One of the more extraordinary aspects of last night’s debate was the way the “moderators” — particularly Martha Raddatz — jumped in to debate Donald Trump. Nowhere was Raddatz’s aggressive and partisan stance more evident than in the discussion of the crisis in Aleppo. Raddatz asked the candidates what their response would be to the humanitarian crisis. Trump used the opportunity to make some political points against Hillary. Raddatz interrupted and sarcastically said: “Mr. Trump, let me repeat the question.” She then noted that Mike Pence’s view is to potentially use military force against Assad. Trump said he disagreed with Pence:
RADDATZ: Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, your two minutes is up.
TRUMP: And one thing I have to say.
RADDATZ: Your two minutes is up.
TRUMP: I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.
RADDATZ: Mr. Trump, let me repeat the question. If you were president…
… what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? And I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.
TRUMP: OK. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.
RADDATZ: You disagree with your running mate?
At this point, Raddatz started to get very aggressive. Trump focused on ISIS, and Raddatz asked what would happen if Aleppo falls, repeating the question in a louder voice when Trump started to answer:
TRUMP: I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who she made strong and Kerry and Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.
I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved. She had a chance to do something with Syria. They had a chance. And that was the line. And she didn’t.
RADDATZ: What do you think will happen if Aleppo falls?
TRUMP: I think Aleppo is a disaster, humanitarian-wise. It is a human–
RADDATZ: What do you think will happen if it falls?
The most notable thing happened next. Trump criticized the way that the U.S. Government often telegraphs its military moves ahead of time — and Raddatz decided to play Trump’s opponent, arguing with him about reasons the military might do that, and concluding by virtually shrieking: TELL ME WHAT YOUR STRATEGY IS!!
TRUMP: I think that it basically has fallen. OK? It basically has fallen. Let me tell you something. You take a look at Mosul. The biggest problem I have with the stupidity of our foreign policy, we have Mosul. They think a lot of the ISIS leaders are in Mosul. So we have announcements coming out of Washington and coming out of Iraq, “we will be attacking Mosul in three weeks or four weeks.”
Well, all of these bad leaders from ISIS are leaving Mosul. Why can’t they do it quietly? Why can’t they do the attack, make it a sneak attack, and after the attack is made, inform the American public that we’ve knocked out the leaders, we’ve had a tremendous success? People leave. Why do they have to say “we’re going to be attacking Mosul within the next four to six weeks,” which is what they’re saying? How stupid is our country?
RADDATZ: There are sometimes reasons the military does that. Psychological warfare.
TRUMP: I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any. And I’m pretty good at it.
RADDATZ [raising her voice]: It might be to help get civilians out.
TRUMP: And we have General Flynn. And we have — look, I have 200 generals and admirals who endorsed me. I have 21 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who endorsed me. We talk about it all the time. They understand, why can’t they do something secretively, where they go in and they knock out the leadership? How — why would these people stay there? I’ve been reading now…
RADDATZ: Tell me what your strategy is!
You can watch the entire remarkable exchange below.
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