By now you may have noticed that Donald Trump exists in his very own reality — a pleasing world where the Mexicans will pay us to build a border wall, where industrial nations will capitulate instantly to his trade demands, and where global climate change is merely a myth “created by and for the Chinese.” Lunatic as The Donald’s confident assertions often may be, not all of them are as easily debunked as certain remarks he made at today’s press conference in New York to introduce his new book.
Discussing the presidential debates, Trump complained more than once about the free ride that Hillary Clinton supposedly enjoyed at the last Democratic debate, which was televised by CNN and moderated by Anderson Cooper. According to the real estate mogul, the questioning by Cooper and his colleagues “was very unfair because Hillary Clinton was given all softballs. They didn’t ask her one tough question! They didn’t talk about the foundation, they didn’t talk about the emails….She only got softballs, that’s all she got…Hillary had only softballs, all night long. ‘Here, Hillary, hit this one over the park.’”
That struck me as a pandering and distorted account of the debate — so I checked.
It is true that Cooper didn’t inquire about the Clinton Foundation, but the questions he did ask (reproduced below without Clinton’s answers, which can be found in the full transcript here) indicate just how far Trump is willing to stretch facts to fit his preconceptions. Not only did Cooper pose several tough questions to her, from the very beginning of the debate, but he seized every chance to pillory Hillary in framing questions he put to the other candidates. (And he did ask her — and the others — about the damned emails.)
Unlike the Republicans, she spared us the post-debate whining.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?
COOPER [following up]: Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you’d, quote, “take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values.” Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, “being kind of moderate and center.” Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Russia, they’re challenging the U.S. in Syria. According to U.S. intelligence, they’ve lied about who they’re bombing. You spearheaded the reset with Russia. Did you underestimate the Russians, and as president, what would your response to Vladimir Putin be right now in Syria?
COOPER [to Martin O’Malley]: Secretary Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq, supported more troops in Afghanistan. As Secretary of State, she wanted to arm Syrian rebels and push for the bombing of Libya. Is she too quick to use military force?
COOPER [following up insistently]: Does she — does she want to use military force too rapidly?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, on the campaign trail, Governor [sic] Webb has said that he would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable. Should you have seen that attack coming?
COOPER [following up]: But American citizens did lose their lives in Benghazi.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you are going to be testifying before Congress next week about your e-mails. For the last eight months, you haven’t been able to put this issue behind you. You dismissed it; you joked about it; you called it a mistake. What does that say about your ability to handle far more challenging crises as president?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Secretary Clinton, with all due respect, it’s a little hard — I mean, isn’t it a little bit hard to call this just a partisan issue? There’s an FBI investigation, and President Obama himself just two days ago said this is a legitimate issue.
COOPER [after Bernie Sanders dismissed the email controversy]: It’s obviously very popular in this crowd, and it’s — hold on.
(APPLAUSE) I know that plays well in this room. But I got to be honest, Governor Chafee, for the record, on the campaign trail, you’ve said a different thing [challenging Clinton’s ethics]. You said this is a huge issue. Standing here in front of Secretary Clinton, are you willing to say that to her face?
COOPER: Governor O’Malley, you expressed concern on the campaign trail that the Democratic Party is, and I quote, “being defined by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.”You heard her answer, do you still feel that way tonight?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you address this [income inequality] issue? In all candor, you and your husband are part of the one percent. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley says the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two royal families. This year has been the year of the outsider in politics, just ask Bernie Sanders. Why should Democrats embrace an insider like yourself?
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a copy of his new book “Crippled America” at news conference to promote the book in the Manhattan borough of New York City, November 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid