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The First Presidential Debate of 2016

The First Presidential Debate of 2016

On Monday, September 26, the Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential elections engaged in their first debate. Hosted by Lester Holt from NBC news, this highly-anticipated debate was aimed at addressing  some of the critical questions Americans have for the prospective candidates. Throughout the debate, Holt asked questions and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had about fifteen minutes to discuss their plans/views. The major topics were “achieving prosperity”, “America’s direction”, and “securing America”

Lester Holt began the evening by asking the candidates, “why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?”

This question was first directed at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. She began by stating that she wants to “build an economy that works for everyone, and not just those at the top.” Clinton wants to create new jobs with rising incomes, in advancing fields of work. She believes that most of these new jobs will come from small business. Clinton plans on raising the national minimum wage; she also wants to eliminate the wage gap between men’s and women’s pay. NPR reported that women who worked full-time throughout the year earned only 80 percent of what men earned in 2015. Many factors in addition to explicit bias contribute to this, such as hours and jobs worked and the understanding that women’s careers are often interrupted due to maternity.

One of Hillary Clinton’s biggest campaign promises was to create “debt-free college.” She has laid out a plan for tuition-free college for working families. This is part of her effort to support people who are struggling to balance work and family. During the debate Clinton stated, “I've heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you're under. So let's have paid family leave, earned sick days let's be sure we have affordable childcare and debt-free college.”


Secretary Clinton’s plan of action to make good on her promise starts with “closing corporate loopholes” and making the wealthy “pay their fair share.”

The question was then aimed at Republican candidate Donald Trump. He started by saying that our jobs are leaving the country, that “they’re going to Mexico, they’re going to many other countries.” He believes that America is being used as a “piggy bank” by China to rebuild its country, and that other countries are doing the same. He also stated that “thousands” of jobs are leaving Michigan and Ohio, however the unemployment rates in both of these states are in fact lower than our national average of 4.9 percent. He then directed attention to their views on child care. Trump has declared a plan that will introduce things like rebates for low-income parents and new savings accounts for parents to set aside money for child care. Clinton has not yet made a clear plan for how to do this, but she believes that families should not be paying more than 10 percent of their income for child care.

Trump and Clinton also have differing views on maternity leave. Trump has indicated that women could receive six weeks of maternity leave while under the maternity program, meanwhile Clinton has proposed double that. Many of Clinton’s plans involve imposing greater taxes on higher-income individuals. Clinton also recalled a 2004 interview in which Trump stated, “Pregnancy is never--it’s a wonderful thing for the woman. It’s a wonderful thing for the husband. It’s certainly an inconvenience for a business…”

Contrary to Clinton’s proposals, Trump wants to cut taxes from 35% down to just 15%, for both big and small businesses. He believes that doing this will create numerous jobs in our country. He stated that this new tax cut will encourage new businesses to build and expand. He continued to suggest that we should re-negotiate trade deals and stop other countries from stealing our companies and jobs.

Given the chance to respond, Hillary Clinton began to explain her discrepancies regarding Trump’s financial policy. She suggested that his ideals were essentially a more extreme version of trickle-down economics, a theory of doubted efficacy. She refers to his plan as “Trumped-up trickle-down economics.” She also referenced the fact that she and Donald have differing views on financial policies primarily because of their contrasting backgrounds. She mentioned that Trump has been very fortunate throughout his life, and his father greatly helped him get to where he is today. She stated that Trump’s father had given him a loan of 14 million dollars to start his own business. She believes that we should do more for the middle class. She stated, “what I believe is the more we can do for the middle class, the more we can invest in you, your education, your skills, your future, the better we will be off and the better we will grow.” During the debate Clinton mentioned that experts have viewed each of their propositions and have found that Trump’s plan would blow up debt and create a loss of jobs, or even cause a recession; while her own plan wouldn’t. Fact checkers confirmed her claim by referencing a report from the Tax Foundation.  

