Observations on the first 2016 presidential debate

Published 11:07 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

I found the first presidential debate Monday night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump less blusterous than anticipated, but abundant with the same myths providing a frustrating choice for the American people.

I watched the debate with my reporter’s notebook in hand, jotting down observations throughout.

I found Clinton’s temperament, something she’s tried to make a key issue in this campaign, clearly better. She was able to calmly move through her talking points, make her case and stand attentively while Trump was talking. He on the other hand often strayed off onto tangents, struggled to answer the actual question asked of him and was constantly making faces, grunting, rolling eyes, or interrupting her with remarks when she was speaking.

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Clinton pointed out that only a few of Trump’s tax returns have been made public over the past many years and those showed he paid little to no federal taxes. His reply, “That makes me smart.”

Trump turned it on Clinton and demanded she release all her emails, noting her failure to properly protect classified information while serving as Secretary of State. Clinton has provided a litany of excuses over the past many months, most of which have been absolutely unacceptable. In the debate, she took the tactic she probably should have taken in the beginning.

“I made a mistake,” Clinton said. “If I had it to do over again, I obviously would do it differently.”

The most appealing part of the Trump message to me is when he points out the fact that Clinton, like so many other career politicians, have been involved in government for decades and failed to address the issues they continue complaining about. Electing a non-career politician has great appeal. It’s a strong message for Trump, but then he gets lost in his own ramblings when he starts spouting off more untruths than you can count.

He falsely asserted that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the “birther” movement claiming President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. He derided Ford Motor Company, alleging they plan to send “thousands” of American jobs to Mexico, a claim industry experts said is untrue. He continued to state he was against the Iraq War, when there is clear video evidence that shows him saying he supported it. He referred to the approximate $15 million gift from his father to start his initial business as a “small loan.” Perhaps it is in his world. Trump lauded his proposed tax cut as “the biggest since Ronald Reagan.”

Analysis by tax experts have suggested his plan would actually raise federal income taxes on more than half of single parents and 20 percent of families with children. He was way off on crime statistics, seems incredibly confused about NATO and wrongly thinks ISIS controls Libyan oil. Trump said, “It’s about time this country had someone run it that knows something about money,” which is hard to disagree with. But Clinton pointed out that Trump has had six, he claims only four, bankruptcies.

“I take advantage of the laws of the nation,” Trump responded. “If you don’t like it, change the laws.”

Trump’s support of the unconstitutional “stop and frisk” law is troublesome, but Clinton’s inconsistency on gun issues is too.

In a nutshell, Clinton calmly summed up Trump as unfit for the office, and he more erratically pointed toward her unfavorables to the American public. I didn’t feel like I learned anything and regretted that they didn’t include third party candidates.

Before election day, we have two more presidential debates, a vice presidential debate and whale of a choice to make.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.