The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
Guest Host: Derek McGinty
In the third and final presidential debate, Donald Trump made the stunning statement that he would not necessarily accept the results of the election. His words instantly became the headline across the country, drowning out praise for what otherwise might have been the candidate’s best debate performance to date. Throughout last night’s caustic event, Hillary Clinton and Trump staked out disparate positions on issues like abortion and the makeup of the Supreme Court. And they jabbed at each other’s vulnerable spots. Join guest host Derek McGinty and his panel of experts for analysis of the final debate between Trump and Clinton, and how it could affect the election just weeks away.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief, USA Today
- Matt Lewis Senior contributor for the Daily Caller; author of "Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots)"
- Ruth Marcus Deputy editorial page editor and columnist, The Washington Post
MR. DEREK MCGINTYWell, thanks for joining us. I'm Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane's out in Los Angeles accepting a lifetime achievement award from the International Women's Media Foundation. Well, last night's presidential debate will likely be remembered for years to come for just one moment, that is when Donald Trump refused to say whether or not he'd accept the results of the election. But you could argue that that one comment overshadows what was otherwise a pretty interesting exchange, tenaciously moderated, I should say, by Fox News' Chris Wallace. In fact, it seemed both candidates came ready to rumble last night, and I think they were perhaps at their very best.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYJoining me now in the studio to talk about the debate and its possible effect on our presidential election, which is just 19 days away, if you can believe that, Susan Page of USA Today, Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post. I want to thank all three of you for taking a step off the campaign trail just to sit in the studio here with us.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYAnd I want to thank our viewers in advance -- our viewers, our listeners in advance for giving us a call at 800-433-8850 if you want to comment. Send your email to email@example.com, and of course there's always Facebook and Twitter. You can join us there, as well. Again, thanks, guys, good to see all three of you.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGreat to be here.
MS. RUTH MARCUSHi.
MCGINTYSusan I'll start with you, general impressions last night?
PAGEThe general impression is that Donald Trump needed to change the trajectory of this campaign, and I don't think he did that, and in fact he created a huge new issue by becoming the first presidential nominee of a major party in memory to say he wouldn't necessarily, he wouldn't promise, to abide by the results of the election.
MCGINTYAnd the weirdest thing about that was his surrogates, including his running mate and his wife, and every -- daughter, everybody else, said hey, we will abide by this. Ruth Marcus, what the heck's going on?
MARCUSIt's Trump being Trump, and he is not going to be controlled, including by his daughter or his running mate. And it's not as if that was, like, a surprise question. It was a question he knew was coming, he had made these suggestions before, and he just decided to double down on it, and I agree with Susan that was not entirely helpful to his already somewhat troubled cause.
MCGINTYHillary Clinton called it a horrifying response. I wonder what you think, Matt.
MR. MATT LEWISYeah, well, I mean, first of all I think that Donald Trump, you know, the smart move -- so the surrogates will always say what Donald Trump really means by that is if it's a contested election, and if we have to do a recount. No, that's not what he said. He's not saying what he ought to say, never mind the serious implications this has for democracy, but just for his own Machiavellian political purposes, the smart thing, of course, to say is that he would abide by the election.
MR. MATT LEWISBut this is really part and parcel of Donald Trump's entire problem this campaign. He can't discipline himself to do the smart political thing even if it only takes 90 minutes of good behavior. He can only pull off about 20 minutes of good behavior.
MARCUSIndeed, and actually there were 20 minutes of remarkably good behavior from Trump last night. If you watched just the first 20 minutes of the debate, what you saw was a different Trump, a restrained Trump, a sober Trump, a Trump who did not interrupt his opponent, and there was an actual substantive interchange between to the two candidates, facilitated, as you said, by some really good moderating from Chris Wallace.
MARCUSBut then she jabs, and she jabs, and no surprise, because we've seen it a million times before, he has to erupt. And so he becomes his own worst enemy.
MCGINTYAnd so do you think that's a conscious strategy on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Susan?
PAGETo jab him? Oh absolutely.
MCGINTYTo jab him until he gets mad?
PAGEI think the strategy she has had in all three debates is to get under his skin, which is, unfortunately for him, not that hard to do. And she achieved that last night, got him to take the bait. By the second half of the debate, what he was doing mostly was defending himself, responding to slurs, calling her such a nasty woman, which I think is a phrase that we will hear over and over again in the next 18 days, not from the Trump side, from the Clinton side.
LEWISIt's funny because Donald Trump, when it comes to foreign policy, always says I'm not going to telegraph what I'm going to do, I want to have -- be mysterious. But in his own strategy of running for office, he is entirely predictable. He will always punch back, and that actually makes him susceptible to being baited, and it reminds me of the movie "The Godfather," where Sonny Corleone, you know, Barzini gets him to, you know, leave the compound, and of course he gets gunned down like in that toll booth or whatever. Like he -- Donald Trump is Sonny Corleone. He cannot resist taking the bait.
