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Updated 4:16 PM  |  November 8, 2016
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‘He’s like that doctor with the horrible bedside manner . . . but he’s saving your life’

Chris Love, 50, describes himself, above all, as a constitutionalist who often re-reads the Federalist Papers. The Trump supporter, who voted at the Rick Case Honda dealership in South Florida, said he owns a firearms academy and is confident the country will get past the campaign’s contentious rhetoric, despite the fault lines exposed.

“It’s gotten to the point where we only see black, white, gay, straight, Jew, gentile. We need to move past this tribalism,” he said. “When I look around, I see citizens of a great nation. That’s what the framers saw. They were brilliant. But it seems the Democrats and Republicans have to hate each other. They’re no longer American, they’re Democrats or Republicans.”

What of his candidate’s rhetorical style? “He’s like that doctor with the horrible bedside manner,” Love said. “He tells you 90 percent of your arteries are clogged. You need to change your lifestyle or die. By being blunt, he’s saving your life.”

Trump says Mosul offensive timed for Clinton to “look good.”

Some new ground was broken in the debate by both candidates on how they see the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and what they would do about it.

First, what was not new: Clinton repeated her support for President Obama’s position on the current Iraqi offensive in Mosul — that is, to help Iraqi troops in what will be a tough fight on the ground, then move toward the Islamic State bastion in Raqqa, Syria.

Trump berated the administration for “stupidly” announcing the offensive was about to begin. And he again blamed Clinton and Obama for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq at the end of 2011, leaving a “vacuum” that allowed the Islamic State to grow.

Although the withdrawal deal was negotiated by George W. Bush, and the Iraqi government refused to allow U.S. forces to remain, Trump is not the first to accuse the Obama administration of not pressing Baghdad hard enough on the issue.

Trump also claimed that the Islamic State is “now in 32 countries,” a total many multiples of that listed by U.S. authorities. According to a Congressional Research Service report released this summer, organized groups in six countries have been accepted as Islamic State affiliates beyond Iraq and Syria: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Yemen. Groups in a handful of other countries have claimed affiliation but are not recognized, either by the Islamic State itself, or by U.S. intelligence, or both.

What was new: Trump linked the timing of the Mosul offensive, which began last weekend, to Clinton’s campaign. “The only reason they did it is because she’s running, they want to look tough, they want to look good,” he said, presumably of the pro-Clinton administration.

More likely, to the extent the United States influenced what was essentially an Iraqi decision, the Obama administration sees what would be a significant victory over the Islamic State as a legacy issue. It wants to be able to declare victory in clearing the militants from their only remaining and most important stronghold before President Obama leaves office.

Trump also declared Iran “the big winner” in a Mosul victory, although it’s unclear whether he meant that it would be better to leave the Islamic State in charge there.

While it is no secret that Iran has significant influence over the Shiite-led Iraqi government, planning for the retaking of the largely Sunni city of Mosul has left Iranian-backed Shiite militias largely out of the fight. Many would argue that a U.S.-assisted victory against the Islamic State throughout Iraq will increase, rather than decrease, U.S. influence there.

Clinton responded that she was “amazed that he seems to think that the Iraqi government and our allies launched the attack on Mosul to help me in the election.” That caused Trump to interject, “that’s because we don’t gain anything….Iran is taking over Iraq.”

On Syria, Trump repeated his claim of the last debate that the battle for Aleppo is over, despite the ongoing fight in that city. “What do you need, a signed document?” he asked.

Trump then appeared to acquiesce to the ongoing Syrian and Russian air bombardment of the city, or at least to give President Bashar al-Assad credit for being “tougher” than the Obama administration, which supports the Syrian opposition.

“A lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton” for “fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought” and “much smarter than her and Obama.”

Assad’s wisdom, Trump said, was that “he aligned with Russia, and is now also aligned with Iran.”

Assad’s alignment with Russia and Iran, of course, precedes the Syrian civil war by decades. Both have long been his primary patrons, and backed the previous Syrian dictator, Assad’s father, before him. Both are protecting their own interests in Syria.

For her part, Clinton put some flesh on the bones of her support for establishment of a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Syria. It “could save lives,” she said, and hasten the end of the war.

She said she was “well aware of legitimate concerns,” some of which were raised by moderator Chris Wallace. They include direct U.S. involvement in yet another Middle East conflict on the ground, and the possibility of a wider war with Russia — which has completed installation of a nationwide air-defense system over Syria.

