Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump just faced off in the first presidential debate. What the Hell happened?
Who won the debate?
This was Hillary Clinton‘s night. She wasn’t perfect – she flubbed a couple of her one-liners and stumbled a bit at the very end of the debate – but she remained composed through many interruptions and landed some key jabs. Trump hurt his own case with a couple of gaffes, ignoring fact checks in several cases. He also sniffled throughout the debate, which is exactly the kind of meaningless thing that debate watchers love to fixate on.
Recap: the issues
Donald Trump defended his continued refusal to release his income tax by referencing his ongoing audit. When moderator Lester Holt reminded Trump that there’s no rule against releasing tax returns under audit, Trump reiterated his defense anyway and then changed the subject to Hillary Clinton’s emails. In her response, Clinton opened fire with speculation about why Trump might not be releasing his returns.
Trump opened the email discussion during the segment on his taxes. Clinton responded briefly, and Trump fired back by accusing Clinton of violating regulations intentionally. Trump questioned why Clinton’s aides chose to please the fifth during the investigation.
Clinton walked a bit of tightrope on race relations, generally emphasizing the plight of the black community but also giving shout-outs to good cops and mentioning “respect for the law” as the flip side of respect from law enforcement officers. She also used the chance to tie guns to the issue.
Trump, meanwhile, went straight for the law and order refrain. He noted his endorsements from major police groups and said that African Americans and Hispanics were “living in Hell.” “They walk down the street, they get shot,” he said. Trump also promoted stop and frisk; when told by moderator Lester Holt that stop and frisk was found unconstitutional as a form of racial profiling, Trump responded “you’re wrong.”
Trump referenced Clinton’s “super-predator” remark a bit later on, and then accused Clinton of secretly supporting stop and frisk. “Maybe there are political reasons you can’t say it,” Trump said.
During the later discussion of the Birther movement, Clinton also made sure to mention Trump’s multiple settled racial discrimination lawsuits.
Clinton hit on guns late in the first hour of the debate, opening the discussion during the segment on race relations. She emphasized her support for the so-called “no fly, no buy” provision, which would ban people on the terrorist watchlist from buying guns.
Trump agreed with the “no fly, no buy” law, but also emphasized his NRA endorsement.
The birther movement
When confronted about his past as a birther, Trump reiterated his charge that Clinton started the movement. He presented himself as a “finisher” who ended the debate.
Clinton pulled no punches, calling the issue “the racist Birther lie.”
Trump accused Clinton and President Obama of creating a vacuum that gave birth to ISIS when they drew down troop numbers too quickly in Iraq. Trump argued that U.S. forces should have “taken the oil” from Iraq, leaving ISIS without a source of financing.
Clinton fired back by accusing Trump of supporting the interventions in both Iraq and Syria (Trump repeatedly called this “wrong,” but it’s not). She also pointed out that the Iraq troop draw-down was based on the status of forces agreement signed by the Bush administration, which set a deadline for U.S. withdrawal prior to Obama’s arrival.
Trump also discussed NATO’s prior failure to counter terrorism and took partial credit for the organization’s recent focus on the issue. Clinton countered by referencing NATO’s support after 9/11.
Donald Trump suggested that foreign powers like Japan, which rely on the United States for security, should have to pay more for the privilege. He called the Iran deal perhaps the worst he’d ever seen, and also criticized the aging technology and B-52 bombers that the U.S. relies on to deliver nuclear payloads.
Clinton countered by speaking directly to allies, assuring them that the country’s “word is good.” She also referenced Trump’s comments suggesting that more countries should become nuclear powers.