PAGESo probably not a good thing for a presidential candidate, when you think the metaphor is a figure from "The Godfather."
MCGINTYYou know, but I think the key point you make, Ruth, was that those first 20 to 30 minutes, where Trump did sound, as you say, sober and more presidential, I would almost make the argument that Hillary Clinton had him in a no-win situation because that's her territory, right. So then they're arguing policy, which, that's what she's good at doing.
PAGEAnd, you know, that first 20 minutes was also designed to appeal to Republicans. He talked about the importance of the Supreme Court nominations that he would be able to make as president. He talked about abortion, partial-birth abortion, that's a strong issue, a strong pro-life issue for many Republicans. That was a strategy that might have solidified his support among some Republicans who are nervous about voting for him.
PAGEBut I think those who watched the whole debate came away skeptical about his demeanor and his temperament for being president.
MARCUSAnd he really had set the -- yes, substance versus substance, Hillary Clinton is going to win, but nonetheless, for people who are uncomfortable with the notion of voting for her, who have been yearning to see a different Trump, they got 20-or-so minutes of different Trump. It was set up, I thought at the beginning, to be the best debate that both of them have had, except that he then decided that -- it wasn't a decision. He was unable to continue his own best debate and undercut it.
MCGINTYHow difficult was it to get him in off the road to prepare for this thing? I understand that this time around, he actually did take some time to try to get ready, and maybe that's what we saw in the first 20 or 30 minutes.
LEWISYeah, I think clearly he -- you know, so if this had been -- I feel like this, you know, if this was spring training, and if the actual election began tomorrow, then Donald Trump might be a better candidate. I think he has, in a way, improved. He's got a long way to go, a long, long way to go. But the problem is you -- you know how you can't cram for an SAT test, like the night before, you can't study really hard? You can't cram for a debate. You can't cram for understanding public policy and economics and international relations. And so Donald Trump, this is him working hard, and it's still not good enough.
MCGINTYYou know, I want to get back to what some of the Trump campaign people said right after the debate because if you listen to the post-debate analysis, some were saying, well, Trump's refusal to accept this, the -- or to claim that he would accept the results of the election is no different from Al Gore, who fought the election in 2000.
PAGEI think that's not a fair comparison. Now it's true that Al Gore did not concede the election for some time, but that's because the election results were in some dispute. There were ballot recounts going on. There was a court case that ended in the Supreme Court ruling five to four against Gore. And at that point, when the election was declared, Al Gore conceded, he called for all Americans to come together.
PAGEActually the same thing happened in 1960. You know, when Richard Nixon was declared the loser of that debate, there were some questions that he could have pursued about the legitimacy of that vote in some places, including Illinois. He chose not to do that and conceded to John F. Kennedy and said Americans ought to get together behind their new president.
MARCUSWe have in America a very set-out set of procedures, established set of procedures, for candidates to contest elections in those very unusual circumstances as we had in 2000, where there's questions about them. Al Gore went through that, and I would just suggest that the Trump campaign and Donald Trump in particular go back and read Al Gore's concession speech after the Supreme Court ruling because it really reinforces the tradition that we've all been talking about, about accepting defeat.
PAGEActually, I think one reason the statement yesterday, last night, was so shocking was because it is a fundamental pillar of American democracy that you learn about in civics class in the fifth grade that we have a -- even in the most heated campaigns, even in the fiercest elections, in the closest ones, at the end of the day there's a winner and a loser, and the loser endorses the winner and says as a nation we have to come together.
MCGINTYI mean, it is a critical part of our national history, something other nations have admired, the fact that no matter how bitter it is, one guy gets up out of the Oval Office, walks out, hands the key to the next guy and says good luck to you.
LEWISAnd it goes back to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, our second and third president. And, you know, I would say that democracy is fragile, to a certain degree, and we have to be very protective of it, and especially right now where it seems like trust in institutions is really at a low point, to have -- this isn't like a shock jock saying this. This is the leader, the -- you know, ostensibly the leader of the party right now, the Republican nominee, and with that comes a responsibility, and I think it's very irresponsible for him to preemptively suggest that he might not honor the results.
MARCUSAnd I think it's really important for us to remember the lead out of the second debate, which is that he vowed if elected president that he would jail his opponent, he would instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor, and then he told her, you'd be in jail. So we have -- actually there's two pillars of democracy that he has assaulted in two of the three debates.
MCGINTYSusan Page, permanent damage done by these assaults?
PAGEYou know, I think that for his core supporters, the people who brought him this far, they're going to still be with him. These are supporters who have stuck with him through thick and thin. In some ways his bluster, his willingness to say things that are seen as politically incorrect, is part of his appeal with those voters, but in terms of expanding his support so that he could get to perhaps a majority of the electorate and win the White House, I think this makes it more difficult.
MCGINTYBut the larger question is has his candidacy and has the tenor of what we've seen these last couple of debates done any permanent damage to our democracy and to how we'll be conducting our elections going forward. My guests here in the studio, Susan Page of USA Today, Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post. And when we come back we'll be glad to take your questions on the air, 800-433-8850 is our phone number, 19 days to go before we choose the next president of the United States. And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show.
