Americans who were expecting a rumble in the desert might have been initially disappointed with the calm that possessed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Wednesday night.
The third and final debate of the 2016 presidential election got off to a chilly start as both candidates forewent a handshake, walking behind their respective podiums.
That calm lasted about 30 minutes.
As of press time, four topics were discussed in the debate: The Supreme Court, guns, abortion and immigration, the topic that fired up both candidates.
Clinton said Trump “choked” during his August visit with Fox and then started a “Twitter war” after Fox tweeted that Mexico would not pay for the wall.
Trump, who resurrected talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, claimed that Clinton supported the wall in 2006, which she denied.
After debate moderator Chris Wallace questioned Clinton about a speech she was paid $225,000 to make to a Brazilian bank – information obtained by WikiLeaks – Clinton harshly criticized Putin and Russia’s alleged hand in the email hack. She called for Trump to condemn Russian espionage.
“I don’t know Putin,” Trump said. “He said nice things about me,” adding later, “This is not my best friend.”
After Trump said Putin does not respect Clinton, she rebutted, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet."
“No you’re the puppet,” Trump retorted.
After prodding by Wallace, Trump said he condemns foreign interference in an American election by “Russia or by anybody else.”
Wallace also asked both candidates about possible appointments to the Supreme Court that could influence the country for the next 25 years.
While Clinton said the court “needs to stand on the side of the American people,” Trump said specifically that his nominees will be pro-life, conservative, supporters of the second amendment and “scholars in all cases and people of tremendous respect.”
Wallace asked Clinton and Trump to take a clear stance on hot button issues. Clinton declared that she will defend Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood, Trump said that under Roe v. Wade, doctors have the right to rip a fetus out of a uterus “right before delivery.”
“The government has no business with the decisions women make with their families…” Clinton started.
“And honestly, no one has the right to do what I just said,” Trump replied.
Immigration, the Supreme Court and the economy were among the few designated talking points for the debate. However, no one expected the candidates to focus completely on policy issues.
The debate was seen as a must-win for Trump.
His campaign continues to reel from the release of the 2005 video of Trump making lewd comments about woman and what many perceived as bragging about sexual assault.
Trump’s dismissal of his vulgar comments as “locker room talk” drew widespread criticism. His assertion that he never made unwanted sexual advances toward any women prompted a few to publicly accuse him of doing just that. Trump denounced the accusers as “liars.”
Trump has scrambled to deflect attention from the video and the accusers. His campaign continued to remind voters about Clinton’s email scandal and Wikileaks recently provided Trump supporters additional ammunition. The hacked emails include transcripts of three speeches Clinton delivered at Goldman Sachs functions that Trump backers say show she is being hypocritical about calling for stricter regulations of Wall Street.
Still, the Trump campaign has had to weather other storms generated by the candidate’s recent comments.
Trump’s continuous charges that the election is “rigged” and marred by “large scale voter fraud” has drawn nothing by derision by the news media, election officials, Democrats and even members of his own party.
The National Association of Secretaries of State, whose membership includes officials from both parties, issued a news release stating that it “cannot allow unsubstantiated claims calling into question the systemic integrity of the election process to shake voter confidence or disrupt voting in the run-up to Election Day.”
President Barack Obama also chimed in.
“It doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you’d want out of a president,” he said. “You start whining before the game’s over?”
Political pundits have ranked the first two debates as the most derisive in the history of modern American politics.
In the first debate, Trump was asked about his claim that Clinton doesn’t have a presidential “look.” He then suggested that she “doesn’t have the stamina” to serve as president. “He tried to change from looks to stamina, but this is the man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” Clinton responded.
In the second debate, the two candidates entered the stage and declined to shake hands and proceeded to savage each other. At one point, Trump said that if elected he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and put her in jail. Clinton pounded her opponent for using massive business losses to avoid paying income taxes.
Trump’s poll numbers began to slide after the first debate. He hasn’t been able to recover. With less than three weeks to the election, Clinton enjoys a sizeable lead and appears far enough ahead in key swing states to allow her campaign to focus more attention of such states as Arizona, a Republican Party stronghold.
Clinton leads Trump 47 percent to 38 percent in a four-way race, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday before the final debate. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson attracted 8 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein received 3 percent. The poll surveyed 1,006 likely voters between Oct. 14-17.