Mark Ralston/Pool via AP
The third and final presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was more of the same routine.

Trump’s Reach Exceeds His Grope in Final Debate

Steve Russell
10/20/16

Neither took the opportunity to explain the role of the SCOTUS, but I would fault Clinton more than Trump because she knew what needed to be said. I am not confident that Trump can be criticized for failure to describe a process he probably does not understand.

On the immigration issue, Trump blamed Mexico for the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire and he came out for deporting “drug lords.” Then he went somewhere I’ve never heard a Republican go by pointing out the record number of deportations under Obama. Usually, the claim is that Obama deported too few.

Clinton repeated her call for comprehensive immigration reform and took the opportunity to slip in that undocumented workers built Trump Tower with Chinese steel.

On foreign policy, Trump was once more the aggressor. He warned that “Russia has 1,800 nuclear warheads and she’s playing chicken.” He also asserted “Russia has taken over the Middle East.”

Russia has what it had before the revolution in Syria began: the friendship of the brutal dictator there, who represents a religious minority oppressing a majority. Russia has “won” by helping Assad cling to power, but that’s hardly “taking over” the Middle East.

On the economy, Wallace stated correctly that Clinton favors a more robust role for government than Trump.

Trump opposed the Clinton/Bernie Sanders proposal on public college tuition but asserted, “we are going to do lots of things” on that front without letting us know what things or how much they would cost.

Wallace asked Clinton if she was just proposing more of Obama’s stimulus? While she talked her way through the question, I did not understand why she did not point out that the amount of demand missing from the economy during a recession is a knowable number. That number is not opinion; it is arithmetic. While the average voter cannot read an aggregate demand curve, it should be possible to explain it in general terms.

Clinton proposed a trade prosecutor to enforce the trade agreements Trump wants to scuttle.  The U.S. is currently a party to two multi-lateral free trade agreements (FTAs) covering Central America (CAFTA) and North America (NAFTA), as well as 12 bilateral FTAs.  There are 4 multi-lateral and 13 bilateral FTAs being negotiated, the most controversial being the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Trump wants to renegotiate the ones currently in effect.

Since the nations in these agreements typically already enjoy “most favored nation” trade status, the issues in FTAs are exporting goods at prices subsidized by government or at a loss (“dumping”) and what protections for wages and environmental regulations can be imposed by selective tariffs.  Disputes over these issues are at the heart of what affects U.S. workers and businesses. Clinton’s proposal assumes that what is needed is more aggressive and timely enforcement, while Trump wants to back out of our current FTAs entirely.

Trump was offered the opportunity to reply to the nine women who have so far accused him of doing what he claimed he does — groping. His defense was that the accusations are “totally false” and that Clinton put them up to it.

Wallace pointed out that Clinton’s proposals would send the national debt up to 86 percent of GDP while Trump’s would raise the debt to 105 percent of GDP. He also asked them both if they would accept a “grand bargain” on Social Security and Medicare that would combine tax increases and benefit cuts?

Neither candidate would accept a grand bargain on entitlements and neither would admit that their proposals would add to the national debt. Trump did mention that it would help to repeal Obamacare, but he did not say what the replacement should be.

Wallace gave both candidates a gift outside the rules. He offered each of them one minute to tell the people why they should be the next POTUS. He let Clinton go first, which gave Trump a minute to think.

Clinton said she needs our help to continue the fight for children and families that has been her life’s work.

Trump attacked Clinton, supported more money for the military, attacked immigrants, and closed by claiming the country can’t take four more years of Barack Obama and that is what Clinton would be.

Wallace had asked for a positive statement and he got it from Clinton. The extra minute to think did not help Trump produce a positive statement. Earlier, he had said of Clinton (while she was talking), “such a nasty woman.”

Trump’s rudeness might have been news on a different evening, but candidates have been rude before. Trump’s questioning the legitimacy of an election that hasn’t happened yet made big news.

Some have speculated that his grievance over “rigged elections” will form the basis of a new political party. Others claim he wants to run a television network that will broadcast news in a manner to his liking.

Whatever he wants, after tonight it is hard to believe he wants to be elected president of a formerly great country that runs rigged elections.

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