Thoughts on the Presidential Debate

Photo credit AP/David Goldman

So, the debate … let’s talk about that. Was it the no-holds-barred bloodfest we all expected? No. Was it a civil discussion between two adults who care about the future of America? Also no. So what was the first debate?

Well, in short, it was just the worst. It was a far cry from good but not bad enough to spark a serious discussion on the quality of candidates. In short, it was a perfect storm of nonsense.

The big question of the evening was, as usual, was whether Trump would make a bumbling, screaming idiot out of himself and, if so, how Clinton would take advantage of it.

For the most part Trump didn’t embarrass himself particularly badly but, nevertheless, let’s look at some shining moments from each of the candidates.

Clinton’s performance was lukewarm. The primary lies she told revolved around her support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she denied, and the effectiveness of trickle-down economics. Besides that there were not many gaffes. She managed to land a few zingers, and seemed to do a decent job with the crowd.

Trump, as usual, was far more volatile than his opponent. He started the debate well enough but his statements quickly devolved. Upon being asked about his support of the Iraq War, Trump was quick to say he had never supported it, to moderator Lester Holt’s correction that he had, in fact, come out in support of the war. Another fact-checking issue arose when Trump claimed that one cannot release tax records while under audit upon which Holt corrected him again. Holt also corrected his false statements regarding the constitutionality of “stop and frisk” policy.

Then there was the issue of Trump saying that he stiffed his workers for arbitrary reasons, that he has the best temperament, and that his not paying taxes is proof of his intelligence.

Trump did, however, score some points by saying that Clinton’s experience was not an asset as it was bad experience.

However, Trump immediately lost this lead by criticizing Clinton for taking time to prepare for the debate, which couldn’t have been a more obvious trap if it had the words “Enroll in Trump University” scrawled on it in crayon.

Trump also dodged discussions of his own faults on the birther issue like gunfire and frequently went over the time limit, trying to overpower Clinton through yelling, and shouting “Wrong!” or “No!” whenever Clinton brought out facts against him. Whether this worked is debatable, but it doesn’t take a kindergartener to tell you that you shouldn’t make false claims on one of the more easily fact-checked parts of your past.

This debate was a solid victory for Clinton. The win wasn’t a crushing one, but  it was enough to show Trump that this competition won’t be as easy for him as the primaries were.

For the upcoming debate, which Rudy Giuliani has already suggested Trump skip because moderators are “cheaters,” Trump will most likely have to actually prepare or else risk Clinton running circles around him again.

Some things that were not touched on this debate were Benghazi, relations with Mexico, federal debt, the national budget, the particular nastiness of this campaign, strategies for bridging the divide in partisanship, and Trump’s comments against Muslims, African-Americans and Mexicans. Hopefully we will see these topics covered in the next two debates but, frankly, I predict more disappointment as these candidates viciously compete for the honor of ruining America.


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