Nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Clash in Debate
by Caleb Rhodes on Friday, September 30th, 2016
On Monday, September 26th, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton squared off in the first of three presidential debates. After the media panned Matt Lauer for what the New York Times called “unfairness, sloppiness, and even sexism in his handling of [a Clinton-Trump forum],” the pressure was on for moderator Lester Holt to maintain an atmosphere of impartiality. Beginning with the rule that the audience should remain silent throughout, the debate was broken up into three main sections: “Achieving Prosperity, America’s Direction, and Securing America.” After the candidates’ introductions and subsequent handshake, the debate began.
Betraying the colors of their parties, Mrs. Clinton wore a bright red pantsuit while Mr. Trump sported a blue tie. Lester addressed the first question to Mrs. Clinton: “Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?” Her response laid out an economic plan focused on raising the national minimum wage, providing workers with equal pay for equal work, and closing the corporate loopholes. In summation she wanted “an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.” Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, bemoaning that “our jobs are fleeing the nation,” took a different tact and name-dropped chief culprits, China and Mexico, liberally. His plan to combat this exodus centered around a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, a rate unseen since Reagan’s Presidency. Mrs. Clinton called this plan “Trumped up, trickle down.”
Moving on from the economy, the candidates turned to attacking one another. Mrs. Clinton went after Mr. Trump’s failure to release his tax returns; she theorized that his breach of conduct (in the past 40 years every candidate has released his tax returns) was due to his either not being as rich or charitable as he claimed. In response Mr. Trump questioned Mrs. Clinton about her email scandal, to which she coolly responded, “It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.”
The conversation then drifted to the topic of race. To repair race-damaged race relations, Mrs. Clinton proposed restoring trust between communities and their police officers, training the police better, and lastly, dealing with America’s gun epidemic, which disproportionately affects African-Americans. Mr. Trump boiled his plan down to resurrecting “law and order,” a platform he established at the Republican National Convention in July. To create order, Mr. Trump suggested reinstating “Stop and Frisk” — which former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani instituted after 9/11. However, Holt reminded Mr. Trump that “Stop and Frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.” Disagreeing on this point, Mr. Trump said “it went before a judge who was a very against police judge.”
By the time the topic of national security rolled around, Mr. Trump had completely lost his composure, and Mrs. Clinton began to smile in amusement as his answers droned on. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, who took responsibility for her emails, Mr. Trump refused to admit his leading role in the destructive “birther” movement. He dodged Holt’s persistent questioning, and instead, attempted to portray himself as a vigilante hero when he said, “I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate. And I think I did a good job.” As the debate on foreign policy thickened and Mr. Trump’s poise collapsed, Mrs. Clinton went right for his throat: “A man who can be provoked by a tweet shouldn’t have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.”
This article is naturally incomplete. In 800 words it is impossible to present every battle, position, and quip from a 90-minute debate. What I hope this article does show is that American politics is more than a battle of policy; the ways in which candidates phrase their positions and their responses to criticism matter. The demeanor they have and the ethics they work off of will affect the world. I hope this article gave a taste of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and I urge everyone to read the fact checks in the centerfold.
Note: all quotes are from the NPR transcript of the debate.
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