MCGINTYWelcome back. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I am Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane. And 19 days from now, we pick the president. Last night we -- I was going to say we suffered through, but that's not fair -- we listened to the final debate in that contest. Susan Page of USA Today is here with us, Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller, and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post are talking about what happened last night and what it means going forward. And, Susan, we got into a discussion about possible permanent damage to the democratic system based on the things Trump's been saying.
PAGEI think it does create some repercussions that aren't going to go away on November 8th, on election day. I think, for one thing, if Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election, it will create problems for Hillary Clinton, the new president, assuming she's elected, with his voters. They may not see her as legitimately elected. It could be similar to the questions that Barack Obama faced in the birther controversy, which was -- in which Donald Trump also played a factor.
PAGEI think it makes it -- I think his uncompromising stance could make it harder for Republicans who want to appeal to his voters, who have been the energy in the party, to make the kind of compromises you have to make to get things done when the new Congress takes over.
LEWISIt's so hard -- I would say it's really hard to predict. If you were to ask, like, after Watergate, what -- ten years from now, what would the world look like. And of course you end up having Ronald Reagan and it's morning again in America, ten years after Watergate. So it's really hard to tell. I think it's possible that, you know, a few years from now you've got President Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan as the Speaker of the House and the economy turns around and everything's fine. Or it could go a much darker direction and a much more sort of chaotic direction. And then I think we could look back at this moment and say, this is certainly a moment that -- where it all fell apart.
MCGINTYBut the other -- the larger question here, is Trump the cause or the symptom? I mean, is this anger and this loss of faith in the system there and Trump has merely brought it to the surface?
MARCUSI think the answer to your question is yes, he is both. Because there is clearly a wellspring of anger and anxiety that he's tapped in to and he's also ginned it up. And so I think the question about long-term damage to the system doesn't depend just on Trump. It depends on the response of the, what I would call the grownups in the Republican Party, some of whom have been astonishingly AWOL during moments of this campaign. So what does Paul Ryan say today? What does Mitch McConnell, who we have not heard from very much this campaign, say? What does Reince Priebus say? And we need the grownups in the Republican Party to just make it absolutely clear that, in America, we accept election results.
PAGEBut, you know, they aren't controlling the voters who have backed Donald Trump. And that's why Donald Trump was able to defeat a dozen more experienced Republicans for the nomination. I think, Derek, that's such a great question. Because we know that we missed the mood of the electorate that Donald Trump saw. Donald Trump didn't create this unhappy electorate that backed him, these 40 percent of Americans willing to support him. He just -- he used them as a way -- they opened the door for him to be the Republican nominee and a contender for the presidency.
MARCUSRight. But what others say can either, you know, throw gasoline on that Trump-fueled fire or they can help to try to put it out.
MARCUSAnd it's really important...
LEWISBut the problem for the...
MARCUS...for them to try to help to put it out.
LEWISThe problem for the Republican Party is that even if Trump were to go away, which there's no guarantee that if he loses (laugh) that he will go...
MARCUSThere's no indication.
LEWISThere's no indication. But even if he does go away, I do agree. I think Trump was a symptom of a problem. And that problem doesn't solve itself. So the Republican Party could find itself without Trump, without this boogeyman, and yet still have all the systemic problems that led to him.
MCGINTYSo what did this debate last night say to those conservative voters, who may or may not be happy with Donald Trump, but really aren't ever going to support a Hillary Clinton?
LEWISWell, I think that some of them -- I think the debate is a wash probably, you know, for most, I don't think it moves the needle. Trump needed a knockout. He needed a big victory because he was down in the polls. I think the real question though going forward is, if Donald Trump loses, if it's a close race and he says the election was rigged, not only does that have bad implications for America and for democracy, it prevents the Republican Party from reinventing itself. Because that means that Trump supporters can say he would have won if only Paul Ryan had backed him, if only those never Trumpers had supported him.
LEWISBut if Trump loses in a landslide, then I think Trumpism could become delegitimized. And I think it's possible the Republican Party could revitalize itself out of necessity.
PAGEA lot depends also, I think, on what happens down ballot. You know, we know the Senate is on the verge of going from Republican control to Democratic control. Democrats, if Clinton wins the White House, needs to -- need just a net pickup of four seats, which looks entirely possible. In the most extreme scenario, Republicans could even lose control of the House.
PAGEDoesn't look like that's going to happen. But, you know, the fact is, when we've had these big wave elections that have surprising results, often they don't turn into a wave until that last week. So I think it is possible Republicans could find themselves out of power, after being so close to power, after being convinced both in 2012 and this year early on that the White House was going to be theirs to win.
