It began with forced smiles and what looked to be a terse and rather wimpy handshake. The jury is still on whether Hillary should get points for attempting geniality and asking “How are ya, Donald?” or be subtracted points because it was so forced.
All-in-all, the first presidential debate was more tame than most of the viewing public was expecting; a disappoint sure to be expressed in some thoroughness tonight on Twitter. For the first twenty or so minutes it looked as though Donald Trump was making a genuine effort to stay respectful and abide by the rules of the debate, an illusion quickly dispelled by a lengthy tangent about ISIS at the end of the first round.
The questions were reasonable, though Lester Holt as a moderator seemed to have some trouble reigning Trump in, especially as the debate continued. Most of Trumps rebuttals consisted of expulsory “wrongs” or “no”s interjected during his opponents time. Clinton, for her part, remained dignified even through a particularly rough and protracted barrage of insults from Trump regarding her “temperament.”
The first round of the night, on income equality and job growth, was a tie, with both candidates addressing different sides of the same issue. Clinton called for a concentrated effort in rebuilding the middle class while Trump focused on incentivizing companies not to outsource their business (although this is rather hypocritical coming from a businessman on the forefront of exploiting foreign labor). The first notable falsehood of the night came when Trump proclaimed that President Obama has doubled the national debt; a claim that is provably untrue.
The second round discussion of tax plans quickly devolved into a verbal sparring match over Trumps reluctance to release his tax returns, citing an ongoing audit as the delay before dodging the question with “I’ll release my tax returns when she releases her e-mails,” referring to a crime of which Secretary Clinton was acquitted months ago.
At one point, Trump seemed to almost agree with Clinton’s assertion that in fact it’s possible that he’s never paid federal income tax. Clinton saying “maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes”, to which Trump responded “that makes me smart.” Later when she repeated the same assertion “And maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years”, Donald responded by saying “It would be squandered, too, believe me.” This left many viewers wondering if Secretary Clinton’s assertion is in fact true. Maybe there is something in Trump’s tax returns that he doesn’t want the American people to see, and maybe it’s the fact that he’s never paid a single silver nickel in federal income taxes.
Perhaps the biggest affirmation of Clinton’s skill as a debater came from the race portion of the debate. Clinton came off more sympathetic than pandering, to her credit, and thoroughly raked Trump through the mud for his well publicized, racist policies in his early housing development endeavors.
What may cost Trump the debate is not his argument or his proposals, many of which could sell in the hands of an actual politician. His constant, tactless interruptions of both Clinton and Lester Holt belied a lack of restraint or practice and a lack of confidence as a public speaker. Surprisingly, though, from both camps was the fact that the personal digs stayed fairly on topic. There were no mentions of Bill Clinton’s infidelities nor the much talked about appearance of Gennifer Flowers and Trump’s alleged sexism was discussed briefly and only once.
Though the internet has not confirmed a winner yet, it’s safe to say the court of public opinion will make it’s choice known by later tonight. Be sure to check back with The Pacific Tribune for coverage of the next three debates.