Debate #3

Look, to reiterate an earlier point, Donald Trump could have “won” this debate handily and nothing’s changing.  So long as Hillary Clinton did not commit any heinous errors on that debate stage, she’s going to win this election.  Suffice it to say, she did not.  That said, Trump definitely did.  Leaving aside for the moment Trump’s threat to “undermine a pillar of American democracy” as the AP lede put it, that’s also just horrible politics.  Trump’s only hope is a huge win (and even then, not much of one).  Yet, post-debate coverage is absolutely dominated (and quite rightly so) by this statement of his.  If not for that, there would like have been plenty on his refusal to disavow Putin and Russian hacking.  Or his stream-of-consciousness ignorance on Syria.  Or his muddled and tenuous grasp on abortion.  Okay, so onto some of my favorites…

1) CNN’s insta-fact check.  Pretty much Trump is full of lies and HRC is mostly truthful.  Shocking, I know.

2) As usual, Clinton won the “scientific” (insofar as they can be under the circumstances), post-debate polls.  Not that she needs it, but I’ve long believed these insta-polls drive the narrative more than they should.

3) Zack Beauchamp on Trump’s Syria stream of consciousness:

Here is Trump’s answer in its entirety. I have omitted nothing:

Well, Aleppo is a disaster. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. But it has fallen from any standpoint. I mean, what do you need, a signed document? Take a look at Aleppo. It is so sad when you see what’s happened. And a lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton. Because what has happened is by fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought, and now she is going to say, “Oh, he loves Assad.” He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama. And everyone thought he was gone two years ago, three years ago. He aligned with Russia. He now also aligned with Iran, who we made very powerful. We gave them $150 billion back. We give them $1.7 billion in cash. I mean cash, bundles of cash as big as this stage. We gave them $1.7 billion.

Now they have aligned, he has aligned with Russia and with Iran. They don’t want ISIS. But they have other things because we’re backing, we’re backing rebels. We don’t know who the rebels are. We’re giving them lots of money, lots of everything. We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if, and it’s not going to happen because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up as bad as Assad is, and he is a bad guy.

But you may very well end up with worse than Assad. If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape. And this is what has caused the great migration where she has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who probably in many cases, not probably, who are definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned. And we now have them in our country and wait until you see this is going to be the great Trojan horse.

And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary. Thanks a lot for doing a great job.

This answer contained a number of blatant falsehoods…

 But the most fundamental issue here isn’t specific statements. It’s that Trump’s answer to a deeply important policy questions is stream-of-consciousness blather, a nearly indecipherable string of nonsense that jumps from a brief discussion of Aleppo to Russia to ISIS to the refugee crisis. He never once says anything of substance about Aleppo, anything at all to indicate that he actually understands what’s happening in the city and has an iota of an idea of what to do about it.

When you read it, it becomes clear just how ignorant about policy Donald Trump is. [emphasis mine]

4) Kevin Baker on puppetry:

But Hillary Clinton obviously had a plan and used it to goad Trump on the undocumented aliens he used “to build Trump Tower” and then to shackle him to the Russian computer hacks by calling him Putin’s “puppet.” It was an amazing, almost unprecedented moment in American history, to have one candidate openly accuse the other of being the stooge of a foreign potentate — and with the accused having no real rebuttal beyond, “I don’t know him.”

5) Trump: “No, you’re the puppet!”

6) Krugman on the false premise of Wallace’s  and stimulus questions:

Over all, Chris Wallace was better than I expected. But he was pretty bad on fiscal issues.

First of all, still obsessing over the debt? Still taking leads from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget? Federal debt simply isn’t a pressing issue; there is no possible reason to make a big deal about it while neglecting climate change, where every year that action is delayed makes the problem harder to solve.

Then there was the discussion of economic policy. It was really bad – and inappropriate – when Wallace talked about the Obama stimulus, and simply asserted that it “led” to slow growth. That was editorializing, and bad economics.

The past eight years have actually been a huge experiment in macroeconomics. Saying that the Obama stimulus was followed by slow growth is a terrible argument: When you spend money to fight a terrible slump, weren’t any disappointments in performance arguably caused by whatever caused the slump, not by the rescue operation? But we have a lot of other evidence, all of which says that spending money in a slump helps the economy, and that the Obama stimulus was therefore the right thing to do.

Some of that evidence comes from the details of the stimulus itself, which had different effects in different regions – and that tells you a lot about how it worked, and the answer is that it was positive. Even more compelling is the anti-stimulus that came from austerity policies in Europe: Countries that slashed spending and raised taxes had much deeper slumps than those that didn’t.

Basically, events have strongly confirmed the Keynesian thinking that lay behind the Obama stimulus. The impression that it failed comes mainly from the fact that it wasn’t big enough to produce a rapid turnaround – and no, that’s not after-the-fact rationalization. I and others were practically screaming at the time that it wasn’t sufficiently large.