MCGINTYYou know, but the interesting thing about wave elections, at least in my memory -- Susan, you can correct me if I'm wrong here -- is that they are from the ground up, right? That there's some unhappiness that goes on that somebody manages to tap in to. For example, in '94, Newt Gingrich with the Contract with America, which many people never saw coming. But this will be a wave election, in essence, self-inflicted on the Republicans...
MCGINTY...by the Republican candidate.
LEWISBecause the irony is, 7 out of 10 Americans are unhappy with the direction of the country. And yet we're talking about a Democratic wave election in a Democratic administration.
PAGEBut, you know, well, the wave election could be based on why public unhappiness with these things are. It can also be based on a presidential candidate, the top ticket, doing so well in swing states that popular Senate candidates and House candidates can't make up that margin down the ballot. And that's what you might see. In a state like Pennsylvania, where the Republican Senator, incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, might ordinarily be expected to be winning this race, he's tied with Katie McGinty because of Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump.
LEWISBut the crazy thing is the missed opportunity for Republicans. Because you could easily envision a scenario where Republicans had nominated...
LEWIS...John Kasich, let's say, and then they end up having the presidency the U.S. -- maybe they narrowly, then, hold on to the U.S. Senate and they keep the House of course. So the swing from potentially controlling almost all the levers of government to controlling none of them is amazing.
MARCUSBut let's remember, even if this becomes a wave election that results in this, I think, still pretty unlikely scenario of Democrats taking control not just of the Senate but of the House, additional waves come behind that wave. Because 2018 is not set up to look great for Democrats. So we're going to continue to have a very closely divided country and a lot of impetus for partisan politics, even without Donald Trump on the ticket.
PAGEThis is what Democrats -- this is what Republicans are going to hold on to on election night I suspect, which is, when was the last time one party managed to win a fourth consecutive term in the White House? Not since...
MARCUSBefore the war.
PAGEWell, not since Harry Truman.
PAGESo it's been a long time.
LEWISIt'll be the fourth two-term president in a row, right?
LEWISIs that right? Or Clinton would be -- so we've had Clinton, Bush, Obama, and so Hillary would theoretically be the fourth two-term president...
MARCUSWhich we really have not had.
LEWIS...which is hard to imagine.
MCGINTYAll right. Let's get to our phones where Sam in Washington, D.C., has a question. You're on the air, Sam. Go ahead.
SAMGood morning, everyone. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I'm a 26-year-old independent. And I can't believe that throughout the four debates, no one asked a single explicit question about climate change. Why has the media abdicated this responsibility throughout the entire election season?
MCGINTYYes, you mediatites. You've blown it completely.
MARCUSOkay. Not pleading guilty here...
MARCUS...Donald Trump came to The Washington Post editorial board, of which I'm a member, and we asked him about climate change. And if Hillary Clinton had deigned to come to talk to us, we would have asked her about climate change. I think that -- I totally take your frustration with the absence of that -- and I could -- that issue in debate questions, and I could probably add about 10 more that I would have liked to get to. The fact of this campaign -- and it's been illustrated by the conversation we've been having this morning -- is that Trump's antics and Trump's outrageous statements have always, pardon the phrase, consistently trumped...
MARCUS...discussion of substance.
LEWISYeah. I think this election has always been about Donald Trump's temperament and does he pass the threshold of acceptability being presidential. And so that doesn't mean that issues aren't important. Of course, they are. But I think that has been the big issue, the temperament.
PAGEYeah. I think -- I agree with Sam. I think it's surprising that, in three debates, we didn't have a serious discussion about climate change. On the other hand, we didn't have -- as Ruth just said -- a serious discussion about some other big issues as well.
MCGINTYYeah. We didn't talk campaign finance reform, I mean, any number of things. I don't know, did we even talk really about guns. Well, last night, we got into that just a little bit of guns.
MARCUSA little bit of guns. And, look, there was a little bit of Citizens United in the Supreme Court discussion last night. So -- but Sam's fundamental point is -- and mine, actually (laugh), is correct. We've skirted awfully lightly on policy and substance this campaign.
MCGINTYWell, back to some of the atmospherics again, unfortunately. Ruth, your newspaper, The Washington Post describes Russian President Vladimir Putin as the unseen, third person on the stage last night.
MARCUSIndeed. And I think that if we hadn't -- if Trump had not said what he had to say about the rigged election, one of the comments that we would be focusing on this morning would be his absolute and, to me, inexplicable refusal to acknowledge what U.S. intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded, which is that Putin and Russia are behind this hacking and that it is intended to influence the outcome of the election. And his -- and I would love to understand what is behind his refusal to accept that. Because he keeps going back to those 400-pound guys on their beds hacking and it's just not supported by the evidence.
MCGINTYI was struck though, that gave Hillary one of her best lines though, when she said, he -- Putin likes you because he wants a puppet.
PAGEAnd then he said, you're a puppet.
PAGEAnd then later in the debate, she said, you show that you're unfit for the presidency every time you speak. And he said, you're unfit. So it was a very high-minded, I thought, exchange.
MARCUSI'm waiting for the puppets. I'm sure you can get them on the internet now.
