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Debate Points

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

GHWB called it “the Big Mo,” and right now, Donald Trump has the momentum to close the deal. The national polls are swinging his way, and unless he throws it away, battleground states will shift to him as well. As an aside, had GHWB kept his Mo, the Clintons might have stayed an Arkansas footnote. Yet, the ’92 election—with Ross Perot as spoiler—has been an object lesson for what happens when so-called loyalists apply too many litmus tests and fail to support their nominee.


Donald Trump’s big test will have little to do with litmus. Whether he passes or fails will depend upon the chemical and visceral reactions viewers have when he and Hillary Clinton clash at Hofstra University on September 26th. Trump’s Achilles Heel, of course, is that he takes the bait all too often, and his immediate responses do not, shall we say, serve him well. When that happens, Trump loses two ways: people conclude he is not in command of himself, and by default, his errant comments make the opponent look calm and presidential. 

Trump doesn’t need much advice from us in the cheap seats about policy and other debating tactics. He is obviously a master. The writer, Jim Quinn,  points out he is to the political scene today what James J. Braddock was to a population beaten down by the Great Depression. He is the Cinderella Man—the right guy at the right time to address the sore, nasty issues that have become boils on the nation’s backside: jobs, immigration, race, security. 

So, if Kellyanne Conway does anything for Trump, her great victory will be to sensitize him to that kind of attack and instead of saying something regrettable, have him offer up a rejoinder that makes points for him. Better wordsmiths than I will come up with dozens, to be sure, but here are a few many of us would like the Donald to put to Hillary Clinton, face-to-face, for the first time in her life:

Clinton: Every candidate should release their tax returns. You must be hiding something. 


Trump: For someone who did not retain your emails as required by the Federal Records Act, but hired a gaggle of attorneys without security clearances to delete 30,000 of them you never wanted anyone to see, that’s some nerve. Your lawyers looked out for your civil or criminal liability, not the nation’s interests. This was all while you were working for the taxpayers, right? By they way, my tax returns may generate a few tweets, but their contents won’t put me in jail.

Clinton: You’re a billionaire with inherited money. What could you possibly know about everyday working people?

Trump: I’ll tell you what I know. Over the years I’ve employed tens of thousands of people, hard working men and women at all levels, and I’ve learned about them and their lives and how to take care of their needs. As for you, there may have been a time when you didn’t have much money, but you and your husband have used public service as your own ATM for over 25 years now, cashing in in some pretty shady ways, some say. How you can say you understand somebody’s overdue mortgage payment, a job that’s disappeared, and unpaid grocery bills is beyond me.

Clinton: You’re just another rich guy who wants the White House so you can make things cozy for the wealthy in this country, and everybody else be damned.

Trump: You bill yourself as a changemaker, as someone not part of the establishment. Isn’t George Soros one of your biggest contributors? Wasn’t that Warren Buffet doing campaign stuff for you in Iowa? People aren’t fooled. Your big new plane was paid for by them, wasn’t it? Face it, you’ve been bought and paid for by your Wall Street buddies since Mayor Giuliani was an altar boy. 


Clinton: I’ve spent thirty years in the public service trenches and know the issues and the solutions, and I’ve forgotten more than people like you have bothered to find out.

Trump: So you must have accomplished a lot—I’ll bet you can’t name three substantive things you’ve done in the last ten years. And how can you rattle off all your talking points, but can’t remember a THING about your security clearance? You told the FBI three dozen times you couldn’t recall anything. Crime bosses would be proud. You sure that fall didn’t impair your memory? 

Clinton: I accept full responsibility for all of my actions. That’s more than you have ever done.

Trump: Accept full responsibility? You weren’t fired from the State Department for Benghazi, hiding important correspondence, compromising classified information, violating security regulations, or for putting our people at risk. In fact, you have never been held accountable for anything. 

Clinton: Your position on immigration is shameful. I will build bridges not walls, because that’s the spirit of America.

Trump: That’s right—you’ll build bridges to let in terrorists, criminals, and other undesirables. My position on illegal immigration is exactly the same as your husband’s when he made his 1995 SOTU address. The fact checkers can look that up. I have. America has a sovereign right to decide who becomes part of our national family, and how we should protect our borders. Period.


Clinton: You don’t have the right temperament to be president.

Trump: Hey, I don’t hit my cell phones with a hammer to hide my emails. There are no stories about me from former FBI and Secret Service agents, but there are loads of them about you and your temper tantrums. 

As a closer, Trump always has this: After FBI Director Comey said you were “extremely careless” with our nation’s secrets, how can anyone possibly trust you to put America before your personal convenience as POTUS? As for me, putting America first is the only reason I’m here.

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