scandals.
Accusers of the former president sat in the audience as Trump’s guests and he joined them at a pre-debate news conference.
Hillary Clinton said the “Access Hollywood” video “represents exactly who he is” — showing Trump is unfit to be president.
But Trump did manage to change the subject and go on the offensive, including a vow to seek a “special prosecutor” if elected to investigate Clinton’s handling of emails as secretary of state.
Trump also tacitly admitted, with no regret, that he paid no federal income taxes for almost 20 years. Read Yancey Roy’s story on the debate for Newsday.
In a CNN poll, 57% said Clinton won, while 34% thought Trump did. A caveat: Democrats were a slightly higher proportion of debate-watchers than voters.
The take-away: Negative reinforcement
By the end of the debate, there was plenty of fuel to reinforce existing negatives in the public’s mind about both candidates — and perhaps not much basis for their haters to convert into admirers, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Morning (after) shows
In the age-old, post-debate tradition, campaign aides and surrogates took to the morning news shows Monday with claims their candidate won — and were right to raise the topics they did.
Newsday’s Tom Brune has a roundup in which he notes that Trump himself did not call into any shows, as he did after the first debate.
As for more highlights:
On the “Today” show, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Trump’s highlighting of Bill Clinton’s accusers was not merely an attempt deflect criticism from his own lewd and vulgar comments about women.
“This does not have to do with Bill Clinton. It has to do with the way Hillary Clinton shamed and blamed the women in Bill Clinton’s life,” Conway said.
Also on “Today,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Trump’s foray into Bill Clinton’s past was a failed “stunt.”
“Hillary is steady. She’s strong. She’s not going to be thrown off her game. That’s what Donald Trump tried to do, and he failed,” Mook said.
On “CBS This Morning,” he added that Trump’s comment that Clinton would be “in jail” if he becomes president was “chilling.”
But Conway, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” tried to soften Trump’s comments by saying “it’s not up to” him to decide whether or not she goes to jail.
Pence: Never considered leaving ticket
GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said Monday morning that abandoning the Trump ticket was never a consideration this past weekend, despite reports that he was furious with his running mate over his vulgar comments about women captured on a 2005 video released Friday.
“You know I’ll always keep my conversations with Donald Trump and my family private. But it’s absolutely false to suggest that at any point in time we considered dropping off this ticket,” Pence said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Ryan won’t defend, but doesn’t disendorse
House Speaker Paul Ryan has told fellow Republicans that he won’t campaign with Trump between now and the election — and that his focus is on maintaining the GOP’s House majority, Politico reports.
The Hill, meanwhile, notes that Ryan will not rescind his endorsement of Trump, either.
Fact-checking: Emails and more
Did Trump and Clinton stray from the truth? Here’s what the fact-checkers found, starting with exchanges on one of Clinton’s top vulnerabilities — the emails.
Clinton said no one hacked the server while she was secretary of state. But there’s no way to be certain about that.
While there’s no evidence of a successful hack, the servers were not impervious to attack. It’s also possible that a sophisticated hacker gained access but left no trace of an intrusion. (PolitiFact)
Trump accused Clinton of deleting emails after a subpoena for those documents was issued.
A timeline produced by the FBI shows the emails indeed were deleted after the Benghazi committee subpoena. Clinton argues that orders to do so were made earlier to a private contractor and mistakenly not carried out by the contractor until afterward.
FBI Director James Comey testified that investigators “didn’t find any evidence of evil intent and intent to obstruct justice.” (ABC News)
Clinton said Trump has insulted women, a former Miss Universe, immigrants, POWs and Muslims.
He has made statements that have been widely perceived as insulting or belittling on all of the above. (PolitiFact)
Trump denied moderator Anderson Cooper’s statement that he sent out an overnight tweet urging people to check out a supposed “sex tape” by the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado.
He did exactly that. It’s still on his Twitter account.
Trump repeated his claim that the debunked “birther” theory — that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States — originated with Clinton.
The claim is false. Trump embraced the theory in 2011 and continued to promote it for five years. (The Washington Post)
Jobs for upstate New York
Trump said Clinton failed as a senator to fulfill promises to bring 200,000 new jobs to upstate New York.
That is true. Jobs remained stagnant. During her overall Senate tenure, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute in Albany, upstate jobs rose 0.2% overall, but manufacturing jobs fell 24.1%. (The Washington Post)
Trump, attacking the Affordable Care Act, said, “Your health insurance is going up ... 68%, 59%, 71%.”