MCGINTYThere's already memes for, yeah...
MCGINTYThere's already memes online. Let's go to Chris in Pensacola, Fla. You're on the air.
CHRISHi. Thank you for taking my call. And I just want to preempt this with I'm an independent voter. I'm still undecided. And I'm not pulling for either side. But my question is, if there was found, you know, some indisputable proof of voter rigging after election, you know, should a loser accept it? And the reason I ask is I've seen some pretty damning evidence myself that I've seen that everyone shouldn't, you know, witness as undercover video that's on -- that was just put out a few days ago by, it looks like the Project Veritas. I think Robert (word?) is the reporter on it, that I found on Herman Cain's site that I just, you know, seems pretty shocking when I watched it, that I wanted you guys to look at and, you know, dispute if it was not real.
LEWISI think what he's talking about is the video that seems to show liberal and Democratic activists encouraging violence at a Trump rally in Ohio, which is certainly I think unconscionable and, if true, is an example of sort of playing psychological warfare and meddling in an election. But I think that I would make a clear distinction between that and rigging an election, which to me means stuffing ballots, disenfranchising voters...
MCGINTYDead people voting, that kind of...
LEWIS...dead people voting. And so that's part of the problem here is a semantics problem. Like, I believe the media is liberal. If there's bias, does that constitute rigging the election? To me, no. But clearly we have to be vigilant against any sort of, you know, ballot tampering. I'll bring this up too, I think this is -- going back to the last conversation about Russia, you know, Russia has obviously been doing some hacking. What if they were to somehow interfere with electronic voting, even just, you know, in one location, just the potential? And now that Donald Trump has raised the specter of rigging, I mean, they could really mess with us by doing something like that.
MCGINTYThat's a pretty dread...
LEWISYeah, it is.
MCGINTY...dread idea. Matt Lewis with the Daily Caller, Susan Page of USA Today, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, all are here in the studio. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Susan Page.
PAGESo just to get back to Chris' point. One reason vote rigging is such a difficult thing to do is that we have a very clunky system, that we have 51 separate elections run by 51 different agencies -- the 50 states and the District of Columbia. So while there are incidents and anecdotes that go to vote rigging -- dead people voting or people being illegally, inappropriately registered to vote -- it is not a big problem in this country. This was studied at length by the Justice Department under George W. Bush. They could not find evidence of anything very extensive or serious. And a think tank did a study about voting over a period of, I think, 14 years. They found 31 cases of vote fraud out of one billion votes cast. So it's not that it never happens. But this is not a big problem with our system.
LEWISYes. And if you're a political campaign, there are things that you can do that are, I think, completely appropriate. You can have poll watchers who challenge legitimate -- if you witness something that is a legitimate case of ballot tampering, you go before a judge, you file an injunction. You could shut, you know, if you witness something happening -- people tampering, fixing an election -- you know, there are appropriate things that you can do. You can try to scrub voter files to make sure that dead people are removed. But to preemptively say the election is rigged is a completely different thing.
MARCUSBut two quick points here. In order to successfully rig an election, you would have to find a swing state and get enough people involved in your conspiracy to rig the election, who would be going and pretending that they were eligible to vote and doing it numerous times, in order...
MCGINTYWhich would be tens of thousands of people.
MARCUSWell, in order to have an impact. That is just not feasible and all the multiple investigations of it have shown that it actually doesn't happen. And then the question about the reliability of electronic voting systems. As I understand it, almost all of them have some redundancy. And the decentralized system, not just state by state but precinct by precinct, provides some important cushion against that really horrifying possibility.
MCGINTYI want to go back to the debate for a few minutes last night and ask Susan, did we learn anything new about the positions of these candidates that perhaps was not obvious before?
PAGEI'm not sure we learned anything new. That doesn't mean it wasn't valuable. We had a discussion about foreign policy, about the Supreme Court, about taxes. But I'm not sure there was anything in terms of a policy sense that we didn't know before. I turn to my colleagues to see if they heard anything that was new.
MARCUSI'm going to just tell you what really upset me as I was listening to it. We learned, once again, that Donald Trump does not understand anything about the current state of abortion rights in America. Because, you know, he had previously, in his previous long conversation about abortion, he had talked about the notion of punishing women. Last night, he talked about the -- what he described as Hillary Clinton's view that basically viable babies, fetuses could be ripped from the womb under her understanding of the law, you know, a day before a mother was to give birth.
MARCUSThat is illegal under current law. Almost every state law, probably every state law protects viable fetuses. That's not what happens. Late-term abortions are, you know, often tragic situations of horribly damaged fetuses that would not be viable in any case.
MCGINTYShe actually did make that case, I thought very strongly. On the other side though, two or three times Chris Wallace said, but would you want Roe v. Wade overturned? And he said, well, if it happens, it goes back to the states. But would you want Roe v. Wade -- he would never say, which I thought was odd.
PAGEI think he -- at the end he seemed to be saying he wanted it overturned, and he turned to say...
