Town hall debate in 140 characters (and more)

Story highlights

  • Commentators share their thoughts on the town hall presidential debate in real time.

(CNN)CNN Opinion is curating tweets and posting comments from our contributors on the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Commentary from Tim Naftali

    Trump's discussion of Syria demonstrates either profound ignorance of Russian aims in Syria or deception. It is rich to praise Putin for going after ISIS, when his goal is saving the despot who allows him a naval base on the Mediterranean. I remember when a GOP standard bearer could explain the Russian threat.
    Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian. He teaches history and public service at New York University and was the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

    Commentary from Roxanne Jones

    It's not enough that Hillary Clinton has been humiliated around the world by a husband who's wandering eye led to a sex scandal in the White House. No one with an ounce of respect for women would ever suggest that a woman is to blame when her partner cheats. Hillary was the victim. And now Trump wants to re-victimize her by suggesting that she wasn't nice enough to the "other women" in her husband's life? It is exactly this type of shaming and degradation of women that encourages the rape culture in America, where 1 and 5 women are victims of rape in the U.S., according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
    Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Commentary from Angela Rye

    Before the debate began, we all saw exactly where this debate would go: straight to the gutter. Donald Trump continued his "non-apology tour" by marching out four alleged victims of Bill Clinton. Just seeing the e-press conference made me physically ill. My heart immediately went out to another victim: Hillary Clinton. Just like his tape in 2005 and so many other egregious moments we've heard about throughout this election, Donald Trump was once again victimizing women. On the debate stage, Donald Trump came out swinging, and it wasn't a fair fight. I consistently ask how you engage in a fact free debate. What do you rate style or substance. I commend Hillary for her ability to answer policy questions with poise despite the mudslinging. Donald Trump's rise is a national embarrassment. America should be ashamed.
    Angela Rye is a CNN political commentator, NPR political analyst and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm in Washington.

    Commentary from Haroon Moghul

    In response to a question about the rise of Islamophobia, Donald Trump mentioned attacks in Paris and the rise of ISIS. Yet what does this woman at Washington University have to do with that? Just because she shares the same religion? Imagine if in response to a question about anti-Semitism, a candidate had pointed out settlement expansion on the West Bank. Because people share a religion, they share moral responsibility?
    Haroon Moghul is a senior fellow and director of development at the Center for Global Policy.

    Commentary from Julian Zelizer

    During the debates, Trump tends to speak through constant references, often with half-formed sentences. It's unclear how many viewers can follow the events and people that he is talking about, or the policy criticism he is pointing to on issues like ACA. It would seem that this style can undercut some of the potential impact of some of these attacks.
    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow.

    Commentary from Frida Ghitis

    Every four years Americans have a chance to hear their leaders debate the great issues facing the country. It's an important process for the education for the nation, for the forging America's identity. That is not happening this time. It's another huge loss for the country, wrought by Trump, the showman's, successful hijacking of this election season.
    Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent.

    Commentary from Timothy Stanley

    I'd guess Trump started the debate intending to deflect away from discussion of the "locker room" tape - re-focusing on economics. But when the moderators pushed and Hillary hit him on it, he finally lost his patience and decided to get personal. He called Bill Clinton an abuser of women and threatened to put Hillary in jail. That's thin skinned.
    But it's also utterly compelling. Trump has dragged Clinton down to his level, which may level out the election and let them move on to other issues.
    Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph.

    Commentary from Lanhee Chen

    The interchange on Obamacare was the first real opening for Donald Trump to demonstrate he's actually given some thought to the policy he would support if elected president. All he said was that he would replace Obamacare with the interstate purchase and sale of health plans and block-granting of funds to states in the Medicaid program. Unfortunately, these two ideas do not come anywhere close to comprising a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. It was an opportunity wasted for Trump.
    Lanhee J. Chen is a CNN Political Commentator and the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

    Commentary from Julian Zelizer

    Trump is starting to become more aggressive after the first few moments, but not so much on the Clinton sex scandals but on email-gate where he hopes to energize a nervous and shaken Republican base. He succeeded, for the moment, in shifting the conversation away from his Access Hollywood tapes.
    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow.

    Commentary for Julian Zelizer

    For now, Trump is trying to shift the discussion to ISIS and other issues rather than engaging in the debate about the tape. The question is how long that he can stick with that strategy as Clinton and the moderators, and maybe the audience, push deeper on this and other related issues.
    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow.

    Commentary from Tim Naftali

    We just saw a startling political moment. The candidates did not shake hands. Even during the toughest periods of the Cold War, US and Soviet leaders shook hands. That is how low this election has sunk.
    Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian. He teaches history and public service at New York University and was the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

    Commentary from Julian Zelizer

    The worlds of presidential politics and reality show television seem to have fully merged with this town hall debate.
    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow.

    Commentary from Ruth Ben-Ghiat

    Expect fireworks tonight, at least from one side. Donald Trump loves a good fight, as the high number of lawsuits in his life attest. Pressuring him to step aside will only make him more pugnacious. After all, he won the nomination being the sexist and racist individual he's always been. It's the GOP that's changed, deciding all of a sudden he's "indefensible." He'll charge hard at Hillary Clinton, who one imagines has prepared for every eventuality. She'll have to channel the calm she showed in her eleven-hour Benghazi hearing.
    Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University.

    Commentary from Frida Ghitis

    The stakes could not be higher. It's a deadly serious matter. But the sense of anticipation is more reminiscent of the giddy tension in the crowds pouring into the bleachers of a bullfighting ring, wondering how the contenders in the arena go after each other: The crowds expect to see red capes, the adversaries taunting each other, trying to inflict a mortal wound, and, in the end, perhaps a sword, a final estocada, that brings the whole ghastly spectacle -- this entire election cycle - to a conclusive end.
    Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent

    Commentary from Tim Naftali

    In light of Trump's pre-debate stunt, we should worry that the most important questions tonight -- who is the most fit to lead this nation and whose programs will respond to the needs of most Americans -- may be lost in a sea of noise about the sexual history of two old men, one who is on the ballot and one who isn't. I hope that the audience in the Town Hall pulls the narrative back to big national issues and real solutions.
    Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian. He teaches history and public service at New York University and was the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

    Commentary from Roxanne Jones

    Back in the 1990s, taxpayers spent over $39 million to fund Ken Starr's probe of Bill & Hillary Clinton. Televised impeachment hearings, Whitewater investigation, Monica Lewinsky scandal -- we learned all the lurid details. In the end, Bill remained in the White House, Hillary went on to political success, serving as a much-liked New York Senator for eight years, Secretary of State and now the first woman nominated to run for US President. Someone tell Donald Trump it's 2016, not 1999. I get it, you have the right to dislike Hillary and Bill. But you don't have the right to distract voters with irrelevant issues. Focus on the future. How do you plan to move our nation forward? It's certainly not by looking backward.
    Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Commentary from Julian Zelizer

    A few days ago, the main question about this debate was whether Donald Trump could do better than his first performance and stop the slide in the polls. Now the question of the debate is can he save this candidacy and prevent the GOP from facing a total electoral meltdown. There is a palpable feeling for many Republicans that tonight's debate can have a huge impact, not only on November, but on the long-term future of their party.
    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow.