Trump versus Clinton: First Presidential Debate, 2016

“Show Some Respect, Samantha.”

The following abruptly appeared on our TV screen, apparently due to a fissure in the spacetime continuum.  

Host: Good evening, ladies and gentleman.  Welcome to the first presidential debate of 2016 between the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.  Instead of reporters as questioners, each candidate chose a “second” who will pose questions to both candidates.  The “seconds” are Jesse Ventura for Mr. Trump and Samantha Power, for Ms. Clinton.  Now let us all introduce ourselves.  Ms. Power, please go first.

Power:  Good evening.  At the outset I must say quite frankly that I can hardly bear to be in the same room with Mr. Trump.   I am here only as a favor to Ms. Clinton.  Mr. Trump is not properly educated, never spent a day at Harvard and simply does not say the correct things. It is as exasperating as dealing with Russian Ambassador Churkin at the UN who keeps bringing up facts.  I hope that Mr. Trump will refrain from such odious ploys this evening.

Ventura:  Well, I am quite happy to be here.  I hope we get some insight into the candidates this evening.

Clinton:  It is a pleasure to be able to talk with the American people as I have so very, very many times over many long decades.  And I would quickly add that all women should vote for me because I am a woman.  That is much more important than a lot of talk about a third World War and that sort of thing.  I might add that  most major news outlets recognize this fact – like NPR, one of my favorites.

Trump:  Well, it is terrific to be here.  Terrific!  This has been a beautiful campaign and I have loved every moment of it.  Debating is new to me and I have loved that too. It is all great.

And I should say right off that Ms. Clinton should be proud of being the first woman to be nominated by the Democratic Party.  Quite an honor.  Personally I want to thank you for coming to my most recent wedding, Hillary – although I deserved it since I gave you a bundle. But it was worth every penny to have you and Bill there.  Your husband is a terrific guy, very appealing.  He has a lot to teach you. The wedding was beautiful.

My entire family was terrifically happy to see you at the wedding.  I just don’t get it when they hang the unlikeability label on you, Hillary.  You are likeable enough as my man, Barack once said.  I am delighted to see both Mr. Ventura and Ms. Power, both great public servants.  But, Samantha, you should learn to get along with Russian Ambassador Churkin.  I get along very well with President Putin, as I have said, and we respect one another, a great starting point. You know that was true of Reagan and Gorbachev also, and they accomplished a great deal. You could pave the way for my future dealings with Mr. Putin when I am President by treating Churkin better at the UN right now. Why scream at Churkin, Samantha?  That accomplishes nothing.  Show some respect and you may get somewhere.

Power: (mumbling).   This man Trump is disgusting.

Ventura:  Ms. Clinton, I will turn to you first.  What about the Iraq war? You voted for it and backed it all the way until your presidential election campaign.  Suddenly you say it was a “mistake.”  Many might take that as a statement of convenience, given how unpopular that war has become.

Clinton:  I said it was a mistake and that is it.  Period.  It is an old story.  And how dare you impugn my integrity!  You would not say that if I were a man.

Ventura:  If I may do a follow-up, Mrs Clinton.  According to the highly respected medical publication, The Lancet, over 1 million Iraqis are dead and 4 million displaced, all based on lies that took us to war.  Does that not bother your conscience?

Clinton:  Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, and the world is better off without him.  What more need be said.  It is old news.  Those lives are gone.  We can never bring them back.  They perished in a noble cause.  I think the price was worth it, just as I thought the sanctions that Bill and Madeleine Albright and I put in place were right even though 500,000 children perished.  We advanced our values – and interests – there in Iraq.  What does it matter now anyway?  So I lose no sleep over it.

Ventura: Mr. Trump, what about the war on Iraq?

Trump:  Sure, Jesse.  By the way you look great, half your age.  It’s that Seal training and all the surfing you get in these days.  It is terrific.  So Iraq, sure.  I started speaking forcefully against the Iraq War in March of 2004 in an interview with Esquire.

On Iraq, yes, it remains a mess, as I said in 2004.  No WMD.  That info was a pack of lies from the start, to say the least.   And, Hillary, how you could have voted for that war and continued to support it right up until you became a candidate for the Presidency 12 years later is beyond me.  As I said in 2004 so many lives lost, and not just American kids, but as I also said at the time, so many, many Iraqi kids as well.  Yes, Iraqi kids count too – although no other candidate in this race has said that.  I have never heard Ms. Clinton say that.

