Trump stuns by refusing to say he’ll accept election result, branding Clinton a ‘nasty woman’: SCMP’s debate commentary

I’ll look at it at the time, says Trump when asked what he’ll do if he loses, after blaming ‘sleazy’ Clinton campaign for groping allegations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 8:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 3:06pm

Buckle up for a look at how the third and final US presidential debate unfolded, with the South China Morning Post’s live coverage.

Republican candidate Donald Trump, languishing in the polls, had little to lose, so it promised to be an interesting encounter. He didn’t disappoint, refusing to say he would accept the results of the election: “I’ll look at it at the time”. It was a stunning moment.

He also branded Democrat rival Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman”.

The moderator was Chris Wallace of Fox News. Join the conversation via @SCMP_News .

10.37am: It’s over. No handshake. Clinton smiling. Trump stone-faced.

10.34am: Surprise! Wallace calls for a one-minute closing statement from each candidate. “I’ll stand up for families against powerful interests...I hope you will give me a chance to serve you,” Clinton says, ending brightly.

Dark pitch from Trump, painting a picture of disastrous inner cities, illegal immigration and a weakened US. “Four more years of Barack Obama” is what Clinton means, Trump says.

10.30am: Last subject. Wallace says neither candidate seems to have a way of funding entitlements. Will they strike a “grand bargain” to protect social security and Medicare? Will they back tax increases and benefit cuts to protect these programmes? Trump says “Obamacare has to go”.

Clinton won’t be pinned down, but says she’s confident of getting entitlement spending down with smarter decisions.

“Such a nasty woman,” says Trump, dripping bile, when Clinton again seemed to get under Trump’s skin just before the comment.

10.25am: Final subject, national debt, which Wallace says sits at 77 per cent of GDP. Both candidates’ plans would worsen that, Clinton’s by a little, Trump’s by a lot. Why are both of you ignoring this problem, says Wallace, who has been pretty even handed all night. Trump says he’s going to create “a tremendous economic machine...they’ll make a lot of money.”

Clinton says Trump has been nothing more than a lifelong critic, and he said the same things about Reagan economics that he now says about Obama. “We’ve got to get back to investing in the middle class,” says Clinton.

10.22am: Wallace schools Trump on Middle East alliances and the role of Russian and Syrian forces in the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Trump umms and aaahs, while Clinton sucks in her cheeks and raises her eyebrows in a GIF-worthy moment.

Fired up now, Trump says Syrian refugees “definitely in many cases, [are] Isis aligned”. He calls them “the great Trojan horse” of Islamic terrorism.

“I am not going to slam the door on women and children,” says Clinton.

10.20am: Clinton quotes Bernie Sanders as saying that Trump is “the most dangerous candidate” in modern history to run for the presidency. “I think he’s right”

10.15am: On foreign policy, Clinton repeatedly points out Trump’s past support for the Iraq war. “Wrong. Wrong,” says Trump. The low honk of Trump’s “wrong” interjections has been a frequent feature of the evening.

10.07am: Wallace asks a big one. Will Trump accept the results of the election? “I’ll look at it at the time”. Gasps from the audience. It was a complete reversal of what he pledged in the first debate when he said: “I want to make America great again [but] if she wins I will absolutely support her.”

Wallace pontificates on the US tradition of the “peaceful transition of power”. “I’ll tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense,” says Trump. “Horrifying,” tuts Clinton. “That is not the way our democracy works.”

Clinton says Trump’s whining shows “he is not up to the job” and says she is “appalled”.

This exchange has been a pretty stunning moment.

10.02am: Is Clinton guilty of “pay to play” with the Clinton Foundation? She says she’s very proud of the foundation's work. “It’s a criminal enterprise,” says Trump, blasting Clinton for taking money from people in the Middle East “who throw gays off buildings”. Is he conflating the Saudis with Islamic State? Clinton hits back at Trump’s own charity for buying a “six-foot portrait” of Trump. “Who does that?”

Wallace asks Trump about his charity’s money being used to pay off his own lawsuits. Trump is a bit flustered here, and Clinton swings, inevitably, to the absence from the public record of Trump’s tax returns. “We have undocumented immigrants paying more taxes than a billionaire,” says Clinton of her opponent.

10am: “It’s not one thing, it’s a pattern,” says Clinton of Trump’s “dark vision” for America.

