NCPA Reaction to Second Presidential Debate

Commentary by Jim Amos

The second presidential debate highlighted the cavernous differences between the two candidates. Certainly we heard more of the same with regard to personal attacks, but a more controlled Donald Trump rivaled Hillary Clinton on policy expectations, bringing the battle over moral superiority to a draw.

The email controversy once again met a generally unrepentant Secretary Clinton, reminding the audience that her actions were a symptom of a larger problem: political elites that take for granted the security of the United States. The theme continued with immigration when Secretary Clinton suggested her administration would effectively vet thousands of additional Syrian refugees. That surge is not sympathy - that’s untenable and dangerous. Secretary Clinton closed the loop on failed national security strategies by naming the Iran Deal and work with Russia as successes that prove her ability to address Syria. In truth, the situation in Syria may be unrecoverable because of her decisions while with the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, a plan to defeat global jihadism remained elusive and Mr. Trump’s objectives in Syria appeared scattered. But we did finally see some separation in strategy over the Middle East, wherein Secretary Clinton called for increased focus on Syria, particularly human rights investigations into Russian aggression, and Mr. Trump said the United States must focus on the military conquest of the Islamic State. Both ideas seem reasonable and easily digestible for voters. The highlight of the night, however, came when Mr. Trump essentially said America must know its enemy first and foremost in regards to terrorism. Secretary Clinton’s muddled and convoluted response proved his point and her own inability to name the (enemy).

The second presidential debate also gave short shift to health care. They made mention of Obamacare, but discussed issues that were less relevant to average Americans. The rising cost of health care affects all Americans, and it seems implausible that the issues that most Americans face are ignored in favor for problems few Americans worry about. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton made perfectly clear that she wanted to backstop the failing Affordable Care Act, though she gave no tangible tactics for accomplishing that goal. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump advocated a complete repeal of the ACA for a model that would be driven more by consumer pricing, yet the details of how such a system would be structured were non-existent.

In a remarkable moment of harmony, both candidates’ advocated for ditching carried interest as a part of their respective tax policy and engaged in cooperative and substantive conversation about the poverty rates in inner-cities, although neither outlined a plan to correct the decades-old problem. The moment was short-lived, however, as discussions on economics stalled. Both missed an extraordinary opportunity to tout, among other things, tax policies that would incentivize the growth of small businesses, especially within lower-income areas. 

Overall, the second debate added to the confusion of truth. Mr. Trump described a country, a world that seems to be falling apart. Secretary Clinton offered a differing view, one where improvement could be realized with some modifications and collaboration. Much like the first presidential debate, one candidate sees a system that needs serious change while the other candidate considers existing policies as something to adjust slightly and build on. America must decide with which reality they agree.


James H. Amos, Jr.
NCPA President & CEO