First Presidential Debate, From Conservative and Liberal Voices

Sara Sparks


The debate started out friendly – a handshake between the two candidates and wishes of good luck. The moderator, Lester Holt, hoped to touch on three key subjects while questioning the candidates: achieving prosperity, the direction of the nation and national security.

Hillary Clinton was asked why she was the better candidate when it comes to creating jobs that put money in the pockets of American workers. She answered the question with two follow ups: What kind of country do we want to be? What future do we want to have? She proposed raising minimum wage, guaranteeing equal pay for women, having the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, and instituting paid family leave. In race relations, she said that the gun epidemic is the leading cause of male African-American deaths and is a result of systemic racism. She suggested the option of more effective gun control; for instance, ensuring that those on the terrorist watch list should not be allowed to purchase a firearm. In securing the country, Hillary pointed out that cyber-warfare and nuclear warfare are the biggest threats to our national security. She said that anyone who gets worked up on Twitter should not be allowed near our nuclear codes.

Donald Trump focused on bringing attention back to America. He stated that jobs are leaving the country and proposed a tax cut (from thirty-five percent to fifteen) for both big and small businesses as well as a renegotiation of bad trade agreements. He agreed with Clinton that more should be done to assist those who struggle with childcare and other family expenses. In race relations, Trump said that what the country needs is the restoration of law and order. He explained the effectiveness of the stop and frisk program in New York, while simultaneously voicing his concern for the African-American communities, especially those in inner cities, who have been let down by politicians. He said that in order for our country to find healing, we need to better the relationships between communities and the police. On national security, Trump agreed that cyber-warfare and nuclear warfare were the most threatening issues and that Hillary Clinton should not be trusted to protect the United States after the email-scandal where she used a private server to discuss classified information.

What was left out of the debate was the dissection of the policies the candidates espoused. The main focus of the night was economics.

A policy brought up by Hillary is the raising of minimum wage. While it seems like a great solution to the poverty of the working class, it will actually cause more harm than good.

Another idea brought up by Hillary Clinton is closing the wage gap between men and women. The issue with this is that the Equal Pay Act already exists; if companies are truly capitalist, as Hillary says, they would only hire women in order to profit the most off of work that costs less to employ.

When it comes to the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes, Hillary leaves this number open. However, she has in the past stated that the wealthy are not paying enough in taxes. Right now, our percentages start high for the wealthy and gradually decrease as the amount of income decreases.

Paid family leave and affordable child care are things that both candidates touched on during the debate. While they don’t agree on numbers, both Clinton and Trump agree that more should be done to assist those struggling to balance work and family.

Trump talked about renegotiating bad trade deals. He pointed out that U.S. companies are taxed every time they export a product to another country, but the U.S. does not tax the foreign countries that produce our imports. By taxing each country at the same rate they tax us, a fair trade agreement is made.

Trump also talked about bringing jobs back to the United States and decreasing regulations. He explained that even Ford, the American car company, is now producing their parts in Mexico because of the high cost of producing parts in the U.S. Trump’s argument is that relaxing regulations and changing the taxes on production in-country will permit more competitive pricing that will boost our economy.

There was a lot of back and forth bickering between the candidates that made the winner seem unclear. As far as policy discussion went, the candidates seemed equal in their preparation for the debate. Unfortunately, Hillary came armed with attacks that Trump had no response to other than “Wrong.” There was the opportunity to expand on the emails, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, her ties in the Middle East, her attacks on women – specifically those who had affairs with her husband – and her nasty comments toward the American people.

The debate ended with both candidates being asked whether or not they would accept the outcome of the election. Hillary answered, “Well, I support our democracy. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but I will certainly support the outcome of this election.” Some might question the sincerity of this statement, in light of  the emails released during the DNC; it was shown that the primary election was rigged so that Bernie Sanders did not win the nomination. That does not reflect support of democracy.

Trump answered, “I want to make America great again. […] I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins I will absolutely support her.”

Hopefully at the next debate, Donald Trump will come more prepared for the character attacks and Hillary will have found a way to make it look like she really cares about the “deplorable” American people.


Rowan Harrity


Monday night brought on the first direct confrontation between presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. While deciding the victor is a matter of conjecture, there is one certainty: the loser was Donald Trump. In the aftermath of the debate, Trump has made strange excuses for himself, stating that his microphone was “not working correctly” and alleging some sort of conspiracy against him. In reality, the harm done to Trump on the debate stand was self-inflicted. In the first presidential debate of our current election cycle, which took place Monday, Sept. 26, America watched as bombast met preparation, and the former found itself lacking.

