Gone was “normalized” Trump, and back came primary-season, talk-over-everybody, blustery, word-salad Trump. And it didn’t even take 10 minutes for it to start, with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton needling Trump about the $14 million in loans he received from his father on which to build his business.
Trump retorted that he had been given “a very small loan” from his father, and then went into an extended ramble that touched on other countries taking American jobs, Mexico’s value added tax, bad trade deals, the $20 trillion national debt, and on and on.
“I will bring back jobs, you can’t bring back jobs,” Trump stated flatly, just a few minutes after defending the statement he’d made prior to the 2008-09 financial crisis that he hoped there would be a housing crash so he could make money. “That’s called business, by the way.”
A little later, Trump told Clinton that she couldn’t effectively fight the Islamic State because she had put her plan for doing so on her website, where the terrorist group could read it. “No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life,” Trump said.
By minute 24, Clinton, in response to Trump’s accusation that she personally was responsible for American companies keeping money offshore and thereby causing decay in U.S. cities, said: “I have the feeling that by the end of this evening, I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened.”
“Why not,” Trump said.
“Why not, yeah, why not,” Clinton laughed. “Just join the debate by saying more crazy things.”
That exchange effectively set the tone for the remaining hour, with Trump finding himself challenged on his tax returns, on his remarks about women and, most notably, his stance on the Iraq War. Trump supported the 2003 Iraq invasion, although he claims now that he did not. When moderator Lester Holt continued to state as a matter of fact that Trump had supported the invasion, Trump grew more and more agitated, eventually calling on Holt to call his supporter and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“That is mainstream media nonsense put out by her,” he said, pointing at Clinton. “Everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity!”
The Clinton campaign crowed over Trump’s performance, while his staff attempted to spin it as strong and presidential. “He was very poised,” said spokesman Boris Epshteyn.
Trump has famously downplayed the importance of studying and rehearsing for debates. Even if he wants to change his approach, he has less than two weeks before the next debate in St. Louis.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.