By Dorian Armstrong
On Monday, Sept. 26, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump met at Hofstra University for the first of three presidential debates, where they sparred over trade, taxes, temperament, policing and personal scandals. Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News moderated, and according to The New York Times, a record 84 million Americans watched the debate.
Americans tuned in to see Clinton and Trump put aside their mutual vitriol, shake hands and try to connect with a crucial group of undecided voters, including women and residents of swing states, to win what has become one of the most polarizing elections in American history.
Trump sought early high ground by condemning Clinton’s praise of free trade, a practice he blamed for the steady loss of manufacturing jobs to countries like Mexico and China. He attacked the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton, as “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”
“I kind of assumed that there would be a lot of these charges and claims,” responded Clinton, who focused on rebuking Trump’s assertions and repeatedly called for fact-checkers to review her opponent’s claims, plugging her campaign website as a tool for home viewers to do the same. She wedged in a few points about “Trumped-up trickle down economics,” but it was Trump’s remarks that dominated the evening’s discussion.
Trump elaborated on the charges and claims he built his candidacy around. Trump said that Clinton fought ISIS for her “entire adult life,” interjected that not paying taxes makes him “smart” and dismissed his lie that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya by saying he “was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate” when “nobody was caring much about it.”
Clinton’s main line of attack later in the debate was against Trump’s ire toward women and minorities, evidenced by his support of policies like stop-and-frisk. She used Trump’s own words about a beauty pageant winner against him.
“He called this woman Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado,” Clinton said.
When Trump sought to defend his “winning temperament” to audience guffaws, Clinton smirked, casually shrugged off Trump’s statement and insisted that “a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”
After Holt invoked the candidates to accept each other’s possible victory, the debate ended, and Clinton and Trump once again shook hands and smiled for the cameras.
One debate down, two to go.