Presidential Debate: Clinton Claims Round One


Graphic by Danielle Cuestas

Comments about the Sept. 26 presidential debate are largely homogenous, especially at Dreyfoos. Hillary Clinton was portrayed as a competent levelheaded competitor, while Donald Trump was depicted as a hothead. The dynamic of the debate itself was new as it was more personal than past debates, not to mention the moderator had a very obvious bias toward Clinton. Trump began composed but slowly let his agitation get the best of his statements, and Clinton let Trump do what he so frequently does: get tongue tied and ramble on. After a long evening of construed arguments, Clinton emerged from the debate victorious.

The moderator, Lester Holt, asked Trump about his refusal to release his tax returns, but asked Clinton questions that elicited much more positive responses. This set an uneven playing field very early on. It’s possible that this left Trump disgruntled for the entirety of the debate, however the much more real possibility is that he didn’t prepare as much as he should have.

Trump didn’t go out of his way to be polite to Holt, but should have realized that Holt set the tone for the debate. Trump skirted his refusal to release his taxes, saying that he would do so, against the advice of his lawyer, as soon as Clinton released her 33,000 emails. Holt, wanting to appease Clinton, didn’t pressure her to speak about the emails, but Trump did. After prompting by Trump, Lester Holt asked Clinton if she’d respond to the issue of her emails. Clinton simply responded that it was a mistake. When Lester Holt asked Trump about the constitutionality of stop and frisk, a procedure that was found to largely target minorities, Trump barraged Holt, arguing that stop and frisk was indeed constitutional. However, Holt was right: stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional. Despite this, Trump continued to defend it. This seemed to be Trump’s strategy throughout the debate, he simply denied what he did not want to discuss. With his defense on high alert, it was very apparent that he had not prepared enough.

“Well, listen to what you just heard,” Clinton said after a typical Trump response. Clinton brought up Trump’s denial of President Obama birthplace. Clinton used this embarrassing lie to make Trump look like an incompetent candidate. Trump’s comments about Obama’s birthplace are racist and have no place in politics. However, Clinton was quick to use these comments to her benefit. The strategy in her platform was apparent: attack Trump’s weaknesses and avoid her own.

It is typical of presidential candidates to release their tax records, however, at the time of the debate, Trump hadn’t. Clinton noted this, saying that he could have been doing it for any number of reasons. She proceeded to say that in addition to his issues with taxes, Trump hadn’t paid an architect that designed one of his buildings. Clinton added to this burn by pointing out this architect who was sitting in the crowd, as Clinton had invited him to attend the debate. Though some of Clinton’s policies may be flawed, her debate strategy is not: she continuously made her assertions personal by tying them back to understandable concepts. By doing this, she reached a larger demographic, everything was personal.

Trump has already been struggling with his outreach towards women, and this debate is sure to only increase the gap between him and Clinton. Clinton successfully made women’s issues a crux of her platform at the beginning of the debate. She was able to emphasize this as she hammered Trump on his comments towards Rosie O’Donnell and beauty contestant Alicia Machado. Through this, Clinton hinted that Trump is not only a bigot, but a sexist as well. Though these both may be true, they are continuously brought up in her campaign, and by now they just seem like cheap shots. Despite her repetitive comments, Clinton is still the more logical speaker.

This debate showed both candidates characters’ as well as how much they prepared. After an evening of heated arguments and blurred politics, Clinton made the strongest impression. After Americans watched Trump unravel before their eyes on live national television, it is hard to believe that there is still enough of a support system for this overly inflated candidate. If this didn’t win the election for Clinton, it’s hard to say what will.