The candidates argued for a bit about climate change as well. Clinton reminded viewers that Trump has dismissed global warming as a hoax, which she holds as fact. He cut in and declared that he’s never said that, however there have been multiple accounts of Trump stating that global warming is a hoax. He initially expressed this view in 2012, in which he ridiculed climate change as a hoax created by the Chinese to make the United States less competitive toward manufacturing. Clinton then began to explain her plans for dealing with global warming, which will also lead to job creation, she reasons. Trump rebuttals by declaring that he is “a great believer in all forms of energy”, however he says that by investing in this industry, we are putting a lot of people out of work, and calls our current energy policies a disaster.

In my opinion, one of the more interesting events of the night was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump going back and forth about Hillary’s emails and Trump’s tax returns. For the past 40 years, each presidential candidate has released their tax returns. This long-standing “tradition” has become standard since 1973, when Nixon was audited by the IRS. Donald Trump has claimed that he will release his tax returns once the “routine audit” he is currently under is finished. Lester Holt cut in by reminding Trump that even though the IRS has an audit of his taxes, he is still free to release his taxes. Trump continued to argue that he won’t release them until the audit is finished. He joked that he will release his tax returns against his lawyer’s wishes if Hillary releases her 33,000 deleted emails. When questioned if this was negotiable, Trump turned the tables onto Hillary to defend herself in regards to the deleted emails. She dismissed this by saying she made a mistake and that she would do it differently if she could. According to Carrie Johnson, Justice Correspondent, the FBI director told Congress that Clinton was merely using the private server for convenience. Others who were questioned on the matter merely pled the Fifth, while others received a form of immunity once they turned their computers over to the FBI.

For the next segment, Holt posed a question focused on the race issue which has plagued the United States. He asked the candidates their plans for healing the divide.

Donald Trump mentioned several cities during his portion of the debate, stating that the crime rate is rising and thousands of people are being killed each day. While this is occurring alongside heightened racial tensions, the crime rate is still at record lows in comparison to what it’s been in the past. He argues that we need “law and order” in our society and then suggests that police should bring back “stop and frisk.” Holt reminded Trump that stop and frisk was controversial on the grounds of racial bias, and was also ruled unconstitutional. Clinton has previously stated that she will devote one billion dollars in her first budget to training and safety for law enforcement. She argues that the problem isn’t all because of race. Clinton said during the debate that much of the problems we see with police officers stem from “improper” training. She stated that she has met with police chiefs and many agree that mental health is a huge issue. Police do not have the right training to deal with all of the difficult mental health problems they are facing, according to Clinton, and she feels that the federal government could help more than they currently are.

During the racial discussions of the debate, Lester Holt cut in to bring up the topic of president Obama. Previously in the debate, Trump brought up his argument that Hillary Clinton or the Clinton campaign started the birther movement, however fact checkers found his claim to be illegitimate. Rather, it was shown that Donald Trump was actually the primary proponent  arguing that Obama was not born in the United States.

The final segment of the debate, called “securing America”, was about the “twenty-first century war” in our country. Holt asked who is behind the cyber attacks we’ve seen and stealing secrets, and what we can do to stop it.

Clinton responded by bringing up the cyber attacks coming from Russia. She commented that Donald Trump has challenged Vladimir Putin to hack into Americans, and remarked that he speaks quite highly of Putin. In reference to our own cyber abilities, Clinton states, “We don't want to engage in a different kind of warfare, but we will defend the citizens of this country, and the Russians need to understand that.” She explains that she has a plan for defeating ISIS, which would involve going after them online. Clinton believes that we should collaborate more with tech companies to prevent the spread of ISIS and the radicalization and direction of American citizens. She also vocalized her thoughts to intensify airstrikes against ISIS.

Donald Trump rebuttaled by arguing that if we left troops in Iraq, ISIS wouldn’t have formed. He stated that when Obama and Clinton pulled troops from Iraq, they cultivated the formation of ISIS. He also showed disdain toward the fact that we didn’t seize the oil from Iraq, which Hillary Clinton called out. She pointed out the fact that Trump supported the invasion of Iraq, however he was quick to say she was wrong. Fact checkers referenced Trump’s prior statements and suggested that he did indicate support for deploying U.S/ troops to seize the energy production infrastructure of Iraq, Syria, and Middle Eastern states..

During the debate Clinton also brought up the fact that Donald Trump wishes to block the immigration and travel of foreign Muslims. Contrary to his beliefs, Clinton states that we need to be communicating with Muslim communities, especially in our own country. She believes that they can provide crucial information to us, and that we need to “have close working cooperation with law enforcement in these communities” rather than alienating them and pushing them away.

Lester Holt called out Donald Trump for his support of the invasion of Iraq, although Trump responded by saying he didn’t support the war. Fact checkers questioned this argument by referencing an interview of Donald Trump with Howard Stern. The transcript from the interview states that, when asked if he favored invasion of Iraq, Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.” Trump then continued to say that his temperament is “winning” and much better than that of his opponent, Secretary Clinton. Despite Trump’s beliefs, a recent Fox news poll showed that 59% of prospective voters say Clinton has the temperament to be president, while only 38% suggest Trump does.

Clinton and Trump then began discussing their “temperaments”, and, essentially, why one of them was better than the other. Clinton first starts by bringing up NATO. She talks about how she and others negotiated a deal that stopped Iran’s nuclear program, right when they were close to putting together a nuclear bomb. She also remarks that Trump, on the other hand, has stated that “if they taunted our sailors I would blow them out of the water and start another war.” His actual quote was similar, “When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.” Trump cut in by stating that the action would not start a war, but Clinton remarks that that is not the right temperament to be commander-in-chief. She adds, “A man who can be provoked by a tweet shouldn’t have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.”

Trump stated during the debate, “The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons. Not global warming like you and your president think.” He talks about how we defend other countries, but they don’t pay us what they should be because we provide them with tremendous service, but aren’t getting paid nearly enough. According to fact checkers, South Korean government figures show they paid over $800 million, which is only 40% of the cost. Japan’s budget shows that they pay about $4 billion in base-related expenses.

Holt’s next question was about nuclear weapons as well. He brought up the fact that President Obama has reportedly considered changing the nation’s long-standing policy on First Use, and questioned the candidates on their views regarding the current policy. Trump began his response by saying we are not keeping up with other countries in the realm of nuclear weaponry. He also started talking about how he wants China to pressure North Korea against the development of nuclear arms. Hillary Clinton argued that we have mutual defense treaties and that we will honor them, because it is crucial that America’s word be good. Elise Hu, International Correspondent at NPR weighed in. She states, “While this Clinton statement is underlining the basics of America’s traditional foreign policy, it illustrates a key difference between the candidates. Trump doesn’t want to be “policeman of the world,” but a longstanding key of America’s Asia policy for keeping peace in the Pacific is maintaining decades-old alliances with Japan and South Korea. Many view the U.S.-Japan-R.O.K alliance as a bulwark against a rising China, so it’s interesting that Trump both demonizes China when speaking of trade and believes China to be key in solving the North Korea problem but does not support alliances that can be a counterweight to it.”

During the final segment of the debate, Holt brought up a statement Trump had previously made in which he said he didn’t think Clinton had a “presidential look”. Trump was quick to change his words, this time saying that Clinton doesn’t “have the stamina.” She replied by saying, “Well, as soon as he travels to one hundred and twelve countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, and opening of new opportunities and nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.” Trump’s argument against this was that the experience Hillary has is bad experience. She then retaliated by reminding viewers that Donald Trump has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs. He’s also said that pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, that women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men, and Hillary also referenced a former Miss Universe winner whom Trump called “Miss Piggy.” This woman, who was Latina, was also called “Miss Housekeeping” by Donald Trump.

The final question Lester Holt asked was if the candidates would accept the outcome of the debate as the will of the voters. Hillary Clinton responded by saying, “It's not about us so much is it about you and your families and the kinds of country and future you want. So I sure hope you will get out and vote as though your future depended on it because I think it does.” Trump responded by reminding everyone that he wants to make America great again, then went on to talk about the fact that we are losing our jobs, that people are “pouring into our country.” Trump concluded by adding, “I want to make America great again. I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is if she wins I will absolutely support her.”

Monday’s debate was certainly interesting to watch. It answered quite a few questions, and raised a couple more that can be answered in the next debate. Props to Lester Holt for being the moderator for the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It is clear that both candidates have strong opinions in regards to their views, and they differ quite a bit in the majority of their plans.


The next two presidential debates are scheduled for Sunday, October 9, and Wednesday, October 19. There is also a Vice Presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday, October 4.

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