When Donald Trump finds himself with a debate question he doesn’t like, he deploys a simple strategy: Talk about ISIS.
Like a labyrinth with many entrances but only one exit, Trump managed to steer his answers back to a dubious theme he’s seized on, that ISIS is a creation of the Obama administration, when Hillary Clinton served as US secretary of state. The claim has been debunked—in part because the terrorist group’s roots date to 2004, before Obama’s election—but it hasn’t stopped Trump from returning to it again and again.
On the topic of economic plans, Trump responded to a jab from Clinton about taking money from his father by abruptly changing the subject:
“I started with a $1 million dollar loan. I agree with that—$1 million dollar loan. But I built a phenomenal company. And if we could run our country the way I’ve run my company, we would have a country that you will be so proud of. You would even be proud of it. And frankly, when you look at her real record, take a look at Syria. Take a look at the migration. Take a look at Libya. Take a look at Iraq. She gave us ISIS because her and Obama created this huge vacuum.”
(Thanks to NPR for the debate transcript)
After an attack by Clinton for his admiration of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump steered his answer to ISIS. (Cooperating with Russia on attacks on ISIS “would be good,” he said.)
And when the subject was his record of groping women, Trump expressed his wish to return to his preferred subject:
“The other things are false but honestly I’d love to talk about getting rid of ISIS and I’d love to talk about other things.”
Trump’s ISIS tactic isn’t new— he tried the same thing at the second debate, when he was asked about his comments on assaulting women—but it probably wasn’t any more effective tonight.