Trump is cherry-picking worst-case estimates. The most common plans in the marketplace will see an average increase of 9%, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. (The Washington Post)
San Bernardino attack
Trump repeated a claim that Muslim neighbors knew that the terrorists who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December, were planning an attack and “many people saw the bombs all over the apartment,” but didn’t report it to law enforcement.
There is no evidence to support Trump’s assertion. (The Washington Post)
Trump tax-cut plan
Clinton charged Trump’s tax plan would disadvantage middle-class families compared with the wealthy.
The wealthy would do better. Under Trump’s plan, the bottom 80% of taxpayers would receive an income bump of between 0.8% and 1.9%, compared to 5.4% to 9.3% for the top 10% of taxpayers and between 10.2% and 16% for taxpayers in the top 1%. (PolitiFact)
Clinton said, “We are now, for the first time ever, energy independent.”
Not quite. For the first time in decades the United States gets more energy domestically than it imports, but it is not yet entirely energy independent. Oil still is imported from the Mideast and elsewhere. (The Associated Press)
The Clinton accusers
Trump said Bill Clinton was abusive to women and Hillary Clinton attacked those women viciously. Trump brought four women to the St. Louis debate audience who have accused the Clintons of sex-related misdeeds. Here’s what The Washington Post reported about them.
Paula Jones: A former Arkansas state employee who alleged that in 1991 Clinton, while governor, propositioned her and exposed himself. She later filed a sexual harassment suit. Clinton in 1998 settled the suit for $850,000, with no apology or admission of guilt. Clinton’s denial during a deposition in the Jones suit about having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, led to his impeachment.
Juanita Broaddrick: In 1999, she alleged in an interview that Clinton had raped her 21 years earlier. She had previously told Jones’ lawyers she had no information on such an incident. Through a lawyer, Clinton denied the claim. Broaddrick also asserts that weeks after the alleged rape, Hillary Clinton approached her at a political rally and, in Broaddrick’s interpretation, was implicitly thanking her for her silence.
Kathleen Willey: The former White House aide said Clinton groped her in his office in 1993. During a deposition in the Paula Jones case, Willey initially said she had no recollection of such an encounter. Clinton denied he assaulted her; an independent prosecutor concluded that “there is insufficient evidence” to disprove Clinton’s testimony.
Kathy Shelton: In 1975, Hillary Clinton — then Hillary Rodham — was appointed by a judge in Arkansas to defend a 41-year-old factory worker accused of raping Shelton, who was 12. In a recorded interview in the 1980s, Clinton said she had doubts about her client’s innocence. But the prosecution’s case was flawed and a plea deal reduced the charges from first-degree rape to unlawful fondling of a minor. Shelton asserts that Hillary Clinton put “me through hell.” Trump claimed Clinton “laughed” at the victim in the 1980s tape, but her laughs were about legal quirks in the case.
What else is happening
Before flying to St. Louis, Trump pivoted into full rage mode on Twitter against GOP pols bailing on his candidacy: “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers — and elections — go down!”
CBS Battleground Tracker polls found 54% of voters in Ohio and 51% in Pennsylvania said the “grab them by ...” tape did not change their view of Trump; 44% in Ohio and 47% in Pennsylvania said it made them think worse of him. For 9 of 10 Trump backers in both states, it made no difference.
Pre-debate, pre-grope tape polls showed Clinton well ahead in Pennsylvania and leading in Florida. She was also in first place in Ohio, were Trump held the advantage through most of September.
Ted Cruz tweeted a conspiracy theory about the Trump grope tape: “Why not release in 2015? In March? Why wait till October?” Meaning why wasn’t it out when it could have helped Cruz in the GOP primaries? Cruz ended with the hashtag #MSMBias — mainstream media bias.
Rudy Giuliani tried to do Trump damage control on Sunday talk shows. What Trump described in the 2005 tape was sexual assault, Giuliani agreed, but he could have been exaggerating and “men at times talk like that.” See David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday. (Video here from ABC and NBC.)
The Clinton speeches to Wall Street groups uncovered by WikiLeaks gave fresh fuel to progressives’ suspicions that she is willing to cut backroom deals with corporate interests, The Associated Press reports.
Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer and daughter Rebekah Mercer told The Washington Post that they remain fully behind Trump and “We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio.”
Trump’s campaign in May denied a story that he walked into pageant dressing rooms while contestants were undressed, but that’s exactly what Trump told Howard Stern in 2005, CNN reported. “I sort of get away with things like that,” he said.