United States presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off in the third and final presidential debate on Wednesday night ahead of the November 8, 2016 general election.
Hosted in Las Vegas and moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the debate centered around issues that had been given little attention in previous debates, such as abortion, immigration, taxes, and debt.
Supreme Court, abortion, and the Second Amendment
Candidates were first asked about the direction in which the Supreme Court should take the country. Whoever emerges as president will have to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice, Mr. Wallace explained, and the appointment will have significant implications on issues such as abortion and gun ownership.
Mrs. Clinton said she would appoint justices that protect a woman’s right to receive abortions, a right granted after the landmark Supreme Court decision in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. She further emphasized that she envisions a Supreme Court that would reverse the Citizens United case, which allows “dark, unaccountable money” to compromise elections. On the topic of gun ownership, Mrs. Clinton emphasized that she supports the Second Amendment, but more laws should be enacted that will prevent weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Mr. Trump said he would appoint a justice, or justices, with conservative values, saying that after his appointments, Roe v. Wade would be “automatically” reversed. He stated that his appointments would also ensure that the rights of the Second Amendment, granting citizens the right to bear arms, are upheld.
The stark differences between the two aspirants were further highlighted when the issue of immigration was discussed.
Immigration was one of the first issues that Mr. Trump focused on when he announced his candidacy last year, infamously stating that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border for which Mexico would pay. He linked immigration with crime, saying that an influx of Mexican immigrants has allowed drug trafficking and violence to thrive in the U.S. Mr. Trump stood by his earlier statements, but curiously did not mention whether the U.S. or Mexican government would fund his wall.
Mrs. Clinton argued that the strict immigration laws that her opponent wishes to implement would tear families apart. She emphasized that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and that rather than deporting citizens, the government should endeavor to naturalize them.
Regarding the economy, the former Secretary of State said she would not “add a penny” to the national debt. Mrs. Clinton’s answer, however, has raised eyebrows, as doing so would require the federal government to immediately close a $590 billion budget deficit, according to Five Thirty-Eight. She assured Americans that households making under $250,000 per year would not see an increase in their income taxes.
Mr. Trump said the economy under President Barack Obama has been growing too slowly (roughly a 4 percent annual growth rate) and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would further slow down economic growth. He said he would grant tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which would add millions of jobs to the economy.
While the discussion of such topics was far more substantive than in previous debates, two issues will likely overshadow the rest of the debate: Mrs. Clinton’s email scandal and Mr. Trump’s refusal to state that he would accept the results of the election.
A recently leaked batch of emails revealed that Mrs. Clinton gave a speech to a Brazilian bank for which she was paid a whopping $225,000. This casts doubts on Mrs. Clinton’s supposedly progressive stances on income inequality and Wall Street regulations, issues that were highlighted by her left-wing Democratic primary challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders.
In the speech, Mrs. Clinton said she would like to see a “hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” When asked about that remark, Mrs. Clinton said her quote was taken out of context, and she deflected by bringing up Mr. Trump’s alleged close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that Mr. Trump would be his "puppet" if elected.
On his end, Mr. Trump continued his accusations of electoral rigging, saying that the media and government are colluding to ensure he loses in November. This prompted Chris Wallace to ask the Republican presidential hopeful if he would accept the results of the election if Mrs. Clinton emerged as the winner.
Mr. Trump, however, refused to state that he would accept the results, despite the fact that his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, and his daughter, Ivanka, said he would.
Mrs. Clinton described his refusal as “horrifying,” while Mr. Wallace emphasized that the peaceful transition of power is one of the prides of the U.S.
Regardless, Mr. Trump refused to budge and said he would keep the American public “in suspense” until the results of the election are announced.