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Who won the first presidential debate?

Before you read this, I should state that I’m not a fan of either candidate. As a conservative, I can still freely tell you that I have major reservations about Donald Trump, as you can tell by reading the intro to an article I wrote last year about him called “Of course Trump is winning, the silent majority created him.” Shameless self promotion aside, I went into this debate with an open mind.

That being said, I’m going to break this down into a couple sections with my verdict at the end. I will judge on the number of true and false claims made by each candidate, individual policy proposals (you know, what debates should actually be about) and overall presence and charisma.


First, we’ll start off with true and false claims made by each candidate. My original idea was to go through the whole transcript of the debate and count up each true and false statement made by each candidate and compare them. Shame on me, however, for thinking there would be unbiased fact checkers. I looked to NPR to be that guiding light for me, but as usual, I find their fact checking to be dubious at best. Some bold claims the candidates make went completely unchecked while other claims, which read more like opinions, got hammered by the NPR staff.

Granted, this is only an hour after the debate. So I took it upon myself to check the ones that NPR left out. I also chose to omit the ‘facts’ that were presented about the economy. Realistically, nobody has any clue what the economy will do under any plan, so any ‘fact’ that said a candidate’s plan would destroy/create jobs or raise/lower the deficit is pure speculation. Here’s my tally: Trump made about twelve true or mostly true statements, with fourteen to sixteen being mostly or blatantly false. Clinton made about eight to ten true or mostly true statements with a remarkable about four to five being false.

Do with this what you will. In my opinion, the amount of blatantly false statements made by Trump is red a flag in and of itself. However, there are a lot of true statements that aren’t getting a lot of credit. Clinton, for someone who, in my opinion, has built her campaign on deceit did surprisingly well on making factual statements.

Now, the most fun part part, addressing the actual policy decisions. There were three positions that really stood out to me: Trade, race and gender relations, and foreign policy.

Straight up, Trump hammered Clinton on trade. The Clinton machine has been in Washington for decades and has been instrumental in passing trade agreements like NAFTA, which decimated middle class jobs and sent them to countries like Mexico. The only trade agreement Clinton didn’t vote on was CAFTA, and she supported the TPP in its early stages, although she claims to oppose it now. Trump called her out on this flip flopping hypocrisy and it stuck; especially for the millions of Americans whose jobs are now in Mexico. Trump stated the Carrier Corp. is moving their operations to Mexico and laying off 1,400 people, which is true. Clinton did not have much in response to this. She responded by attacking Trump’s tax plan and talking about her father’s drapery business. Trump also addressed currency devaluation in China.

Clinton tried to say that the great recession happened when people slashed taxes on the rich and took their “eyes off of wall street,” which is ironic as wall street banks are some of her top campaign donors.

Trump’s momentum here was brought to an immediate halt when race and gender relations came to the fore. Trump started by talking about how black communities are being decimated by violence, which is true. Violence in Chicago, for example, is up. However, Trump then went straight for the stop-and-frisk policy which, aside from being highly questionable as to its effectiveness, was flat out ruled unconstitutional. When pressed on its unconstitutionality, Trump said that wasn’t true, which is 100% just wrong. Stop-and-frisk may just be one of the most controversial things we’ve ever done in this country and has done a lot to harm police-community relations.

Also, Trump felt very proud of himself for creating a club that, paraphrasing here, didn’t discriminate against blacks or Latinos. He said that “people applaud him for that.” How the hell is that something to be proud of? Not discriminating against people should be the absolute minimum of human standards, not a bragging point.

Clinton hammered Trump on gender relations as well. She pointed out that Trump has called women an array of insulting names, including Ms. Piggy and Ms. Housekeeper to a Latino woman. Trump’s response? Something along the lines of ‘But it was for entertainment television.’ Not a good role model for young women, Mr. Trump.


Lastly, foreign policy was a mainstay of the debate. It’s hard to tell who the victor was here. On one hand, Trump hammered Clinton over the disastrous policies of pulling out and then not pulling out of Iraq. He claims that is how ISIS was formed, which is true. However, Clinton should not shoulder the blame there, even though she did vote for the Iraq war. Decisions like that are made by entire administrations, not one person. Trump also pointed out that we pay 75% of the NATO budget, which is astronomical for an organization that does so little.

In response, Clinton pointed out, very poignantly, that under Article 5 of the NATO charter, it states that an attack on one is an attack on all. The only time that this has ever been enacted was after 9/11, when these countries came to help us out in our time of need. Additionally, she pointed out that Trump had said he would blow Iranian sailors out of the water for capturing our sailors. While this might sound like a position of strength, it also sounds like a way to start another war in the Middle East, just like the one he claimed started ISIS and the disaster in Iraq.

Neither side offered a truly comprehensive foreign policy. Clinton might have one on her website, but having a public policy on dealing with terrorists is a great way to tell terrorists what your plan is.

Lastly, we have overall charisma. This plays a larger role in politics than we want to admit. There are two camps of thought to this. One side is that Trump treated Clinton and Lester Holt like play-toys. He talked over them like they were nothing. Many see this as an Alpha male leading the lesser pack wolves around. Another perspective is that Hillary remained calm and composed in the face of tantrum-like child behavior. She remained ‘above it,’ so to speak. Since this is an opinion article, my opinion is that Trump won the overall charisma challenge. To me, it looked like Hillary was totally unprepared and was talked over for 75% of the debate. The moderator couldn’t even reign him in; Trump had total control of speaking time. When he called Clinton out for signing NAFTA, one of the worst trade deals in history, her only comeback was “well, that’s your opinion.” Good one, Hillary. It didn’t help that she was basically reading off of a note card the whole time while Trump was staring her down like a prey animal.

All in all, I have to make a decision. It wasn’t great and this election is a circus. But if I have to go a slight edge to someone, and I do mean slight, I’m giving it to Trump. His rampant lying should be a huge red flag to any paying attention, but his overall command of the debate and surprisingly large number of truthful statements are enough to lend credibility to his campaign. If Hillary wants to win the next one, she shouldn’t let him dominate the speaking time so much and not let him interrupt her all the time.

1-0 Trump. Barely.

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    MxnWhoWalksSep 28, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    “Total control of speaking time” is not a winning move, in what is supposed to be a debate, which by definition, the event’s documented rules, and the norms of social discourse, is to argue against another person’s opinions as part of an organized event, using a set time frame to take turns addressing the question posed, or in a broader sense, to discuss something with someone whose opinions are different from one’s own. I am incredulous that you think the bullying and shouting tactics are a plus for Trump. You might consider watching the Doha Debates sometime, for an example of excellent debates on very tough issues.
    The question of sharing details of a policy is also silly, because a policy is one thing, and the tactics and strategies to implement that policy are another thing. Communicating policy to the American people is a good move in a transparent government. Communicating the tactical details may not be. Pretending, as Trump does, to have a policy but keeping it secret for our own protection is hogwash; if people believe that, they will also believe that the emperor is finely garbed although he actually has no clothes. Trump is that emperor’s tailor, and you Taylor it seems, are not aware of the illusion being sewn.

  • E

    Earl AnemaSep 27, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Great article Taylor!