"Did any of you watch the debate last night? Well, I'm not sure you've never seen anything like that before."
So Hillary Clinton told the audience at her rally at Wayne State University in Detroit the day after the second presidential match. Alert Politifact: a "pants on fire" statement has been made.
Or perhaps Mrs. Clinton simply forgot the vice-presidential debate less than a week earlier, which bore a striking resemblance to the Trump/Clinton event in St. Louis- only in reverse.
Following Monday night's battle, Chris Matthews suggested that Donald Trump had controlled the debate. There was an element of truth in that. Consider the exchange in which the GOP nominee charged
If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, and his was action. His was what he’s done to women. There’s never been anybody in the history politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women. So you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women.
Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously. Four of them here tonight. One of the women, who is a wonderful woman, at 12 years old, was raped at 12. Her client she represented got him off, and she’s seen laughing on two separate occasions, laughing at the girl who was raped.Kathy Shelton, that young woman is here with us tonight.
So don’t tell me about words. I am absolutely — I apologize for those words. But it is things that people say. But what President Clinton did, he was impeached, he lost his license to practice law. He had to pay an $850,000 fine to one of the women. Paula Jones, who’s also here tonight.
And I will tell you that when Hillary brings up a point like that and she talks about words that I said 11 years ago, I think it’s disgraceful, and I think she should be ashamed of herself, if you want to know the truth.
In response, Clinton contended "what he's just said is not right," then mentioned Michelle Obama, the latest video starring Trump, the Khans, Judge Curiel and birtherism. There was no defense of herself or her husband.
A moment later, Trump accused Clinton of starting the birther movement, rigging the primary she ran against Bernie Sanders, and of being "the devil." He topped it off with promising "to get a special prosecutor, and we're going to look into" the e-mail matter- and then he said she "ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Thus accused of felonies, the former Senator and Secretary of State responded by stating "everything he just said is absolutely false, but I’m not surprised." When Grump alleged "If you did that (erase e-mails) in the private sector, you’d be put in jail, let alone after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress," Clinton eventually replied (between interruptions)
OK, Donald. I know you’re into big diversion tonight, anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you. But let’s at least focus… on some of the issues that people care about tonight. Let's get to their questions.
At another point, Clinton maintained "it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country," to which Trump responded "because you'd be in jail." Clinton let the matter be dropped.
Matthews labeled it, in the fashion of Muhammed Ali's famous approach to his fight with George Foreman, "rope-a-dope." The Democrat, according to polls, won the debate.
That was of a piece with Pence being declared, consistent with polls, of having "won" the first debate. And he did it as Clinton did with her debate. If Trump controlled Monday's debate- as he did, to some extent- Senator Kaine clearly controlled the debate against Mike Pence. Kaine consistently and stoutly, defended his running mate's record and policies and challenged Pence to defend his own running mate's business record, offensive statement, and odd policies.
Choosing not to do so, Pence sat back and was was passive and relatively polite. For Matthews and some others (including many survey respondents), that was statesmanlike. Kaine decisively won on points; Pence won on style. Kaine, the aggressor, was slammed for interrupting Pence too often, not unlike Trump being criticized for stalking his opponent on the debate stage.
The roles of Democrat and Republican were reversed in St. Louis. Demonstrating yet again that she is far more presidential than her opponent, Mrs. Clinton stayed above the fray, at one time even adding "I am reminded of what my friend, Michelle Obama, advised us all: 'When they go low, you go high.'" (She repeated the quote and attribution in Detroit Tuesday.)
When the Democratic nominee lamely claimed "Well, you've never seen anything like that before," she was largely reprising her passive, inoffensive role of the previous night. However- aside from the Trumpian lies- we had seen something quite like it before, and one can only hope Hillary Clinton is possessed of the self-awareness to realize it.