Viewed from abroad, and particularly in Europe, sentiment following Sunday night’s second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is that the American political system has never been in such a dire state.
Left-leaning UK newspaper The Guardian used the headline “‘I’m a gentleman’: Trump menaces Clinton with imposing presence and brash insults.” Correspondent David Smith wrote from Washington: “Sunday night’s presidential debate was unlike anything seen in the 240-year-old American republic — and not in a good way. It was the first in which parents who might have wanted to give their children a civics lesson instead probably felt obliged to pack them off to bed before this 9pm watershed. One can only hope that someone had the presence of mind to put a blindfold and ear plugs on the statue of Abraham Lincoln, sitting on a the national mall.”
He called Trump’s performance a “grotesque spectacle,” saying he looked like he was “scrambling around in the sewer, flailing, hurling dirt, trying to drag national politics down with him.”
The more right-leaning UK paper The Telegraph gave the win to Trump and said that although he was a “crazy candidate” Clinton was a “poor one.” Writer Tim Stanley wrote: “Donald Trump won the second presidential debate, but only according to the terrible standards of this election. Bearing in mind that his candidacy was believed to be over, his own party was rejecting him, and he was widely predicted to go nuts on air – he actually did okay. The Donald came out fighting. He weathered the attacks on his character. He ran rings around Clinton several times. The bar was low – way, way low – but Trump still slithered over it.”
The hashtag #presidentialdebate was trending in the UK, as were Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Piers Morgan, who repeatedly counts himself as a “friend” of Trump’s unsurprisingly took to Twitter to throw his weight around on the issue, saying that Trump won the debate “comfortably.”
German paper Der Spiegel ran with the headline “Trump’s Psychowar,” calling out both candidates for repeatedly interrupting each other. “Again and again they interrupt, correct and insult each other, do not conceal their contempt for the adversary, apply all the arts of political body language,” it said. ” A low point of the election campaign.”
With France concerned over its own presidential election looming next year, the post-debate coverage was widespread, but shared front pages with stories about the battle between local hopefuls Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé.
Noting that Trump’s favorite words are “disaster” and “catastrophe,” Le Figaro commented: “Far from a constructive discussion on the challenges facing the United States, the evening was a rat race where the shots were flying low. It is doubtful that rallied many new voters to either candidate.”
Calling Trump “more isolated than ever” following the debate, left-leaning Liberation wrote, “In a year and a half of the campaign, the hatred between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has never been so evident.” An analysis piece in Corriere Della Sera headlined: “Clinton misses the knockout blow, but Trump can’t celebrate.” It added: “The only success of The Donald was that he didn’t end up on the mat.”
“With the tycoon still in the race, although seriously maimed, leaders may be forced to remain still at the window,” it said. “Also because the few available alternatives are dire enough for conservatives. Trump has buffered the wounds but remains weak.”
Italian paper La Repubblica agreed with what so many are saying from abroad: “First conclusion: American democracy is sick… The mutual delegitimization [of the candidates] is total. It’s hard to find in the recent past a similar level of animosity, contempt, insult.”
The paper added: “Second conclusion. Donald Trump has fared a little better than the first debate, which for him had been a disaster.”
Meanwhile in China, English-language website The People’s Daily did not lead with news of the debate. The headline read soberly: “Trump, Clinton participate in 2nd U.S presidential debate” over a photo gallery. Xinhua ran the same gallery, along with a straight, short recap.
Shanghai Daily ran an AFP story headlined: “Trump defiant over assault boasts, targets Bill Clinton”
China Daily, which did not lead with the story, nevertheless cited its post, “US second presidential debate begins” as the most popular today with the acquisition of a stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures was given more prominence.
Al Jazeera Correspondent Alan Fisher wrote of Trump, “He was more on message, not as riled and upset as in the first debate. He was really just appealing to his base. But if he is to win this election, he has to broaden his base.”