By most measures, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s debate was a tortoise-and-the-hare battle. Trump started strong, but got flustered and tuckered out. Clinton was shaky and trying too hard (which always trips her up), but she finally and settled into her element and, if nothing else, acted presidential. Our first non-politician cum presidential candidate in decades seemed peeved, and the more hot and bothered he got, the more he annoyingly barked “excuse me.” Clinton just smiled. She just doesn’t have to do anything at all, she thinks, and she can still beat him in November. On the other hand, the fact that the race is as close as it is does not reflect well on Clinton as a politician, or on America at large.
The moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt, mostly kept himself out of things, only occasionally putting his foot down as the candidates ignored their time limits. Trump did this more often than Clinton, either because he’s like that, or because a woman being as rude as Trump would never fly in this world. Probably both.
Unfortunately, just because Clinton may have pulled ahead and “won” (whatever that means), doesn’t make her less awful. Yes, Trump lies about everything small and petty, but they’re both arrogant warmongers with dishonest suggestions, specifically when it comes to criminal justice reform.
Trump always lands a good dig, and sometimes at worthy targets like former Vice President Dick Cheney, but for him it’s not about hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis or whether he really opposed the war from the get-go. It’s about Trump being right. He’s neither a pacifist nor a real isolationist, especially when he obsesses over how America should have stayed in Iraq and stolen the Middle East’s oil.
Clinton may have been more polished (and as stiff as wood), but she also made staggeringly daft decisions, such as hitting Trump on his continued refusal to release his tax returns, because “probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.” Considering her on-going email scandal, her refusal to release transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and her general attitude of privacy for “me” but not for thee, it’s dense of Clinton to go on about Trump’s financial documents.
A debate full of bickering is always more fun than fake politeness; however, their incoherent stances and pandering on war, transparency, crime and the economy are growing tiresome. Trump spent his time going for the jugular and reminding America what Clinton wants to forget—that she once called black men “superpredators” in the 1990s when she was backing her husband’s now disfavored crime bill. Clinton, on the other hand, is on the reform bandwagon. She cares a lot about racial disparities in the system, damn it, and bad things like New York City’s stop and frisk are no cure.
They’re both arrogant. America knows this, but is unable to stop it. Trump has the bombast of an empty-headed know-nothing who is sure he can do everything better than you. And Clinton is indeed the Platonic ideal of the politician. She changes when it suits her and when it’s safe to do so. They both want power way too much. Clinton wants the presidency so badly she’s starting to salivate. Trump, somehow, still comes off as if he’d be happy losing just enough to be able to forever claim that “they” took the Oval Office from him because “they” were corrupt and scared. Altogether, the first debate made it clear that these candidates are fighting not for national gains, but for personal ones. Cheers, America.