By Veronica Mackey
The first of 3 presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, held on September 26, was for the most part predictable. Each candidate spoke and acted as they have during the campaign. It was obvious that Trump, who said he didn’t want to be “over prepared,” wasn’t.
Clinton, a seasoned politician with more than 25 presidential debates under her belt, approached the contest as expected, fully loaded and laser-focused with facts. The Democrat used several mock debates to sharpen her attacks against Trump. Her camp was said to have prepared for different Trumps, depending on who would show up on Monday.
The Republican candidate is known to flip flop on issues, sometimes within the same sentence. His off-the-cuff remarks, exaggerations and untruths have created the image of him as unprepared, unreliable and unhinged.
Both candidates, despite their vast differences have low likeability factors. Hillary has a trust issue, while Donald has a temperament issue.
A more subdued Trump showed up at the beginning of the debate. He came out swinging during the first round, which was focused on achieving prosperity. He attacked his rival on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, forcing her to explain why she came out against the landmark 12-nation trade agreement last year after previously supporting it.
Trump stayed on point until Clinton’s attacks became personal. When Clinton mentioned Trump borrowing $14 million from his father to start a business—asserting he was privileged and could not relate to most Americans—he went for the bait instead of getting back to her flip-flop on trade.
The split screen captured a sharp contrast between the Republican and Democratic nominees. Trump was moving and making faces while Clinton was smiling and composed.
Round two, the segment on race in America, was the strongest for Clinton. She outlined the complex issues of police brutality and how to restore trust between law enforcement and communities of color.
Trump, in contrast described African Americans and Hispanics as “living in hell,” and harped on the success of New York’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was ruled unconstitutional for racial profiling.
When the issue of birtherism arose, Trump bragged that he “did a great job” getting President Obama, the first black president, to show his birth certificate as an American citizen. He falsely claimed that the birther movement—which he started in 2009 and which Clinton called a ‘racist lie’—was actually started by Clinton. Fact checkers rated Trump’s birtherism claims as a major untruth.
As the battle continued, Trump lost more points in round three, “Securing America.” Clinton enthusiastically reminded the audience of Trump’s admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – regarded as a dictator, not to be trusted.
She also called him out for falsely claiming that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. Fact-checkers confirmed Clinton’s assertion. To seal her victory, Clinton reminded voters of Trump’s derogatory statements against women. It brought viewers back to the Republican Debate earlier this year when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly called him out on the same issue.
During the final round, Trump repeated a claim made during a campaign speech, that Clinton “doesn’t look presidential,” and “doesn’t have the stamina” to be president. The comment was a set up for Clinton to make her hardest hitting response of the night:
“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”
Trump might want to rethink his decision not to over prepare for a debate against a former attorney, senator, and secretary of state the next time. The Guardian noted, “Despite Trump’s best efforts to land a few punches, the Republican nominee was unprepared and undisciplined. By contrast, Clinton was measured, avoided mistakes and demonstrated the merits of proper rehearsals.”
The next two presidential debates will take place on October 9 and October 19. The vice-presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will take place on October 4.