Putting policy in context at the final presidential debate

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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016.   REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool - RTX2PM8V

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Unlike the first two debates, last night, we heard a lot more about policy from both candidates.

Here to help break them down is our own Lisa Desjardins.

One of the first exchanges that was substantive was about Supreme Court nominee decisions that these — one of these two presidents, in whoever wins, would have and what kind of impact that person would have in the courts and on cases like Roe v. Wade.

Here’s a clip.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: Based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How many late-term abortions are there? Because it usually gets distilled down into these worse-case scenarios.

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is really a good — the best resource we have for these kinds of statistics. But we only know after 21 weeks. Here’s what they say.

In the U.S., roughly 1.3 percent of all abortions happen after 21 weeks. That’s considered late term, but it’s still the middle of the second trimester. That translates into about 6,100 abortions. That was in 2012. That is out of almost 700,000. So it’s a small percentage.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What is Hillary Clinton’s position on this?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

She says that she would favor restrictions in the third trimester on abortion, but only if the life of the mother or health of the mother was considered. That’s specifically her policy. It has been consistent.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And then what about that larger context that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was asked about what happens If justices get appointed that overturn Roe v. Wade? What happens next?

LISA DESJARDINS: This is where it gets really fascinating.

It is thought by most legal scholars that it would return to the states, that state law would take over abortion. And we know right now there are states that have laws on the books saying if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, they would make abortion unlawful. Other states would increase restrictions.

But there’s a real question over whether the next president will have enough seats on the court to in fact overturn Roe vs. Wade.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And there was also another exchange about nuclear arms and kind of the race with Russia. Let’s take a listen.

DONALD TRUMP: We have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads — 1,800, by the way — where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.

We are so outplayed on missiles, on cease-fires. They are outplayed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, I think both sides would agree that there’s not going to be a winner in a nuclear war around the world. But why does this numbers games matter?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right, 1,800, he’s saying.

And he’s talking about strategic deployed nuclear weapons by Russia. And let’s look real quick at where we are, just as some background. Right now, in 2016, Russia has about 1,735 deployed nuclear strategic nuclear weapons. Those are basically ready-to-launch weapons.

The U.S., 1,481 — that’s from the Arms Control Association. And here’s the thing, Hari, is that those numbers are misleading, because both countries are under a treaty. By 2018, both countries have to have less than 1,550. Both Russia and the U.S. right now are decreasing their nuclear arsenals. These matter for strategic and political reasons both.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And so aren’t all nukes the same? And what’s the decrease — what’s the cause in the decrease besides the treaty?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

Not all nukes are the same. But we talked to one expert who counts the nukes and knows the different types of nukes, and says, overall, you step away from all of the details, what matters here is the difference in numbers between the U.S. and Russia really doesn’t matter in terms of the amount of number of nuclear weapons. The size of these arsenals are so huge, they can do tremendous damage. Difference of a few hundred nukes is not great.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s also a clip here I want to play. Chris Wallace brought up a revelation from WikiLeaks which tried to highlight the discrepancy between Hillary Rodham Clinton’s public positions on immigration and an excerpt from a speech that she gave. Let’s take a listen.

CHRIS WALLACE, Moderator: Is that your dream, open borders?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy.

You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined.

LISA DESJARDINS: And, you know, this is a sentence that was just one — a couple of sentences. We don’t have the full speech. That’s the problem here.

We don’t know what Hillary Clinton was saying before she talked about open borders. Was she talking about immigration or was she talking about energy, as she claimed? We can look at a few other excerpts we have here and there from that speech, Hari.

She did talk about energy a lot in that speech. She also talked about trade. We don’t know that she talked about immigration. But this is a problem, because Hillary Clinton has not released the full transcript of that speech. We don’t know for sure what she was talking about when she said open borders.

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