Let’s be honest. Hillary Clinton lost the debate last night — not because Trump was so good, but because she didn’t put him away. She should have been more prepared to answer his onslaught of lies and deception with more pointed remarks, which her campaign staff should have worked up ahead of time.
For instance, on the disgusting remarks he made in 2005 that came to light in the Washington Post on Friday, Clinton should have pressed Trump by discussing how many women in America have to deal with men who talk like that and create hostile work environments. She should have even named Trump’s friend and adviser Roger Ailes, who was booted from Fox News for exactly those reasons.
She should have said that by dismissing it as merely “locker room talk,” Trump was sending a message to men and boys across the country that it’s okay the utter those horrible things if there are no women around. She should have asked the mothers of America, a demographic she still needs to court, how they would feel knowing their daughters were being described in such offensive terms. Several elected GOP officials who have condemned Trump over those remarks invoked their own daughters, so why didn’t Clinton?
She should have asked Trump why he doesn’t come out and tell men not to act as boorishly as he did — something he can’t do himself. Finally, she should have pointed out that NBC has suspended Billy Bush from the “Today” show because he was involved in that 2005 conversation with Trump, and ask him, “Don’t you think a candidate for president of the United States should be held to an even higher standard than a morning TV personality?”
Since Trump is still vulnerable on this issue, she could have done a callback to it later, when Trump said he hadn’t talked to Mike Pence about Syria, and disagreed with him: “Wow, you just threw your own running mate under the bus, and as we all discovered this weekend, when you’re on the bus, things can get pretty ugly.”
When Trump objected to Clinton calling his followers deplorable, she should have brought up all the white supremacists who support him — and whose remarks he retweets! — as well as those who have threatened journalists who were only doing their jobs in reporting on his misdeeds. Then, ask why he hasn’t denounced any of them.
Trump keeps bringing up Hillary’s 3+ decades of public service, claiming she hasn’t done anything. Yes, she did list many of her accomplishments in rebuttal, but she needed to finish it off with a shot across his bow: “Yes, I have spent most of my adult life in public service trying to help others, unlike you, who have spent your entire life only helping yourself.”
Here’s another example. When Trump claimed that over-regulation is killing our energy industry, Clinton should have replied, “Yeah, I hear Exxon-Mobil only made 40 billion dollars last year.”
These are the sorts of lines that, when delivered and timed well, are guaranteed to be replayed ad nauseum on every TV newscast for several days. Clinton needs that kind of reinforcement from free media, instead of relying on her campaign team to turn it into a hopes-to-go-viral commercial pushed onto YouTube.
One last thing, and it’s not about Clinton’s lack of clever rejoinders amidst Trump’s barrage of allegations and overheated rhetoric from his standard stump speech.
It’s about what I hope to see — and not see — in the third debate. We don’t need any more questions about emails, tax returns, Syria, and Russia. Both candidates have worn those topics out, and unless there are new revelations, they aren’t likely to have anything new to say if you ask them again. Instead, I wish the moderator of Clinton-Trump 3 would ask them about things that have yet to be discussed but are important matters our country must face: climate change, mental health, the opioid epidemic, legalizing medical marijuana, making student loans more affordable, banks that are too big to fail, and whether NASA should get more funding for a manned Mars mission.
Unfortunately, with Chris Wallace set to referee the final showdown, I fear that those questions — and many others that should be discussed — will be left unasked. Instead, it’ll be another round of the nonsense wars, and Clinton will need to have some better ammunition ready to fire.