7) Anna North on Trump and abortion:

Donald Trump is generally only too willing to opine on topics about which he knows nothing. But there’s one topic on which he is uncharacteristically muckle-mouthed: abortion.

When Chris Wallace asked if he wanted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, he said, “If that would happen because I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges, I would think that that will go back to the individual states.”

This made little sense, so Mr. Wallace asked again. This time, Mr. Trump said, “If we put another two or perhaps three justices on that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. It’ll happen automatically in my opinion because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”

This is hardly an answer, and it’s an odd evasion of responsibility. Usually Mr. Trump likes to take credit for making things happen — why would he want to pretend Roe v. Wade could be overturned “automatically”?

Mr. Trump’s uncharacteristic equivocation on abortion may be emblematic of something else: For his base, reproductive rights aren’t a core issue. He knows he can stir people up with talk of the wall, trade and locking up Hillary Clinton. But banning abortion has never been a big applause line for him, so he’s never had to develop a position on it. Amid all the horrors of this election season, the fact that the candidate hasn’t figured out a way to use the abortion issue to stir up hate is, I suppose, a small blessing.

8) Seth Masket:

It’s pretty much a cliché at this point, but Clinton’s style is clearly to prepare and Trump’s is clearly to go with his gut. She was able to convert every comment he made into an attack on an area of weakness for him. I don’t know that Trump would be doing better in this election if he’d prepped more for the debates or if he was even prep-able. But like many other aspects of this campaign — including ground game, fundraising and advertising — Clinton took it seriously and Trump didn’t.

9) Personally, I loved her obviously prepared “you say it’s rigged” riff.  That was really good.

10) Does Trump actually understand how our government works?  I really don’t know.  Mark Schmitt:

Donald Trump “denigrates democracy,” as Hillary Clinton said, when he suggests that the election is rigged, or will be rigged, or that his opponent “shouldn’t have been allowed to run.” But he also shows a bizarre disregard for the idea that democracy is a collaborative enterprise, that it’s not a system in which a single individual exercises total power. That’s evident in his repeated claims that Clinton, as a senator, could have “changed the law” on, for example, the tax breaks he’s taken. It’s evident on his own side as well, with the idea that he can build a wall or single-handedly impose tariffs or taxes on companies that move jobs abroad.

Trump doesn’t understand the basics about how American government works, but beyond all the technicalities, he also shows a staggering lack of regard — or even acknowledgment of — democracy as a joint enterprise rather than a sole proprietorship.

11) Love this response via tweet from a friend:

12) Alas, nobody even cares about Trump’s absurd economic plan:

Economic projections and economic history do not support Donald Trump’s assertion that big tax cuts at the center of his economic plan – his proposed tax cut would be the biggest ever – would promote growth for the middle class. High-end tax cuts during the George W. Bush administration, for example, only led to inequality and lopsided growth.

The economy under Mrs. Clinton’s plan would be flat at first and stronger later. Under Mr. Trump’s plan, the economy would get a boost at first from the cash unleashed by the tax cuts, but become much weaker later, as the huge deficits from the tax cuts reduced the plan’s initial positive effect on economic output.

13) Forgot Chait, so just had to add it in here:

Whatever reason Trump has, his stance is fitting. Putin is waging a global campaign to discredit the very idea of democracy. Trump has joined his cause. The debate culminated in Trump refusing to pledge that he would accept the outcome of the election – a statement of disloyalty to the American system of government without precedent since 1860, when Southern Democrats vowed to leave the union if the Republican party prevailed.

Clinton framed his answer as a pattern of habitual sore loserdom, which he displayed in calling several Republican primaries rigged, and making the same complaint about losing a television award. (She did not mention that he did this on election night 2012, too.) Perhaps she put it this way because undecided voters can relate to the familiar archetype of a bully who happens to be a sore loser. The truth is much darker and more dangerous. Trump is a domestic insurrectionist against the stability of American government.

14) My son David enjoyed the 2nd debate so much (I let him stay up because he didn’t have school the next day) that he even chose to be tired for school tomorrow and watch all of this one.  Warms the heart of a political-scientist dad.

15) Thanks for caring what I think about all of this.  Really.

16) Okay, that’s enough for one night.  Time to read Underground Airlines for a few minutes and go to bed.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

4 Responses to Debate #3

  1. Mika says:

    I think this was good from HRC:

    Clinton correctly claims Trump Tower built by undocumented workers: http://bit.ly/2ea2PQe

    Also her mentions that Trump has used Chinese steel. I’d guess those two things might have some effect on voters decisions.

  2. Jon K says:

    Much as I usually don’t like twitter and find #hashtags really irritating – You’ve been a Professor at NC State for years, why haven’t you fundamentally changed the way the University works? #CrookedSteve – made me laugh really hard.

    It really is how many people apparently view things.

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