Touted as the most anticipated Presidential debate of this election campaign, it took place on Monday, 28 September 2016, at Hofstra University, on Long Island. Presidential hopefuls, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, went head to head, no holds barred. They debated, in an unusual way, issues of foreign policy, the economy and race.
Some journalists and political commentators are saying the “debate” is a rather strong word for what went on between Clinton and Trump. One came across as prepared, with valid responses and solutions in place, whereas the other simply shouted and used tactics that came close to bullying.
The first debate, of the 2016 election cycle, broke viewership records with an estimated 84 million people tuning in to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump come face to face for the first time since becoming presidential hopefuls. They wasted no time. Clinton accused Trump of tax avoidance, sexism and racism. Trump accused Clinton of being a career politician; he wanted her to account for her time in government. Throughout the debate, fact checkers and trained spotters had their hands full, as both candidates stretched the truth, one somewhat more than did the other.
Audiences around the world watched as the two candidates took turns at one another. At one point, Trump said Clinton was a “typical” politician and that the former senator and secretary of state had ignored everything she has promised to tackle, head on, as president. She has the experience according to Trump, but in his opinion, it is a bad experience.
Trump also stated that the chaos in the Middle East was largely due to Hillary Clinton, going so far as to say that the situation is a total mess. At times, the debate seemed juvenile, with Trump saying he would not make his plans to fight ISIS public because, unlike Clinton, he would rather not tell the enemy how he planned to defeat them. Clinton replied she at least had a plan.
Raising its head once again, in a heated exchange, was the controversy fanned by Trump as to whether Barrack Obama was born in the States. According to most people, this issue was resolved when Obama released his birth certificate in 2011, confirming he, indeed, was a US citizen, dispelling any doubts. According to the Republican, Donald J Trump, Clinton that first raised the “birther” issue; he resolved it by forcing Obama to present his birth certificate.
This confrontation allowed Democrat Clinton to play the racist card. She said the political career, of Trump, grounded in bigotry. There was no evidence, ever, to support his claim that Obama was foreign born.
Throughout the 90-minute debate, it seemed that Trump lost his cool several times, which gave credence to Clinton saying that Trump did not have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. In reference to another incident, she added that if someone provoked by a Tweet should not have his or her finger anywhere near the nuclear codes. Trump responded saying, simply, that line was getting old.
The freewheeling approach, taken by Trump, did not stand him in good stead, as he made his first one on one appearance in the political arena and he seemed to flounder, at times. Democrat candidate Clinton was prepared and poised; sometimes too much, according to commentators. The feeling was she could have responded to some issues with more heart than head, especially on topics around race. It would seem that at times Trump was his own worst enemy; taking the bait perfectly and playing into the hands of his opponent one too many times.
Clinton came across as experienced, even though there were times she stretched the truth to suit her means; she remained poised and unaffected by the occasional rants and odd outbursts by Trump. Although Clinton seemed focused throughout, Trump battled to stay engaged, making odd free-associative non-sequiturs. When asked about US cyberspace weaknesses Trump replied that his 10-year-old son is good with computers.
What did stand Trump in good stead was that throughout the entire campaign, including the 90-minute debate, he has not changed his approach or tactics and somehow; he has made it this far, overcoming many controversies, inappropriate comments, and remarks. Not too many public figures have faced this much criticism and overcome and is, apparently, even more determined. People from the Trump campaign felt moderator Lester Holt, anchor of the “NBC Evening News,” was too tough on Trump, pushing him more, interrupting him more. Trump said he thought the moderator had done a great job, until the next day, when he lambasted Holt as bias.
Both candidates came under criticism with accusations flying over emails and taxes. Clinton hit Trump where it hurts, asking why he was refusing to release his tax returns, stating that it raised questions about what he was trying to hide; perhaps he was not as rich or as charitable as he claimed. According to Clinton, he might have refused to release it because he has paid no federal taxes. Trump interrupted with a glib comment that, if that was the case, it would make him smart. No one is immune from scandal and Trump quickly added that he would release his tax returns when his presidential opponent released the 33,000 emails she had deleted.
Close to the end of the debate, Donald Trump commented that Clinton does not have the look or the stamina to be the US’ president, opening himself up to criticism about previous comments he had made, cloaked in sexism. Clinton quickly took the opportunity to remind the audience that her opponent calls women slobs, pigs and dogs. In a much-publicized case, he called a beauty contestant Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina.
Following the debate, many commentators said Secretary Clinton was the overall winner, maintaining her composure and being prepared. She had solutions, unlike Trump. She managed to stick to the facts.
Some felt that Trump had come on too strong and aggressive when he should have turned the volume down a little. Clearly, they felt he should have presented himself in a much less verbose manner. If only he had a teleprompter.
With another two debates scheduled for 9 October and 12 October there is little doubt that, once again, audiences around the world will tune in to watch a most important lead-up to the US elections. The world waits to see the outcome of this race, knowing the stakes are high.
Jane Doe writes from the American South East.
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