As the US presidential campaign of 2016 draws closer to an end, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off at their third and final debate, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.
The two previous debates, the first of which was moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt and the latter a town hall moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, covered a handful of policy topics. But most of the questions on those evenings revolved around issues of personal conduct, whether about Trump’s taxes or sexist remarks, or about Clinton’s emails and Wall Street speeches.
Wallace had the task of making the most of his 90 minutes, getting the candidates to answer as many key policy questions as possible.
Here are the questions directed at Trump and Clinton, in chronological order. Questions in red were addressed to Trump; questions in blue were addressed to Clinton. Questions in black were directed at both candidates.
Supreme Court and the Second Amendment
First of all, where do you want to see the [US Supreme] Court take the country, and secondly, what’s your view on how the constitution should be interpreted: Do the founders’ words mean what they say, or is it a living document to apply responsibly according to circumstances?
Secretary Clinton, you said last year, “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.” And now in fact, in the 2008 Heller case, the court ruled that there is a constitutional right to bear arms but a right that is reasonably limited. Those were the words of the judge Antonin Scalia who wrote the decision. What’s wrong with that?
How will you ensure the Second Amendment is protected? You just heard Secretary Clinton’s answer. Does she persuade you, that in fact she supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms?
Mr. Trump, you are pro-life. I would ask you specifically, do you want the court, including the justices that you will name, to overturn Roe v. Wade which includes, in fact states, a woman’s right to abortion.
Secretary Clinton, I want to explore how far you believe the right to abortion goes. You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights, and you also voted against a ban over late-term, partial-birth abortion. Why?
Mr. Trump, your reaction and particularly on this issue of late-term, partial-birth abortion?
The issue that separates the two of you more than the issue of immigration. Mr. Trump, you want to build a wall. Secretary Clinton, you have offered no specific plan for how you are going to secure our southern border. Mr. Trump, you are calling for major deportations. Secretary Clinton, you said that within your first days as president you will draw a package that will include a pathway to citizenship. The question really is why are you right and your opponent wrong?
In a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank for which you were paid $225,000, we learnt from the Wikileaks, you said this—I want to quote—”My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” That’s the question, is that your dream?
The top national security officials of this country do believe that Russia has been behind these hacks, even if we don’t know for sure whether they are. Do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American elections?
You also have very different ideas about how to get the economy growing faster. Secretary Clinton, in your plan, government plays a big role, you see more entitlements, more tax credits, more penalties. Mr. Trump, you want to get the government out, lower taxes, and lax regulations. An overview, please explain to me how you will create more jobs and growth for this country and your opponent’s plan will not.
You told me in July [when] we spoke, the problem is that president Obama didn’t get to do enough in what he was trying to do with the stimulus. Is your plan basically to give more of the Obama stimulus?
Mr. Trump, even conservative economists who have looked at your plan say the numbers don’t add up. You’ve talked about 25 million jobs created, 4% growth is unrealistic, and you’ve talked a lot about growing the energy industry. They say with these oil prices, that’s unrealistic as well. Your response.
Fitness to be president
Mr. Trump, in the last debate you said your talk about grabbing women was just that, talk, and that you’d actually never done it. In the past week, we all know that nine women have come forward and have said that you’ve either groped or kissed them without their consent. Why would so many different women from so many different circles over so many different years, why would they all, in these past couple of weeks make up—you would deny this—why would they make up these stories? This is a question for both of you. Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump says what your husband did and you defended was even worse.
Secretary Clinton, during a 2009 Senate confirmation hearing you promised to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with your dealing with the Clinton Foundation when you were secretary of state. But emails show that donors had special access to you, and those seeking grants for Haiti relief were considered separately from non-donors, and some of those donors got contract government contracts—taxpayers’ money—can you really say that you kept your pledge to the Senate committee, and why isn’t what happened and what went on between you and the Clinton Foundation, why isn’t that what Trump calls “pay to play”?
Mr. Trump, I want to ask you one more question on this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you. Your running mate, governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, “will absolutely accept the result of this election.” And today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on this stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment, that you will absolutely accept the result of the selection?
[Repeated]But sir, there is a tradition in this country, in fact one of the prides of this country, is the peaceful transition of power. No matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner—not saying that you are necessarily going to be the you loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner, and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying that you are not prepared now to commit to that principle?
ISIS, Syria, Iraq
The Iraqi offense to take back Mosul has begun. Let’s say it’s successful in pushing ISIS out all of Iraq, the question of what happens the day after—and that’s something that whoever of you ends up becoming president will have to confront: Will you put US troops into that vacuum to make sure that ISIS does not come back or isn’t replaced by something even worse?
In the last debate, you were both asked about the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo, and I want to come back to that because you said several things in that debate that were not true. You said Aleppo had basically fallen; in fact there are a quarter of a million people there being slaughtered. And you also said that Syria and Russia are busy fighting ISIS; in fact they have been the ones who have been bombing and shelling eastern Aleppo, and they just announced a humanitarian pause, in effect admitting that they had been bombing and shelling Aleppo. Would you like to clear that up?
Secretary Clinton, you said in the last debate, and again today, that you would impose a no-fly zone over Aleppo to stop the killing there. President Obama refuses to do that because he fears it’s going to draw us closer and deep into the conflict, and general Joseph Dunford says if you’re going to impose a no-fly zone, chances are you are going to get into a war—his words—with Syria and Russia. So the question I have is first off, respond to their concern. Secondly, if you impose a no-fly zone and a Russian plane violates that, does president Clinton shoot that plane down?
National debt, Social Security, Medicare
Mr. Trump, secretary Clinton, we need to move on to our final segment, and that is the national debt, which has not been discussed until tonight. Our national debt, as a share of the country’s GDP, is now 77%. That is the highest since just after World War II. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says, secretary Clinton, under your plan, debt would rise to 86% of GDP over the next 10 years. Mr. Trump, under your plan they say it would rise to 105% percent of GDP over the next 10 years. The question is: Why are both of you ignoring this problem?
The last area I want to get in with you on this debate is the fact that the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements, which is 60% of all federal spending. Now, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has looked at both of your plans, and they say neither of you has a serious plan that is going to solve the fact that Medicare is going to run out of money in the 2020s, and Social Security is going to run out of money in the 2030s, and at that time, recipients are going to take huge cuts on their benefits. So, the final question I want to ask in this regard is: Will president Trump make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that included both tax increases and benefit cuts, in effect a grand bargain on entitlement?
And secretary Clinton, same question: Because, at this point, Social Security and Medicare are going to run out, the trust funds are going to run out of money, will you as president entertain, will you consider a grand bargain, a deal that includes both tax increases and benefit cuts to try and solve those problems?
You had not agreed to closing statements, but it seems to be in a funny way to make it more interesting because you haven’t prepared closing statements. So I’d like you each to take—we’re going to put a clock up—a minute as a final question, in the final debate, to tell the American people why they should elect you to be the next president.