Less explored is the role of climate change in those 90 minutes.
No questions were asked on climate change. Climate change could have gone without notice, yet again. The widespread climate impacts we are already experiencing, the news rolling in that we have less time than we thought to end fossil fuel use, the benchmark 400ppm passed (likely with finality), the plummeting prices of renewables, the pipelines being blocked, the state struggles with nuclear and energy policy in general, the need for transmission and storage, for EVs, for clean energy… The world is grappling with climate change and, yet, not one single question.
That would be the end of the story. Except, it is not.
Within her first statement, just 3 minutes and 22 seconds after Lester Holt began this event, Hillary Clinton was raising clean energy. Once again, she was demonstrating that clean energy is central to her platform. Wise messaging consistent with the experts: focus on solutions, not doom. She has been consistent in that.
However, Hillary Clinton clearly had another specific goal last Monday that had little to do with climate policy. She was going to put Donald on the defensive. She was going to force him to become indignant, to get angry, to deny undeniable bad behavior. She did it all night.
But what did she think was the best way to start? What would be the best way to put Donald on the defensive? Tax returns? Rape charges? Among the very first attacks was this:
“CLINTON: …They've looked at my plans and they've said, OK, if we can do this, and I intend to get it done, we will have 10 million more new jobs, because we will be making investments where we can grow the economy. Take clean energy. Some country is going to be the clean- energy superpower of the 21st century. Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real.
TRUMP: I did not. I did not. I do not say that. [Yes, he does.]
CLINTON: I think science is real.
TRUMP: I do not say that.
CLINTON: And I think it's important that we grip this and deal with it, both at home and abroad. And here's what we can do. We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That's a lot of jobs; that's a lot of new economic activity.”
Hillary Clinton just recognized and signaled that climate change is a wedge issue. No matter how anyone may feel about her, we all recognize that Hillary Clinton is a skilled politician that responds to political will. And she, here, both recognized and signaled that climate denial is indefensible. It is so unacceptable that Donald Trump must deny his hand is in the cookie jar, though the crumbs are all over his face. Climate denial is so bad that it is safe to use as bait for pushing Donald to feel insecure. Donald wants to present as a winner. And here, it became clear, climate denial is for losers.
Even Donald recognized that.