MARCUSIt'd be automatic, because he'd support pro-life justices.
MCGINTYThat's what he said.
MCGINTYBut he didn't say, that's what I want.
MCGINTYWhich was weird to me. I didn't understand.
PAGEWell, good, you know, kudos to Chris Wallace for going back and back on that and other questions.
MCGINTYAll right. We're going to take a break. We're talking about last night's final presidential debate. Nineteen days to go until voters make the final choice. I'm Derek McGinty and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MCGINTYWelcome back to The Diane Rehm Show. I'm Derek McGinty, sitting in for Diane today. We're talking about last night's third and final presidential debate. And I want to read you guys an email we got from Adebolla (PH) who says, "the thought of Trump going away, even after a landslide defeat, is laughable. Obama won in a landslide, yet Palin became the crowning queen for the GOP. Trump will do all he can to delegitimize her reign just like he has done with Obama. Trump is a result of the GOP obstructionist tactics. And the cry against the mainstream media."
LEWISWell, Trump certainly, it's likely he sticks around. People have talked about him starting a media empire. That's certainly possible. I do think, though, that if Trump loses by a substantial margin, he becomes somewhat of a loser. People -- some people will turn on him. People who have been supporting him will see him as a loser. And I also think, just the media narratives will shift. You know, we've been focused on a presidential race for a long time now. But all of a sudden, media stories are about preparing for Hillary's inauguration.
LEWISOr Paul Ryan's budget or who's going to be -- the fight over confirmation of the Attorney General. And so, Donald Trump all of a sudden finds himself having to shoehorn himself into those stories. It becomes harder for him to stay relevant.
PAGEDoes he run again?
LEWISWell, and who knows about his daughter Ivanka, as well? I mean, that's always a possibility down the road, too.
MARCUSAnd, you know, we're not, just to the caller's point, or emailer's point, we're not talking a lot about Sarah Palin these days.
MCGINTYRight. But she did have...
MARCUSShe did have her moment.
MCGINTYI mean, look, that '04 when she ran. I'm sorry, '08 when she ran.
MCGINTYThat's eight years ago. She did have a sort of meteoric rise for a minute there.
MARCUSFor a minute.
MCGINTYFor a minute. Yeah, let's get back to our phone calls, if we can. Jeff in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, is it Jeff?
JEFFYes, sir. Very small town in southwestern Pennsylvania.
MCGINTYYou're on the air, sir.
JEFFWell, I just -- I want to challenge -- you guys are going to think I'm a Trump supporter, but I'm really not. I'm probably not supporting either candidate in this race, but what I want to do is I want to challenge the bias that I hear. And I want, I would like you guys to address what I think, in this country, are undertones of fascism. And what I mean by that is, you know, you hear time and time again the media calling things that people say dangerous. They -- you know, one side could say something that's outrageous and the media supports it. The other side says something that's outrageous and they...
MCGINTYAll right, let's have an example of that unequal treatment which you describe.
JEFFWell, hey, the most important thing is peoples' concerns about a rigged election. Talking about a rigged election in this country is anything but dangerous. What it does is it keeps our system the greatest system in the world because people continue to push and question and chip away at the inconsistencies and trying to make it more and more perfect.
MCGINTYAll right. Fair enough, Jeff.
JEFFBut it seems like the media, when people talk about the bad parts about it, they call it, they call it dangerous.
LEWISYeah, so I would say, first of all, we've focused on Donald Trump here and that is a form of selection bias. I think it's, in this case, fair, but I'll bring up Hillary Clinton. So, I couldn't, in good conscience, vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I did vote, in full disclosure, for Marco Rubio, in the Virginia Republican Primary. But so, but I think Hillary Clinton has a lot of problems, right? And problems we would be talking about more if it weren't for Donald Trump overshadowing them.
LEWISSo, for example, the fact that she claims that she couldn't tell that a "C" meant classified or confidential, you know, on State Department documents, I think is either an example of incompetence or of lying to the American public. I mean, take your pick. Either way, it would by disqualifying. I think that Donald Trump, though, is actually in a different category. And so, I think that the criticism of him, while in some cases, you know, I think sort of media elites who tend to be liberal, would probably be attacking Marco Rubio or John Kasich if they were the nominee.
LEWISI do think that the criticism of Donald Trump is incredibly warranted because he has done and said things that are so beyond the pale. And I would, I would push back on this point about saying that questioning a rigged election is somehow legitimate. And we're just raising the question, man. No. That is a place you don't go, because that is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. Like, if you want to have a larger conversation about ballot integrity and ballot security, that's perfectly legitimate.
LEWISBut for a presidential nominee of a major party to preemptively suggest that the election is rigged and that he might not honor the election outcome is very dangerous. And anybody who doesn't understand that maybe needs to do a little more thinking.
MCGINTYI want to go back to what you brought up earlier, though, about Hillary Clinton and the email question, which she was never pressed on last night. She didn't really have to address it. Why not, do you think?
