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Trump comes out swinging! Breaking down an epic St. Louis debate

Trump was on his game. Clinton, who was on the defensive most of the night.

As senior members of his own party were deserting him, Donald Trump found his footing in his rematch debate with Hillary Clinton on Sunday night, blasting her for “always” blaming Russia even without evidence and for backing rebels who turn out “worse” than the leaders the U.S. overthrows. He even disavowed his own running mate’ for supporting war with Syria.

Just before the debate 16 Republican senators withdrew their support for Trump because of the emergence of a tape on Friday in which Trump is heard making obscene remarks about unnamed women. It was all the U.S. corporate media could talk about and Trump was facing calls from with his party to step down.

Instead he stepped up. The town hall style debate at a Missouri university allowed Trump to move aggressively around the stage as he hurled invectives at his opponent. Clinton, who was on the defensive most of the night, tried to counter-attack on taxes, Russia, Syria and the scandal of the day, his treatment of women. But she seemed unnerved by Trump, expecting instead a defeated man who had performed so badly in the first debate after taking her bait, and who should now have been on the ropes.

Being against the whole word—the Democrats, the media and even his own party—seems to invigorate the totally unorthodox Trump. He felt confident enough to blithely disagree with his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana. In the vice presidential debate last week, Pence backed U.S. military attacks on the Syrian government and launched the most virulent criticism of Russia by any candidate in this campaign. Trump said he simply didn’t agree with his running mate, something probably never said before publicly by a modern presidential candidate.

“I don’t like [Bashar al-]Assad at all but Assad is killing ISIS,” Trump said, referring to the Syrian president. “Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

Trump said the priority should be defeating Daesh before talking about U.S. military intervention against the Assad government. “I believe we have to get ISIS,” he said. “We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved.”

Going After Russia…Again

Clinton went on the counterattack early and often against Russia, and by extension Trump. She blamed Russian “aggression” for “destroying” Aleppo, though only east Aleppo is under attack. “There is a determined effort by the Russian air force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime,” she said, not mentioning that the main group “really holding out” is the same one that brought down the World Trade Center.

Through ignorance or disinformation she said, “There are hundreds of thousands of people probably about 250,000 still left” in Aleppo as a result of Russia’s bombing. That’s the population of east Aleppo occupied by extremists. There are1.5 million Aleppans living in the rest of the city, loyal to the government, and whose water was shut off for a time by the extremists in the east.

Clinton again called for arming rebels and setting up a safe zone inside Syria, and a no-fly zone above it, a move that America’s top general, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told Congress two weeks ago would lead to war with Russia. Even she acknowledged in a leaked email that a no-fly zone would “kill a lot of Syrians.” But she’s still for it.

“She talks in favor of the rebels,” Trump shot back. “She doesn’t even know who they are. Every time we take rebels, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else, we’re arming people, and you know what happens? They end up being worse than the people” the U.S. overthrows.

“Look what she did in Libya with Gaddafi. Gaddafi’s out. It’s a mess,” he said. “The fact is almost everything she’s done in foreign policy has been a mistake and it’s been a disaster.”

Clinton again extended her attack on Russia to Trump for supposedly supporting its president, Vladimir Putin. She said U.S. intelligence has concluded, without making the evidence public, that Russia had hacked into U.S. election and Democratic Party computers “to influence our election.”

“And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected, they’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump,” she charged. “Now, maybe because he has praised Putin, maybe because he says he agrees with a lot of what Putin wants to do, maybe because he wants to do business in Moscow, I don’t know the reasons.” Maybe it’s because Trump has called for dialogue with Moscow while Clinton threatens Russia, even calling Putin “Hitler.”

Trump denied he had any outstanding loans with Russia or any business interests there.
“She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump responded. “But they always blame Russia and the reason is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know about Russia but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia.”

And neither does the vast majority of the American public because corporate media never tells them Russia’s side of the story. If it had they might understand that Russia has been playing defense and that America is on an offensive in Ukraine after a U.S.-backed coup; in Poland and the Baltics after provocative NATO maneuvers and in Syria after a U.S. and allied-backed campaign of foreign extremists trying to overthrow the secular Syrian government.

Trump also disappointed, putting on a display of typical rightwing rhetoric on a number of issues. He again trashed the Iran nuclear deal, which has considerably reduced tension in the region, and in which Russia played a significant role. He called it “the dumbest deal I’ve ever seen” but it was probably the dumbest thing Trump said. He also wants to increase military spending, though the U.S. already outspends the next ten countries combined. He embraced guns, wants disastrous tax cuts for the rich, more deregulation and would have denounced climate change (the second most urgent problem after possible war with Russia) as a hoax. But the question never came up, to the shame of the moderators who chose the questions from voters and asked many of their own.

Trump really zeroed in on the email issue, which they did raise. He blasted away at Clinton for deleting 33,000 emails from her private server and for claiming not to know many of them were classified and vulnerable to hacking (though the FBI says none of them were). He said that if he becomes president he would get a special prosecutor to investigate her use of a private email server. The Obama Justice Department has already cleared her of all wrongdoing. At one point he quipped that she would be “in jail” if he were president. That led the humorless Dana Bash and others on CNN to compare him to Hitler and Stalin, who didn’t need prosecutors to send someone away.

Trump and Women

The debate began of course with a question about the video tape disclosed on Friday in which Trump makes several obscene remarks about women. He describes women letting him sexually touch them soon after meeting him because he is “a star.” It was a hideously sexist remark about abuse of power.

In the debate he claimed it was only an example of men talking lewdly about sex and that he didn’t do any of the things he boasted about. That would give Trump at age 59 at the time the mentality of a 14-year old. Clinton and her supporters instead say he was talking about actual sexual assaults that he committed. You can be sure the Clinton camp is searching for the woman Trump took furniture shopping or any others who might have been grabbed.

Faced with this onslaught, Trump pulled the ace from his sleeve that he threatened to play in the first debate. It pulled the second debate further into the mud. He said Hillary Clinton had in the 1990s attacked women who had accused her husband Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting them. Trump invited three of these women to the debate and held a press conference with them before it began.

Dismissing the importance of the videotape, Trump said it was more important to talk about defeating Daesh and Clinton’s disastrous and violent record as secretary of state. Trump was roasted for dropping F bombs, while Clinton is untouched for dropping real ones.

Indeed, the post-debate discussion on U.S. cable networks was frankly pathetic. They could not let go of the video story and instead examine her record in Libya and Syria, her dangerous threats against Russia or his desire to jack up military spending.

Clinton ignored his remark about her attacking her husband’s accusers. Instead she said the tape showed the world the real Donald Trump. “He has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is,” Clinton said. “But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly what he is.”

But Trump went after Clinton’s character too for calling half his supporters “deplorable” in a public speech, while claiming at the debate that she wants to be president for all Americans.

You’re No Abe Lincoln

He then blasted comments she made to Wall Street bankers in speeches over the past four years that she has refused to make public. But buried by the video hysteria, Wikileaks also on Friday released portions of the speeches in which she again separated herself from the unwashed. She said she’s out of touch with the middle class, and presumably the “deplorables,” because she and her husband have made so much money. Wanting to be part of their club, she told a room full of Wall Street bankers that she’d arrived.

She also said sometimes she has to take a public position on issues that is different from her private one. An undecided voter at the debate asked, “Is it okay for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance?”

In response, Clinton pointed to Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president during America’s 19th Century civil war, who she said held both private and public positions when negotiating a change to the constitution to formally outlaw slavery.

“She lied,” Trump said. “Now she’s blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. … Honest Abe never lied. … That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”

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