9.52am: Here’s the moment everyone’s waiting for. Wallace asks Trump why so many women would make up stories about him groping them? “Those stories have been largely debunked,” says Trump. Largely? OK, correction, “those stories are totally false”. “These women either want fame, or their campaign did it,” says Trump.

Clinton has clearly spent time think on this. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger....we now know who Donald is.”

Trump: “Nobody has more respect from women than I do.” Murmurs in the crowd, shushed by Wallace. Trump now blames Clinton’s “very sleazy campaign” for the groping allegations. “Possibly. Probably.”

Trump’s fans in China are sticking with him despite lewd remarks

9.50am: Clinton launches into a long attack on Trump, listing her achievements over the past 30 years against a timeline of Trump’s last 30 years. Trump: “She gave us Isis, as sure as you are sitting there.”

9.45am: Clinton lauds the economic achievements of her husband and Barack Obama. Wallace tells Trump that “even conservative economists” say his plan “doesn’t add up”, and asks him to respond. Trump avoids the question and says China (second mention) is growing its economy “at 7 per cent, and for them, that’s a catastrophically low number”.

Clinton says she fought against Chinese steel dumping and blasts Trump for using Chinese steel in his hotels: “He has given jobs to Chinese steel workers, not Americans”. Trump says he “wouldn’t mind” if the government forced him to use non-Chinese steel.

This is Trump country: crushed by China, Ohio’s struggling workers embrace billionaire candidate

9.38am: The economy. Asked how she’ll create jobs, Clinton launches into what sounds like a stump speech. “We're going to go to where the money is,” she says, and that the rich will pay more under her plans, characterising Trump’s plans as “tax breaks for the wealthy” and “trickle down economics of steroids”.

“Her plan...is going to double your taxes,” says Trump.

But then he swings back to foreign policy. He’s back on Japan and Saudi Arabia and takes credit for getting Nato nations to “pay up”.

Segues back now to the Nafta treaty (“horrible”... “a disaster”), and says he’ll cut taxes “massively”.

9.33am: “If the United States got along with Russia, wouldn’t be so bad,” says Trump, saying Clinton has been “outsmarted and outplayed” by the Russians. “Our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan...” says Trump, saying Clinton is a “proven liar”.

9.28am: Wallace cites a Wikileaks-published Clinton speech in which she praised the idea of a “hemispheric” common market; Clinton responds with a rocket against the Russian hackers she blames for the leaks and Wikileaks, and calls on Trump to repudiate Russian espionage.

“That was a great pivot,” says Trump, getting the first audience chuckles of the night.

Putin “has a very clear favourite in this race”, says Clinton, who seems to have succeeded in changing the conversation from immigration. “She has no idea if it’s Russia, China, or whoever,” says Trump. First China mention of the night.

Familiarity and contempt: Hillary Clinton’s 21-year relationship with China

9.20am: Immigration, a hot-button subject for Trump, who says his guests tonight include women whose children were murdered by illegal immigrants. “We have to have strong borders. We have to keep drugs out of the country,” says Trump, before showing off his Spanish: “We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.”

Clinton says she rejects the idea of the deportation force Trump has proposed, and that rounding up every undocumented immigrant in the US “is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are ...that would rip our country apart.”

Wallace, no-nonsense, cuts Trump off even as he wags his finger. Clinton meanwhile slams Trump for using undocumented workers to build Trump Tower.

9.15am: Does Trump want Roe-vs-Wade overturned? Trump says his pro-life judge picks would do that “automatically”. “He wants to punish women who have abortions,” says Clinton, winding up to her subject. Trump says Clinton supports being able to “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb” in the ninth month of a pregnancy; Clinton shaking her head.

9.10am: In open discussion, Clinton says she too supports the Second Amendment, but wants comprehensive background checks and the so-called gun-show loophole for gun buyers. Trump says he’s proud to have the endorsement of the NRA. “We are going to appoint justices who feel very strongly about the Second Amendment.”

9.05am: The combatants have taken the arena. Clinton in a beige mandarin-collared pantsuit and Trump in dark suit and red tie, serious and (so far!) subdued with an American flag lapel pin. First question from Wallace is about the Supreme Court and its role. Clinton says she’ll be defending the abortion-rights ruling of Roe-vs-Wade. Trump says the “Supreme Court is what it’s all about”, and says he wants a court that defends the Second Amendment right to bear arms which he says is “under siege”.