LEWISWell, look, I think that, that there's some -- she has been pressed on it in the past. She has not given a satisfying answer. She has not -- but I just think it's one of those cases, you've got a lot of stuff to cover. You're probably not going to get her to say anything new. She's going to stick to her talking points, but I will say this. If anybody could have gotten a good answer out of her, it might have been Chris Wallace. So I think that was a missed opportunity.
PAGEYou know, Sam, our first caller, talked about why wasn't there a question on climate change? I was surprised there was not a question about the FBI report that suggested there was a quid pro quo discussed...
MCGINTYThat's the other story.
PAGE...between an FBI agent and a Senior State Department official about reclassification of one of the emails. Now, there is a response to that about who first suggested it and did they really seriously consider it and so on, but that is an important issue that she has not been forced to answer yet.
MCGINTYAnd the fact is, with 19 days to go, she may not be. I mean, that might have been the last chance to put her feet to the fire on that.
PAGEI think you may see Hillary Clinton launch -- go into an extremely conservative...
MARCUSSit on the ball.
PAGE...sit on the ball kind of a campaign for the next 18 days.
MCGINTYAll right, Paul in Williamstown, Massachusetts. You're on the air, Paul.
PAULHey, I think your panel is a little off base in calling it an even debate or his best performance so far. I thought he was incoherent. He just -- he never finished a sentence, he never directly answered a question. He tiptoed around issues that deserved an answer. And at times, he was downright juvenile with that no, you're a puppet kind of comment. I think you guys are definitely giving him too much credit there.
MCGINTYWell, Paul, you know, I will note that the consensus here has been that he did pretty well for the first half hour or so, and then the things you mentioned began to creep in. But I'll let the panel respond for themselves.
MARCUSWell, I mean, if the rap against us, or the rap against me in particular, because I did think it was the best of his debates, is being too kind to Donald Trump, I'm going to plead guilty to that one. Because I and the Washington Post, actually, our columnists across the ideological spectrum have just been relentless in criticizing Trump.
MCGINTYAll right, Joe in Louisville, Kentucky. You're on the air.
JOEWell, thank you for having me this morning. I want to switch gears just a bit and ask the ladies on the panel if they could address this. And not use the abortion or, you know, whatever the reason being. I don't understand how Trump's supporters, the female kind, and the males, can honestly sit there and support him and tell their daughters and their sons that all the things that he has said and done through all these past months are okay with them. And knowing that their daughters and sons are going to grow up that way.
JOEAnd think that it's all right to treat people that way. If I had said and done any of the things that Donald Trump has said and done, my mom would have slapped the water out of my eyes, so I don't understand why these people keep doing that, besides the abortion issue. Can you all address that please?
MARCUSGood for your mom. I couldn't agree more, and actually, one of the allegations that we haven't talked about that Trump made during the debate last night was that all of these women who had come forward, nine or so women who had come forward, with allegations that he had touched them in an unwanted way that offended them, that that was all, he suggested, rigged by the Clinton campaign, for which there is zero evidence that I'm aware of is a pretty offensive thing to say when, in fact, you know, go look at the account from Natasha Stoyav, the People magazine reporter.
MARCUSWho has all sorts of contemporaneous people who she told at the time, that she says Donald Trump assaulted her at Mara Lago. And she was really upset about it. And so, the notion that this has been invented by her and ginned up by the Clinton campaign is really offensive.
MCGINTYBut the key thing is, when you hear from female Trump supporters, because reporters have interviewed them, the supporters basically say, yeah, yeah, he probably shouldn't have done that. It's not the worst thing. It's not the best thing, but we support him anyway.
PAGEWell, that's true among some Trump supporters, male and female, but if you talk about swing groups in this election, and one of the most important swing groups we're seeing are college educated white women who have voted Republican in the past. Mitt Romney carried this group of voters by double digits four years ago. Donald Trump is losing them by double digits. And when I went to spend a day in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which is a suburban county that has a lot of those kinds of voters, the number one thing women voters said to me for not supporting Donald Trump is this sense of intolerance.
PAGEThe things he has said about women, about Muslims, about Mexicans, about others. This has been a huge problem for him in this election.
MCGINTYIt's interesting to me, on that same note, what people will grab onto out of a debate. Now, he said many things last night, but when he said she's a nasty woman. When he -- right over when Hillary was giving an answer about some other subject.
PAGEAbout increasing the Social Security payroll tax.
MCGINTYRight. Yeah, he said -- and when Donald said, when she said, if Donald doesn't find a way to get out of it, and then continued to talk, he just leaned into his mic and said, what a nasty woman.
PAGEI think this resonates with some women voters. Maybe many of us, Ruth, I won't speak for you, but maybe many of us have been called such a nasty woman at one time or another.
MARCUSNot me. I've never been called nasty.
MCGINTYBut people are talking about that.
