History’s weirdest election just got a lot weirder last night. After a horrendous two weeks capped by the ultimate presidential candidate’s weekend from Hell, Donald Trump turned around andtrounced Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate.
As Samuel Johnson said, the prospect of a hanging can concentrate the mind — and after an opening ten minutes in which he looked as though he was going to blow himself up with rage at Bill Clinton — Trump suddenly and surprisingly found the focus that had eluded him two weeks ago.
He came right at her — and on policy, yet. He hit her effectively on her email scandal, on the Democratic party’s commitment to ObamaCare, on her ineffectuality as a senator when it came to changing the tax policies she claims he abuses as a wealthy person, and on the administration’s energy policies.
Mrs. Clinton made a crucial choice in the early going. As Trump went after her husband for his sexual boorishness, she neither attempted to rebut him nor use his as a weapon. Instead, she echoed Michelle Obama’s claim at the Democratic convention that “when they go low, we go high.” By announcing she wasn’t going to get personal, she ceded any sharp edge in the proceedings to Trump.
Her hope was clearly that he would lose it due to her calmness. But except for two moments that were gasp-inducing in their directness — Trump saying he’d appoint a special prosecutor to go after her on the emails and later saying Hillary “has a lot of hate in her heart” — Trump did not get personal.