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The guest lists for the debates are turning into psychological warfare

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)
Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

The guests whom presidential nominees invite to their debates are often chosen for their symbolic value to the campaign. But in the this election year, in which the rules of decorum have fallen by the wayside, the guest list has also become about outright psychological warfare.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are yet again extending invitations to guests designed to rattle each other.

Trump will bring Patricia Smith, whose son Sean was killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to Wednesday's final debate. Smith lays blame for her son’s death on Clinton, and she accuses the former secretary of State of lying to her about what happened in the Libyan city in the aftermath of the attacks.

Clinton has vehemently denied ever giving Smith false information, and her campaign notes that the accusations Smith makes about Clinton’s handling of Benghazi conflict with the findings of several government investigations.

Clinton has invited as her guests a pair of billionaires.

One is Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee in California. Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. Her presence campaigning and raising money for Clinton reflects the deep uneasiness so many moderate and Republican woman have about Trump.

The other billionaire attending as Clinton’s guest will be Mark Cuban, a Trump antagonist whose presence at the first presidential debate touched off the war of the guests this year.

Trump threatened that if Cuban came to the event, he would bring the women who accused Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances.

By the second debate, Trump made good on his promise, though his campaign's plan to have the women confront Bill Clinton just before the event started was thwarted by the debate commission.

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