How would you feel, Hillary, if you were an Iraqi mom and one of your kids were blown away by an American bomb – for no reason at all. Knowing you, you would be pissed off, to put it mildly.  You would probably strap a suicide bomb onto Bill at once and send him off to do Jihad. Hillary, have you not an ounce of compassion?  To put it like my friend Vlad does, do you regard yourself as an experimenter and our troops and the Iraqi people like so many rats. No compassion, Hillary.  No compassion.  A POTUS without compassion is a dangerous proposition.

Clinton:  I have to jump in here.  I voted based on the best intelligence we had at the time. There were weapons of mass destruction there, I was told.  That is the best I could have done. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.  Let’s get that straight. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.  Let me repeat the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

Trump: Is the world better off without the million dead Iraqis?  Is Iraq better off with 4 million Iraqis displaced?  Did it take you 12 years to realize your mistake?  And how could it be a mistake if you think that the deciding factor is the demise of Hussein.  If the demise of Hussein is the deciding factor, then the war was a success and there is no need to apologize. You are trying to label the war as a success and a mistake both.  You cannot have it both ways.  That is not something people will respect, Hillary.  People can smell that they are being lied to when someone talks that way.  And it brings disgrace upon other women who will run for high office and makes it more difficult for them.

Hillary, in 2002, before the war there were millions of people all over the world who knew damned well that the evidence presented at the UN on WMD was bogus.  If you could not recognize that, then you are not competent.   At that point the voters of New York should have said, “You’re fired, Senator Clinton.”

Samantha: I think we should end this idiotic commentary.  This is just not the kind of thing that should be said.

Ventura:  This is my time to direct the discussion, Ambassador Power.  Please let him finish.

Trump:  But I think, Hillary, in fact, you knew that the WMD evidence was bogus.  You are a smart lady, in fact.  But you do things that are stupid in terms of the rest of humanity. So let me say that I think you lied.  You knew damned well that there were no WMD, and now hundreds of thousands are dead.  And I do not say that lightly. If I am making a deal and someone lies to me, that is the end for me, Hillary.  No more business with such a character. The late columnist William Safire once called you a “congenital liar.”  Maybe you can’t help that.  I feel sorry for you in that case.  But that should disqualify you from being POTUS.

Wild applause!

Samantha:  OK, I want to intervene here for a moment, Governor Ventura.  I think we cannot go farther without asking Mr. Trump about his racist comments toward Muslims.  He advocated in 2015 preventing them all from entering the U.S., albeit temporarily

That is horrible, inexcusable.  (Here Power raised her voice to a screech and lifted herself out of her chair so that her head went missing for a moment from the TV screen.  She lost her head – from the TV screen.)

Trump:  Ms. Power, I would be glad to address that.

First, let me ask you this, Samantha.  Why is it not racist to starve with sanctions and kill with bombs hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Libyans, dark skinned and foreign, many Black in the case of Libya.   Ms. Clinton and her husband and you were all involved in implementing those policies.  I used words that you find offensive.  I think murdering people of color or of a different religion is much worse than speaking ill of a few of them.  And as I have said, we need to seek the help of Muslims.  We need them to defeat the jihadists.

Now, Mrs. Clinton says that my words added fuel to the fire that is ISIS.  But Mrs. Clinton’s wars on the Muslim world have added giant forests of fuel to that fire.  Compared to that my words are only a handful of wood chips.

Clinton:  The world is better off without Saddam and Gadaffi.  That is the bottom line. And without Assad, too.  We need to finish the job, Mr. Trump.

Trump:  That is a fiction, Hillary.  As I have said before, Iraq was better off under Hussein, Libya was better off under Gaddafi and Syria is better off under Assad.   Why do you want to replace these secular leaders with Jihadists intent on blowing us up?  My good woman, have you lost your mind?

Here the screen went blank for a moment and we were back to programming in the present, a rerun of a Seinfeld episode, as it turned out – from the past.

John V. Walsh, @JohnWal97469920, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for several independent media. Read other articles by John V..