One of the questions heading into this debate was whether Trump would be able to separate himself from his primary debate tactics of bullying and interjection, and adopt a more reasonable temperament. While in the beginning portion of the debate he seemed to do so, Trump quickly descended into unprofessional interruptions and his standard bullying tactics. By the end of the debate, Trump had descended into general incoherency and often interrupted both his opponent and the moderator, Lester Holt. On the primary stage, he managed to get away with this, but on the presidential debate stage, not so much. Trump’s blustering made Clinton’s poise all the more evident. She contrasted his often childlike debate persona with her typical steely and calm composure. Clinton was prepared for every attack was ready to bait him into losing his composure. Although Clinton struggled, as she has previously, to connect with the audience, but the stark contrast between the two personas on stage was visible, audible and tangible.

The debate spanned several topic areas, addressing proposals for job creation, racial healing, and broad topics in foreign policy. However, the debate was less about policy details and more of an underhanded slugfest between the two most disliked presidential candidates in polling history.

It appears that Clinton’s objective was to get under the skin of Trump and expose him as a bigoted, divisive, and angry campaigner under the bright lights of a nationally televised event. If it was, she certainly succeeded, as Trump concluded his time on the debate stage with a rambling slur that left him looking more than overwhelmed and overmatched. That is because for the first time on a debate stage Trump’s trademark brash and over-the-top behavior left him floating in the wind as he interjected, interrupted, and clumsily sidestepped questions about his tax returns, shoddy business dealings and his role in propagating the “birther” movement.

Antics aside, the more revealing spats of debate occurred, first, in the discussion of race and national security. Trump showed his typical misunderstanding of the issues facing the African American community, providing an implicitly racist “law and order policy” that proposed “stop and frisk” police tactics in order to address crime. After watching this debate it cannot be said, with any conviction, that Donald Trump expressed any sympathy or understanding of contemporary racial issues. When asked about his proposition for racial healing, Trump interrupted Lester with the response “I say nothing.”

Clinton distinguished herself from Trump by admitting on national television that all Americans possess an implicit racial bias, and that this, to a certain extent, can be attributed to a systematic and institutionally defined racism. A Clinton presidency relies, in part, on garnering a similar turnout of African American voters to the numbers that President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 attracted. She likely won over at least some of these voters, through her acknowledgement of contemporary racism and the need for criminal justice reform.

After the discussion on race, the two candidates exchanged blows on foreign policy. Trump attacked Clinton on essentially every foreign policy mishap of the last century, including the invasion of Iraq – though he failed to recognize that he also expressed support for the war, yelling repeatedly “call Sean Hannity!” Trump also accused Hillary of creating the vacuum through which ISIS rose to prominence in Iraq. However, as Clinton pointed out, George W. Bush actually had set the date by which the United States would remove its military presence. Then, when accusations about the quality of the Iran deal arose, Clinton pointed out the simple facts of the situation, which, when considered, show the deal to be a huge diplomatic success. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was also a subject of debate during those 90 minutes. During this time, Trump outlined the flawed nature of NATO and called for the need for all members to “pay their fair share.” By proposing that the United States would not, under Trump, respect the collective defense agreement made under Article 5 of the treaty of NATO, more Russian incursion into the sovereignty of former soviet states would be tempted.

The foreign policy portion of the debate quickly turned into a Trump attack on Clinton’s temperament and “stamina,” which he sees as a barrier to the successful execution of the office of the President of the United States. He followed up with what can only be described as a comical declaration that his “strongest asset is [his] temperament.” Once again, Clinton was waiting and prepared for this line of attack. She quickly retorted, supplying numerous examples of Trump’s lack of temperament, the most persuasive of which was the story of Trump wanting to bomb foreign sailors who taunted members of the U.S. Armed forces. Hillary also effectively attacked Trump on the casualness with which he regarded the nuclear state of the world. Trump intimated a renewal of the U.S.-Russia arms race, and claimed that he will not reveal his plan of attack on ISIS because he does not want to reveal to our enemies his “secret plan.” Hillary rejoined: “the only secret about his secret plan, is that there is no plan.”

This debate came down to who was more prepared. In a contest between a deplorable demagogue and your evil aunt, preparation and execution are all that really matter. Maybe Trump will reorganize, reassess, and actually prepare for the next debate. Maybe the next debate will leave Americans with a different taste in their mouths, and a different winner in their minds. But don’t count on it.


[photo by Zack Ritter, associate director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion]