The second presidential debate on Sunday night, at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, began without the customary handshake and ended with bit of a counseling session.
The “town-hall” style debate allowed a select group of undecided voters, chosen by the Gallup Organization, to ask Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump their questions on a variety of topics. It was a contentious debate from start to finish, pundits said just minutes after it ended.
As expected, Trump was asked several times about the leaked 2005 footage of his lewd comments about women. Each time, Trump responded by calling the statements “locker room talk,” then tried to switch the discussion to other issues, such as ISIS and former President Bill Clinton’s infidelity.
“We can get onto much more important things and much bigger things,” he said, after speaking about his plans to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”
In response to Trump’s remarks about the video, Clinton said even though she had disagreed with Republican nominees in the past, she had never questioned their ability to serve as president.
“Donald Trump is different,” she said, calling him unfit for the presidency.
Trump at times questioned the fairness of the debate throughout the night, criticizing moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz for not allowing him to respond and for not “bringing up the emails.”
Clinton was queried about her email scandal by Raddatz, who asked about the 110 classified emails that the FBI concluded were exchanged over the private server former first lady set up in her New York home while she was secretary of state.
“You don’t call that extremely careless?” Raddatz asked.
Clinton responded by once again calling the use of her personal email a mistake, just as she had during the first presidential debate.
“If I were to do it over again, I would not,” she said. “I’m not making any excuses. It was a mistake, and I am very sorry about that.”
The candidates were also asked about health care and tax reform, to which Trump responded with criticism over Clinton’s 30 years of public service.
“She talks about health care. Why didn’t she do something about it? She talks about taxes. Why didn’t she do something about it?” he said. “She doesn’t do anything about anything other than talk. With her, it’s all talk and no action.”
Clinton responded by naming all of the things that she has done over the last three decades as first lady of Arkansas and the country, secretary of state and a U.S. senator.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the night came when Trump said he disagreed with his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.
Cooper reminded Trump about Pence’s take on the crisis and that, if Russia continues to be involved with airstrikes, the United States should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets.
Trump then said he had not spoken to his running mate about the issue and that he disagreed with this stance.
“I believe we have to get ISIS,” Trump said. “We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved.”
At the end of debate, the moderators “squeezed in” a final request from an undecided voter. Could each candidate say something nice about the other?
Clinton was the first to respond, complementing Trump’s children and calling them “able and devoted.” Trump closed out the debate by calling Clinton a “fighter” and saying that although he does not agree with what she fights for, he admires her determination.
The third, and final, presidential debate will take place Wednesday, October 19, 8 p.m. CST, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV.