Liberal Column

Trump flops on the big stage in first Clinton-Trump debate

/ The Daily Orange

Moderated by Lester Holt, Monday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University failed to offer any deviation from the talking points both candidates have relied on for the past year.

Donald Trump continued to ramble to the public that the United States as they know it is coming to an end and that we’re never more than a few feet from an illegal immigrant who is trying to kill us. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton remained poised and discussed her policies on creating jobs, addressing climate change and gun regulations, among others. Here are three ways that Trump fell short when making his case to be president.

Trump couldn’t shake the condescending tone

Minutes into the debate, Trump couldn’t avoid talking down to Clinton, questioning how she should be referred to.

“Now in all fairness to Secretary Clinton… Yes? Is that OK? I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me,” said Trump, as if he were speaking to a small child rather than a former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York.

He later made no effort to justify the offensive terms he has used to describe women, and fell back on the same sexism he has resorted to before. Meanwhile, Clinton is coming off of seizing on Trump’s weakness with women voters with a campaign ad centered around how a Trump presidency would further denigrate women.

Trump’s political defense came off as flaky

When asked to provide support for most of his positions, Trump presented little in the way of actual substance. Trump sounded more like a xenophobic record player, hell-bent on repeating his obscure policies of “re-negotiating” agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Later, he deflected a question on releasing his tax returns — something every major presidential candidate since 1980 has done — and repeated the claim that he can’t because he is under audit. He can.

Apart from unsuccessfully trying to defend himself, Trump also failed to be accurate when attacking others. In a memorable moment, he refused to admit Russia was responsible for the hack of the DNC in July, saying it may have been China or a 400-pound hacker sitting on their bed.

He followed that claim up by saying he opposed the Iraq war — in reality, he supported it — and by blaming President Barack Obama for how U.S. forces left Iraq on President George Bush’s watch.

Trump seems to be unable to accept facts, which is a worrisome characteristic for the possible next president of the United States. Holt was right to challenge Trump on many of his weak claims and Clinton remained composed in responding to Trump’s blusters.

Trump still stumbled when it came to race

Much of the middle of the debate was spent discussing the current state of race relations in the U.S. amid recent police shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina. Trump focused his solution to healing these racial wounds by calling for a return to “law and order,” while Clinton discussed the implicit biases many Americans hold as well as the need to rebuild trust in communities.

“And therefore, I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions about, you know, why am I feeling this way? When it comes to policing, since it can have literally fatal consequences,” said Clinton. “We would put money into that budget to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers.”

Trump’s focus on violent crime and supporting the police first and foremost plays well with his ardent supporters, but ignores the deeper scars of racial injustice in the U.S. On the other end of the aisle, Clinton’s focus on community relationships showed her greater understanding of the nuanced nature of race and police violence, compared to Trump’s inability to reach out to and understand the black community.

Did anyone really need this debate to decide who to vote for?

It’s difficult to imagine a pair of candidates who more starkly oppose each other than Clinton and Trump: one has been in the public sector for most of her adult life working on issues including health care and child poverty, and one is a career businessman who has gained his fan base through racism and misogyny.

All of this begs the question, are there any voters in the U.S. — beyond those who have recently awoken from long-term comas — that really can’t decide between Clinton and Trump? Regardless, the debate left all of us feeling like we were just subjected to 90 minutes of bad reality television.

Cole Jermyn is a sophomore environmental resource engineering major and economics minor at SUNY-ESF. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.


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