MARCUSLook, I think this is important, not just for what it tells us about Donald Trump, but I think it's important for what it tells us about the challenges that a President Hillary Clinton, if she is elected, is going to face. Because she is going -- if she is elected, she will be elected with an extraordinarily historically high unpopularity rating. And many people do find her to be a nasty woman. And what is the role of gender in that? And we don't really have a template in this country, even in terms of other women in positions of executive authority like governors for seeing a woman in this role.
MARCUSAnd I think it's gonna be a challenge for her to figure out how to navigate the gender situation as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
MCGINTYCertainly, I think there's gender bias at work here, but Hillary Clinton has also been her own worst enemy on some of these things as well, hasn't she?
PAGEWell, that's true. Both candidates have had their most serious wounds have been self-inflicted. Although, I would also say that the fact that Hillary Clinton is seen as tough, grating by some, has helped her not be, not be harmed by something that a lot of women candidates have faced, which is being seen not as tough enough for a job, like being president. That is not a perception that Americans have about her.
MARCUSRight. But there's this really interesting line that female candidates need to cross between projecting toughness and not coming across as nasty. And that is not, I think, as a general matter, a barrier that men face. Challenge that men face.
MCGINTYRuth Marcus is with the Washington Post. Matt Lewis is with the Daily Caller. And Susan Page is with the USA Today. We're talking about the final Presidential debate. I'm Derek McGinty and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. We'll take another phone call, too, before our time runs out. Rob in Bridgetown, Maine. You're on the air.
ROBHi, how are you?
ROBI want to start first with saying that I don't, at this point, support either one of these candidates. I'm not happy with the two candidates we're left to vote on. I think we could have done much better, but I want to start with, as a news outlet, are you not supposed to be completely neutral and be providing us, the voters, with both positive and negative aspects of both candidates?
MCGINTYI take it you figured we missed the mark on that.
ROBI'm speaking to the whole group, in terms of the fact -- I've been listening to you now for about 25, 30 minutes, and I've heard absolutely nothing on Hillary and I've heard complete bashing on Trump. And I'm -- like I said, I don't support either one of them, but I'm not hearing any facts that would make me want to vote for Hillary anymore, other than the assumed losing of Trump. The assumed he is not going to go away, the assumed, you know, the rigged part. I understand all of that and I do agree with some of your points. But then again, I don't want to just listen to...
MCGINTYAll right. It's a fair question, Rob. Have we been unfair to Hillary. I mean, unfair to Trump.
LEWISWell, I think -- I think we've focused more on Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump is the more interesting story and I think that Donald Trump was down in the polls and he needed, strategically, he needed to win the debate. He didn't do what he needed to do. And he said something that I think is historically relevant. So I think that we're focusing more on Trump. Although, look, we did talk -- we talked about Hillary Clinton, you know, a little bit about her emails, the failure to recognize classification. The possibility of a quid pro quo with the State Department and the FBI.
LEWISBut I think the thing is that Hillary Clinton, in my opinion, is a very bad candidate. And I don't agree with most of her public policy positions, but she's a known known. Like, she is a typical politician. She will very likely be a mediocre politician. But she'll be a politician. Like, we sort of know what to expect. I think with Donald Trump, the range is so great and the potential -- look, on -- he could be Theodore Roosevelt. He could surprise us and be a very good president but he could also be a catastrophically bad president.
LEWISAnd this is the things that he says. We're not inventing it. We're just saying, look, this is what he says.
MARCUSAnd look, Matt's a conservative writer. I am a left of center columnist. Susan is a straight up news reporter. That is a -- you know, ideological parody on this panel. Across the board, it is this unusual situation where both, I find this on the op-ed page, both liberal columnists and conservative columnists are joined in their revulsion against Trump.
LEWISYeah. If this were Rubio, if this were Rubio verses Hillary Clinton...
MARCUSRight. You and I would be at each other's throats.
LEWIS...we would probably be fighting.
PAGEI will say that Hillary Clinton is one lucky presidential candidate.
PAGEBecause there are many vulnerabilities to talk about with Hillary Clinton, but they have been overshadowed this entire campaign by more provocative and controversial comments by Donald Trump.
MCGINTYYou know, I've said it several times in this race, and that is each candidate is running against the only person they could possibly beat.
MCGINTYAnd so it just looks like Hillary Clinton, at this point, is managing to, at least is ahead for now.
LEWISYeah. And I think whoever we're talking about is the one who's going to lose. You know, if, if, if Donald Trump -- somehow become, you know, about Donald Trump, but he allowed that to happen. I think he likes it. I think he likes being the center of attention. That's actually the wrong impulse. You know, this should not be a referendum on Donald Trump. He should be the outsider making this a referendum on Hillary Clinton. I think he likes the attention. It's actually really bad strategy.
MCGINTYWell, that's just about most of our time here as we've come up on the end of our hour. I've loved having all three of you with me. It's been a great conversation. We have 19 days to go. I'm sure there will be much more to discuss in that time and the campaign tenor may change or it may not. I'm Derek McGinty and you've been listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Thanks for joining us.
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