Debate Takeaways

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

An estimated 80 million people watched Monday night’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Though it started out in a civilized manner, the debate soon rolled off the curb and poured into the gutter. Are any of us surprised?

This debate mirrored much of Trump’s campaign strategy in that he spent most of the night blustering statements that either failed to make sense or were outright false. Clinton, on the other hand, seemed very much prepared for this showdown. She showed remarkable restraint after Trump’s constant interruptions. According to most media outlets, Clinton came through as the clear winner.

Clinton scored points with comments about stamina, her successful baiting of Trump regarding the birther issue and his refusal to release his tax information. Trump scored a minor point or two, namely criticizing Clinton’s “30-year” history in politics (it’s more accurately around 24 years) and his lob about her supporting NAFTA.

However, Trump’s minor points were outshined by his incessant rambling about properties that he owns, his refusal to walk back any further on his role in perpetuating the racist birther controversy, and, more than anything, refusing to debate substantive policies. He stated that by not paying federal taxes, it made him “smart.” He outright lied about his stance on the Iraq War, claiming he was against it prior to the invasion despite factual evidence pointing otherwise. At one point, Trump even praised his own temperament, prompting those in the audience to snicker.

The worst moment came when Clinton brought up Trump’s comments against a former Miss Universe candidate. Trump called her “Miss Piggy” because she had gained weight and “Miss Housekeeping” because of her Latina ethnicity.

Overall, the debate left a sour taste in my mouth. These are supposed to be the most dignified choices for our top elected position, yet both candidates came across as bickering bridge partners.

Sadly, despite Trump’s awful performance, I don’t think he lost many of his core supporters. This election is proving to be one that proves facts and dignity have no place in a presidential race anymore. And that is sad on so many levels.

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

It’s hard to imagine many people were satisfied by the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The so-called Super Bowl of presidential debates, which drew higher ratings than any other in U.S. history, saw the candidates playing two different sports. Trump brought the bravado of a professional wrestler, swinging wildly with attacks that missed more often than they hit. Clinton, evidently the more prepared of the two, aimed for the precision of an archer. The upshot was a contest in which the participants, guided by different sets of rules, failed to engage on the issues in any substantive way.

To be sure, there were a few body blows landed throughout the course of the evening. Trump started out fairly surefooted, eventually scoring some stinging rebukes of Clinton’s 30-year record and her disturbing tendency toward secrecy. On the other hand, he failed completely to defend against attacks on his missing tax returns or his strange statements about climate change, the Iraq War and Obama’s place of birth, instead resorting to demonstrably false denials or clumsy dodges. His performance was peppered with the lies now characteristic of his campaign, and the bloviation and repetition of his speech far outweighed the substance of his proposed policies. Perhaps the sharpest indictment of Trump’s self-delusion came not at the hands of Clinton but the audience itself, which burst into incredulous laughter when he claimed his temperament was better suited for the Oval Office.

That’s not to hand Clinton an unblemished victory. While Trump blundered into one lie after another like mines in a minefield, Clinton’s navigation of the truth was more calculated and rapacious. She did not offer a satisfying answer for the dishonest handling of her email scandal, nor did she show convincing signs of true contrition. Her defense of her record on trade, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was equally deceitful and self-serving. Nevertheless, she mostly marshaled the facts in her arguments and spent considerably more time discussing practical policy ideas. And, perhaps most importantly for her campaign, she took the stage looking hale and hearty after a nasty brush with ill health.

The debate’s most useful aspect was its direct contrast between the two personalities. One struck me as impulsive, unfocused and chaotic, the other as knowledgeable and capable, if somewhat insincere. In an election that has sparked unprecedented interest with its high stakes, bizarre turns and reality TV candy coating, that contrast could be instrumental in swaying undecided voters.

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