Those problems, Clinton said, could be avoided by persuading Russia and Syria that such a safe zone, presumably protected by the air forces of the United States and its partners in Europe and the region, “is in the best interest of the people on the ground.”

“This would not be done just on the first day,” she said. “It would take a lot of negotiations, making clear to Russia and Syria” that the goal was to protect the millions of Syrian civilians who have been dislocated inside the country or have left Syria altogether.

It is a novel proposal, and one for which there is virtually no chance of success.

The very aircraft that civilians would be protected against would be Russian and Syrian — both countries have repeatedly said that such zones would not only be an actionable violation of Syrian sovereignty, but would be considered targetable havens for the opposition.

Warren Buffett fact-checked Donald Trump. Trump pretended it never happened.

In the final presidential debate, Donald Trump again said that Warren Buffett claimed a major deduction on a tax return, repeating a claim the Republican nominee made in the second debate in St. Louis.

This was despite the fact that Buffett responded publicly to Trump the first time, saying he had never claimed the kind of deduction to which Trump was apparently referring.

“I know Buffett took hundreds of millions of dollars,” Trump said Wednesday, in the context of a discussion on his use of losses from past years to reduce the income he declared in future years and the taxes he apparently owed on that income. Buffett said in a statement he had not used that maneuver.

In principle, experts on taxation say that there is nothing wrong when an entrepreneur or investor counts past losses against future income. Taxes are based on income, and there is widespread agreement that it makes sense to tax investors on their average income over a period of several years.

On the other hand, many experts have questioned whether Trump really lost all the money he claimed to have lost. In the past, taxpayers have sometimes been able to claim losses on paper that do not exist in reality. Generally speaking, such paper losses result when taxpayers take out loans, and then lose their banks’ money, not their own.

According to documents published by the New York Times, Trump declared a loss of $916 million in 1995 — a colossal amount of money. Because Trump has not released his tax returns, unlike previous presidential candidates, it is unclear whether this amount represented a real economic loss for him.

Putin once again plays prominent role in debate

As in previous presidential debates this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin played a prominent role.

When Hillary Clinton was questioned about statements attributed to her in hacked emails published by WikiLeaks, Clinton responded by decrying the interference of Russian hackers in the U.S. election. Trump, she said, is willing to “spout the Putin line” on foreign policy and is accepting “help” from Putin who is interfering in this U.S. election in a way that no foreign power has attempted before.

Trump waved away the notion that the Russians are behind the hack. “Our country has no idea” who is behind the release of material lifted from the accounts of Democratic party officials and Clinton advisers.

The Republican nominee said he does not know Putin personally but asserted that the Russian leader “has no respect” for Clinton or President Obama.

While they haven’t met personally, Trump and Putin have an odd history of exchanging compliments with one another. And Trump and his advisers have had personal and financial ties to Russia. On the policy side,  Trump has publicly raised doubts about  U.S. obligations to NATO countries that don’t pay their share of expenses and offered a defense of Putin’s human rights record.

At a press conference in July, Trump seemed to appeal to Russian intelligence for help finding emails that Hillary Clinton had erased after leaving the State Department.  “Russia, if you’re listening I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from the account Hillary Clinton used for official and personal business, he said.

Trump asserted that the U.S. could make progress in the fight against ISIS by cooperating with Russia.

Trump’s assertion that the U.S. government has no idea who is behind the hacks, runs counter to the consensus of the present and former leaders of the intelligence community, including the FBI. They have concluded with “high confidence” that Russian spy agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee, as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

During the first presidential candidate debate Trump ridiculed suggestions that Russia was behind the hacked emails that have continued to embarrass Hillary Clinton,  suggesting the effort “could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds, OK?”

Fact check: Trump on Obamacare premium increases

Premiums

THE FACT CHECKER| Premiums are expected to increase overall in 2017, but Trump is cherry-picking from the highest proposed increases in the insurance marketplace.

State-by-state weighted average increases range from just 1.3 percent in Rhode Island to as high as 71 percent in Oklahoma. But the most common plans in the marketplace will see an average increase of 9 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s July analysis. These plans have been used as the benchmark to calculate government subsidies.

The vast majority of marketplace enrollees (about eight in 10) receive government premium subsidies. They are protected from a premium increase (and may even see a decrease) if they stay with a low-cost plan. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “anecdotal examples of premium hikes or averages across insurers can provide a skewed picture of the increases marketplace enrollees will actually face.”

Real-time fact-checking and analysis of the final 2016 presidential debate

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will meet on stage in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. Eastern.

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