By Cáitriona Murphy
In the second of a series of articles looking at the US Presidential Election, Cáitriona Murphy takes a look at the last week in the US election, including the second presidential debate.
Yes folks – it’s gotten dirty, almost as dirty as the Irish presidential election circa 2011 which, if you don’t remember, involved allegations of mismanaged finances and murder accusations.
However, unlike the Irish presidential election, the US election doesn’t have someone hanging back in the race avoiding scandal, as Michael D. Higgins was. The citizens of the US are not provided with seven candidates to choose from as the people of Ireland were. No, instead the election system in America has a two-party system. Americans have to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and as this week comes to a close – one month before the election is to take place – people in the US have an extremely difficult decision to make.
If commentators thought the first presidential debate was a disaster for Trump’s campaign, the video that leaked of Donald Trump talking derogatively about women a few days later was absolutely catastrophic. As one of the moderators at the second presidential debate, Martha Raddatz, said: “In just 48 hours, it has become the single most talked about story of the entire 2016 election.”
For those who somehow managed to avoid the highly controversial video, the video captures Donald Trump having a lewd discussion about women as he prepares for his appearance on “Days Of Our Lives” in 2005 with the host Billy Bush. Bush is also the younger brother of George W. Bush and cousin of Jeb Bush.
In the video, Trump bragged about kissing and groping women, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. Of course, this video received a huge amount of backlash and a large portion of the debate on Sunday night was dedicated to the topic.
Trump, along with his PR team, played it as best they could. Trump issued a short video statement saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise”. However, in the same video, he took the opportunity to turn the issue of sexual assault around to attack Clinton. He said while he may have said foolish things, “Bill Clinton has actually abused women,” and that Hillary bullied her husband’s victims.
However, this tactic did not seem to work and Trump publicly lost the support of many GOP (Republican) leaders. This included the most senior member of the GOP, Paul Ryan, who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He has said he will no longer defend Trump, and instead will focus on “maintaining the party’s majority” in congress.
Many other senior members have called for Trump to step down, and if this were to happen, the Republican National Committee would replace Trump with his running mate Mike Pence.
At this point Trump has run out of defensive tactics. He has apologised and has been asked to step down, so he switches to his offensive game and wages a massively publicised attack on Hillary and Bill Clinton. Not only does he mention Bill Clinton’s history with various women, he held a press conference with some of Bill Clinton’s accusers, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broadrick and Paula Jones.
This line of attack was a low blow from Trump but it managed to take some of the heat off him in the debate. When he was accused of sexual assault or misogyny, he was able to deflect the heat to Hillary Clinton over her husband’s history.
Donald Trump was backed into the corner and somehow managed to come out fighting, once again attacking Clinton over the email scandal, saying that if he was president she would be in jail. “I hate to say it, but if I win I’m going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” he said.
While Clinton was put under a huge amount of pressure as Bill Clinton’s accusers were sitting in the audience, she managed to hold her ground. She was thrown into the bear pit but emerged with just a few scratches, and even received a round of applause with her response to Trump’s attack at her husband. “When I hear something like that, I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all. When they go low, you go high.”
All in all, not much was gained from the second presidential debate, apart from the candidates demonstrating how dirty they are willing to get to win this election. The whole point of the second debate being a ‘town hall format’ was to make it easier for the uncommitted voters in the audience to ask the candidates questions. However, the focus of the debate and of the media coverage following the debate was not on these voters or their questions, but rather on the personal poisonous pasts each candidate has had.
The only time foreign policy issues arose, there seemed to be problems in Trump’s corner. He admits that he disagrees with his running mate Mike Pence, who declared last week in his debate against Tim Kaine that the United States should be prepared to use military force if needed in Syria. After Martha Raddatz puts the question about the humanitarian crisis in Syria to Trump, he immediately said: “He and I haven’t spoken and I disagree. I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing Isis. Russia is killing Isis.”
Following this, Clinton took the opportunity to accuse Russia of trying to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Mr Trump’s favour with a series of email hacks. “They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump,” she said.
Entertainment value was ten out of ten, but on the democratic scale, this debate lost big time. This may have been the most tweeted about event of the whole election but no clear winner has emerged, according to the post-debate polls. Similar to the polls following the first debate, they are unreliable sources of information. Overall, Clinton appears to have the lead at the moment but with how this election is unfolding it is still unclear who is in the lead, and I believe it will remain as such until the last ballot is cast.