Winner: Hillary Clinton
Judge: Dr Jason Jarvis
The format for the debate tonight really allowed the conversation to wander and shift. Six major topics were decided by the moderator Chris Wallace. After two minutes of time for each candidate there was ten minutes of time for open exchanges. The Supreme Court question which started the debate covered everything from immigration to abortion to Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee. This was an omen for the rest of the debate. Chris Wallace faced quite a challenge in trying to keep the debate on topic. Several times the debate descended into shouting and two candidates trying to shout over each other. However, he deserves credit for challenging both candidates on their previous statements and their policies.
Hillary is very strong on the substantive debates about the issues. A good example of this is early in the discussion of the Supreme Court on abortion. Particularly on Chris Wallace’s follow up about her vote against a late term abortion ban. She goes into detail about the difficulty of making a decision at the end of pregnancy and that in most cases this is a decision where the life of the mother is in jeopardy. She seems genuine. She was also prepared with her own zingers, noting that the reason Putin wants Trump is because he would like to have the “puppet” on the stage instead. She capped the debate by noting that according to Bernie Sanders, Trump is “the most dangerous person running for President in the modern history of America.”
Trump was much stronger on substance in this debate. He seemed to have a much better grasp of some policy details. On abortion he was clear on how overturning Roe v. Wade would cause a reversion to the States. He was prepared to talk about the 2nd Amendment and gun control. However, he continues to deny his own record and this hurts his credibility. On Iraq he broke down, both because he would not defend his own record (supporting the invasion) and because he continually tried to blame Hillary for “creating ISIS.” He just seems out of his depths on national security on the whole.
The key moment in this debate was when Trump was asked if he will accept the results of the debate. The moderator almost seemed to lecture Mr. Trump on the fact that a “peaceful transition of power” is one of the things that makes America great. He contradicted both his daughter Ivanka and his running mate, Mike Pence in saying that he would not agree to accept the results. He finally settled on the idea that he would leave America “in suspense” and “look at it at the time” to see if he feels it was a fair election. Above and beyond the debate, this stance should disqualify Mr. Trump from office, and it is likely he will be excoriated by the media and press for his statement.
Secretary Clinton pounced on this statement, and challenged Mr. Trump in two ways. First, she pointed out that this was a “pattern” for Mr. Trump that extends all the way back to the Emmy’s when he claimed that the awards show was rigged because “The Apprentice” did not get an award. She pointed to the Iowa Caucus and the GOP Primary as other examples of how Mr. Trump always claims that things are rigged when he is losing. Second, Secretary Clinton said she was “horrified” and “appalled” that any serious candidate would take such a position.
Trump looks tired and uncomfortable early in the debate. Ironically, after suggesting both candidates should take a drug test before the debate, his eyes are red and bloodshot as though he is intoxicated. After Secretary Clinton calls him out for choking in Mexico, he changes visibly. The smirk comes out and he begins to be expressive. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump almost never smiles. His expressions are universally negative and typical of a grumpy grandfather. He regularly interjects and interrupts Secretary Clinton. As the debate comes to a close he seems to have a sweating problem, and eventually called Secretary Clinton a “nasty woman.”
In contrast, Secretary Clinton has a permagrin and is constantly smiling. She refuses to let Trump get to her and only rarely showed any negative emotion. However, there was one exception to this rule: she shows real emotion when discussing the issue of the election being rigged. This was a good moment for her and is appropriate anger at the danger facing American democracy.