First Presidential Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered

It’s that time again

Kansas City Chiefs fans wear Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump masks during the game between the Chiefs and the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Kansas City Chiefs fans wear Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump masks during the game between the Chiefs and the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.

When we last left off, the Democratic Party had given up on debates so it could just hand Hillary Clinton the nomination, and I had given up on writing about the seemingly endless number of Republican debates.

Now Clinton has been anointed, and Republicans chose New York Businessman Donald Trump as their nominee.

So here we are, watching more debates, this time between the Republican and Democratic nominee. Might as well see where each candidate excelled and faltered (we’re going to stick with “faltered” for the general debates. No more of that “floundered” language switch).

Hillary Clinton

Where she faltered: She actually tried to come prepared with some zingers. I don’t think they went over that well. She strained to call Trump’s tax plan “Trumped up trickle-down economics,” as if she had forgotten what she was supposed to say for a moment.

I also have to say, her speech seemed very slow and deliberate, to the point of robotic. Maybe I only noticed it because I’ve had several rounds of media training, but it’s the kind of thing that a media coach would say is too slow.

Clinton also failed when she claimed she was merely expressing hope the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal “would be a good deal.” In reality, as Trump said during the debate, Clinton had called the trade deal the “gold standard” in trade agreements but changed her position during the 2016 Democratic primary.

Clinton’s claim that implicit bias was a problem for everyone could come back to hurt her. She was asked if police were “implicitly biased against black people” and Clinton said everyone had that bias.

“I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other,” Clinton said. “And therefore I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions about, why am I feeling this way?”

It seems like she just implied everyone in America is racist. This is a problem because Clinton now has a history of lashing out at voters. She called “half” of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorable.” In a video released last week, Clinton can be seen angrily blaming her own supporters as the reason she isn’t up in the polls.

She can’t keep insulting people and expect to win.

Where she excelled: On race, Clinton had a built-in advantage, given the number of minorities that support Democrats. But she also had some great points about the criminal justice system. She was correct in saying a young black man would face a harsher sentence for the same crime as a young white man. Her lamenting of putting so many people into the prison system for non-violent crimes was great to hear in a presidential debate.

Both sides have been slowly coming around to criminal justice reform.

Her response to Trump’s claim she didn’t have the stamina to be president was exceptional (though Trump’s follow up about how she had “bad experience,” was pretty great too).

“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton said.

Donald Trump

Where he faltered: He kept coming back to NAFTA and the loss of companies in Michigan in Ohio. It was a good point at first, but when he kept coming back to it he sounded like a broken record.

He made some random comments that seemed out of place. At the beginning of the debate, when discussing the economy, Trump randomly brought up the Islamic State. The two candidates had been talking about tax policy, when Trump told viewers to go to Clinton’s website and look at her policy on the Islamic State.

“She’s telling us how to fight ISIS. Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website,” Trump said. “I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much.”

It might not be a bad line, but it was out of place during a discussion of tax policy.

Trump also really, really should not defend his comments about women. He said at one point that actress Rosie O’Donnell deserved what he said about her. No, just, no.

Where he excelled: There was a low bar set for Trump during this debate, and he exceeded it. Right off the bat, during his open statement, Trump was more subdued than he was during the Republican primary debates and during his rallies.

Trump was also able to point out that Clinton has been in public service for 30 years, and asked why she was just now thinking of these solutions.

“And Hillary, I’d just ask you this. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?” Trump asked. “For 30 years you’ve been doing it and now you are just starting to think of solutions.”

Trump also had his own zingers. When Clinton said she believed she’d be blamed for everything by the end of the debate, Trump asked: “Why not?”

Trump agreed to release his tax returns if Clinton agreed to release the 33,000 emails she deleted from her private email server. That was a good line; I just wish Trump would have spent more time focusing on her emails and the mishandling of classified information as the reason she should not be president. He mentioned it a little, but not enough to really drive the point home.

First Presidential Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered