If you didn’t stay up until 4am to watch the first of 2016’s Presidential Debates (maybe you have a job – or you know, a life), then you missed what was promised to be a brutal bitch fight, a clash of the titans, and absolutely not a reasonable discussion of policy ideas between two rational adults. On Tuesday night, the two most unpopular candidates in American presidential history went head-to-head, and they did not disappoint.
Here I present the sassiest soundbites the debate had to offer (Hillz quotes in blue, Donny in red), organised by category so you can see how the debate progressed as a whole, rather than just through the 30 second clips littered over your timelines. As you will see, despite a strong start, as the night progressed Donald became more flustered, defensive, and therefore more incendiary; leaving Hillary to present herself as the cool, calm alternative. Personally, I wish she’d been more aggressive in her approach, particularly as the Donald insisted on Trump-terrupting her 28 times (yep, that’s an actual stat) – but her ability to stay calm is I guess is what makes her a reasonable candidate for commander-in-chief as opposed to a narcissistic orangutan with tiny hands (and she’s a woman, so she’s probably used to being talked over by now #feminism).
I know I sound far from impartial, but like most of America I’m not a natural Hillary supporter, and there were areas, particularly in the first third, where I think her vulnerabilities were exposed. Unfortunately, most of the 100 million viewers will have made their mind up long before the debates aired, but nonetheless their performances have some value and are worth looking into – partly for the lols, but mostly because whoever wins this shit show will be the leader of the free world. God bless America.
“I call it Trumped-up trickle down economics!” in what is the most offensive linguistic combination since they tried to make ‘Bremain’ happen. Hillary’s attempt to ‘slam dunk’ Donald’s economic plan – which to be fair, was a realistic policy to cut corporation tax in line with traditional Republican economic values (aka it was relatively not-insane) – fell on deaf ears. As did her attempt to blame tax cuts and GOP economic policy for the 2008 crash rather than the deregulation of Wall Street, which was sanctioned under the former President Clinton as much as any Republican – a party which Donald is barely part of anyway, despite being its highest representative.
This was a clunky attempt to divert attention away from criticisms surrounding her support of NAFTA and the TPP (trade deals that impact the manufacturing jobs of many Americans in crucial rustbelt states) but just highlighted that the Clinton establishment was part of the problem, not the solution. It also led up to Trump’s best attack on Hillary, claiming “you’ve been doing this for 30 years – why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?” Experience and expertise might seem like natural allies for a candidate seeking the highest office in the land, but in this election being part of the status quo is apparently worse than being ‘mostly false, false and pants on fire’ 70% of the time. Cool.
However, like all great things, Trump sounding like an effective candidate came to an end. By refusing to release his tax returns, claiming “I’m under a routine audit”, he stood apart from every candidate for 40 years, and not in the way he likes it. Trump deflected by agreeing to release his taxes when Hillary releases the emails deleted from her private server, a usually toxic issue that she managed well by acknowledging the mistake and moving on from it. However, by making the issue ‘negotiable’ he essentially admitted he has the option to release his returns and has chosen not to. Hillary’s soundbite-porn response was well-delivered and undermines Donald’s ‘successful businessman’ credentials – as well as putting him on the defensive, which is where he began to flounder.
I added the clip because I think this was Hillary’s best line of the night – Trump claiming he doesn’t pay income tax because “that makes me smart”, and that his father gave him “a small loan” (of $14 million…the only thing about Donald that isn’t small) is sadly not the electoral suicide it should be, but is surely insulting to the millions of Americans who aren’t in the 1%. This is the stuff that makes me grateful that UK politicians at least have the decency to pretend they aren’t richer than most of their electorate – despite their wealth, you can’t imagine Cameron or Osborne saying “I have a great company. I have a tremendous income. And the reason I say that is not in a braggadocios way. It’s because it’s about time that this country had somebody running it that has an idea about money.” Although Boris Johnson would 100% use the word braggadocios.
Ah, race. You could practically hear America collectively hold its breath when this topic came up, and despite her own weaknesses in this area relative to primary rival Bernie Sanders, Hillary brought up the birther issue (a three year campaign demanding Obama produce his birth certificate, spearheaded by Trump) well, stating “he started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen.” However, you don’t get many shocking shifts in support by proving Donald Trump, a man polling at 2% among African-Americans, is a racist, especially when by advocating stop-and-frisk, he basically did the hard work for her. This demonstrates the more tangible purpose of presidential debates; rallying your own troops, rather than convincing your opponent’s to jump ship.
My personal highlight, potentially of the whole debate, summed up Donald Trump entirely, was his proud mention of one of his Miami clubs that he got “really great credit for. No discrimination against African- Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club. And I’m so glad I did it. And I have been given great credit for what I did”. WELL DONE ON NOT DOING THE RACISM DON GIVE YOURSELF A ROUND OF APPLAUSE OH WAIT YOU JUST DID. Seriously America, if the bar was any lower you’d have to dig underground for it.
For me, Trump made his biggest blusters on foreign policy – from his references to “the cyber” and “the nuclear” to his discussion of the Iraq War that he claims he never supported; next to Hillary’s decades of diplomatic experience he looked like a circus act. Here was another chance I think Hillary missed; she took the ‘high road’ approach, asking people to “fact-check on hillaryclinton.com” rather than go in on Trump herself. I think national security as an issue is too important to rise above it – there is a winnable angle that a man with borderline personality disorder should not be leading the world order from an ivory tower with the letter ‘T’ on it, but I don’t think Hillary made it. The man talked about extending military presence in Iraq and that “we should have taken the oil”; AKA invading a sovereign nation and stealing their natural resources AKA AN ACTUAL WAR CRIME. Only in this election is ignorance an electoral asset – the only reason I can think Hillary didn’t push this is because its 2016, and apparently knowledge is no longer power.
“I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know (LAUGHTER)” I think in this quote, it’s what he doesn’t say, the *laughter*, that’s most important and exposes Trump at his most vulnerable. He wasn’t thriving in accusations of racism or a misogyny, he wasn’t riding the anti-Establishment or stoking divisions for publicity points. In that unscripted, unsolicited laughter, it showed that the Donald was not controlling the conversation. They weren’t cheering for him, they weren’t even booing, they were laughing at how ridiculous both he and his candidacy have become. I’m glad Americans are laughing now, because come November, the joke might be on them.
I wrote a thing about Trump 7 months ago! If you enjoyed this, read it next! Trumpelstiltskin: why the GOP got the candidate it deserves