The first US Presidential debate kicked off last night and gave the world a fascinating look at Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as they debated the state of modern America side-by-side on a speaker podium. With Clinton resolutely calm throughout and Trump only going so far as to purse his lips and grimace at regular intervals, overall it was a fairly subdued affair in which the two traded copious attacks and batted them off with equanimity.
The 90 minute debate was divided in to six segments of 15 minutes that covered three topic areas, namely: Achieving prosperity; America’s Direction and Securing America.
Candidates were given two minutes to speak on the opening question of each section before they could then engage in open discussion. This format proved effective in allowing attention to be directed individually at the candidates before the real study of body language commenced as each reacted to what the other was saying.
Host Lester Holt opened proceedings on a powerful note in the context of Achieving Prosperity in America where he stated ‘nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck’, before going on to pose the direct question: Why are you a better candidate?
First to respond, Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton was categorical: “First we have to build an economy that works for everyone; not just those at the top; I want us to invest in you, in your future, that means jobs in infrastructure, advance construction, innovation, clean technology and in small business, as most of the jobs in the future will be from small business.
“We also have to make the economy fairer, raise the minimum wage and guarantee finally equal pay for women’s work; and I also want to see more companies do profit sharing, so that it is not just for those at the top; and we need to do more to support people struggling to balance work and family, let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable child care and debt free college; we will do this by having the wealthy pay their share and close the corporate loop-holes.”
Before signing off and telling her rival – “Donald it’s good to be with you!” – she spoke directly to camera reminding the watching American public of the importance of the election task ahead of them:
“You have to judge us and decide who can shoulder the immense awesome responsibilities of the presidency – and put in to action the plans that can make your life better.”
Trump opener paints the dark side of US modern life.
In his turn Donald Trump opened equally forcefully, employing more personal and sensational terms to describe his views of modern America.
“Our jobs are fleeing the country, to Mexico and many other countries. Look at China and what it is doing to our country in terms of making our products and devaluing our currency – and there is no one in our government to fight them; they are using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China and many other countries are doing the same.
“So many of our small companies are leaving; Ford – the small car division is leaving, they’re all leaving, thousands of jobs, we can’t allow it to happen anymore. We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us and our companies leaving the US and with it firing all of their people. So many hundreds of companies are doing this and going to Mexico. We cannot let this happen.
“Under my plan I will reduce taxes. I will reduce the tax rate for business tremendously from 35% to 15%. That will be job creation on the scale not seen since Ronald Reagan, it is going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”
In response, Clinton contended:
“Tax plans need to support work and not just financial transactions; these biggest tax cuts would be for the top people, it is what I call trumped up trickle down – that is what it would be; that is not how we grow the economy, we just have different views on this; I believe in creating jobs and rising incomes. He really believes the more you help wealthy people the better we will be, I don’t buy that. ”
To which Trump retaliated:
“We owe 20 trillion dollars! We cannot do this any longer. The first thing to do is don’t let the jobs leave. As they leave you say fine, we wish you a lot of luck, but I say cars, cookies, air conditioners – you think you can make them in Mexico and bring them back in to the US without paying tax? No! So we can and have to stop them from leaving.”
And so it continued, with the odd personal barb and character attack thrown in on everything from Hillary’s looks to Donald’s wealth, as well as some interesting statements made that may come back to haunt both candidates in the future – a selection of which are below:
Trump statements – personal
“I have much better judgement than her (Clinton) and a much better temperament. I have a winning temperament, I think my strongest asset may be by far my winning temperament.”
“She doesn’t have the stamina. I don’t believe she does, to be president of this country. You have to be able to negotiate on trade deals with Japan, Saudi Arabia; you have so many different things you have to be able to do and I don’t think Hillary has the stamina.”
“She has no business ability.”
“I intend to be a leader people can count on to further peace and prosperity and stand up to hostility.”
Clinton statements – personal
“He can talk to me about stamina as soon as he travels to negotiate with 208 countries and stands before a congressional committee.”
“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs and described pregnancy as an inconvenience to employers.”
“A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers near the nuclear code.”
Trump – On ISIS and terrorism and security threats
“I want to get on to defeating ISIS; we have to knock the hell out of ISIS and to do it fast.”
“We have too much military type machinery on the streets, our police are often out-gunned on the streets.”
“I did not support the war in Iraq. I was against the war in Iraq. The record shows I am right.”
“Had we taken the oil ISIS would not have been able to form because it was their primary source of income.”
“Nuclear (weaponry) is the single greatest threat that this country has, not global warming like you and your president think.”
“We are not keeping up with other countries but I would certainly not do first strike. Once it starts it’s over.”
Clinton on ISIS and terrorism and security threats
(Re claims by Trump that her decision to back the war in Iraq caused ISIS) “I hope the fact-checkers are turning up the volume and working really, really hard.”
“We’ve got to defeat ISIS, to take out their leaders and do everything we can to disrupt their propaganda efforts on-line.”
“He (Trump) has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons – even Saudi Arabia; his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling that it is the no.1 threat we face in the world.”
“Words matter when you run for president and really matter when you are president. It is essential that America’s word be good, in terms of our agreements made with our allies and other nations. I intend to be leader to further peace and prosperity abroad and at home.”
“It’s like his secret plan around ISIS – the only secret is we don’t know what it is.”
As the 90-minute debate drew to a conclusion the mostly cordial relations between the two presidential rivals concluded on a positive note, with both candidates agreeing with host Lester Holt they would accept the outcome of the vote in November.
“I support our democracy, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but I will certainly support the outcome of this election and I hope the people out there understand this election really is up to you; it is not so much about us as it is about you and the kind of country and future you want for you and your family. I hope you will get out and vote because your future depends on it”, declared Clinton, while Trump stated: “I want to make America great again, I’m going to be able to do it, I don’t believe Hillary can win, but if she wins I will absolutely support her.”
Pictured is Eamonn Donlyn Vice President Irish TV in America with Taoiseach Enda Kenny (photo:James Higgins) and in Times Square.
The Irish angle
Irish interest in the US Presidential race and American politics in general has always been high, not merely from a curiosity point of view, but also because what happens in America affects so many Irish people at home and abroad. So many of us have family, relations and friends in America and through the generations we have bonded as nations and developed mutual respect for each other.
The estimated 40 million Irish-Americans living in the US have a critical role to play in the 2016 presidential election. We hope all will make the effort to get out and vote on who should succeed incumbent President Barack Obama and go on to play a part in ‘making America great again.’
IRISH TV will be on hand as ever to record the stories of the Irish in America who continue to fly the flag so well for the Emerald Isle back home while building a future to be proud of. Look out for our avid reporter Rebekah O’Neill (above) who is always on the spot for the best stories!
Round Two of the Trump/Clinton presidential debates is scheduled for October 9 in Washington University in St Louis with the concluding Round Three to take place on October 19th at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The first Vice Presidential debate will take place at Longwood University, Virgina on October 4. We will be following all with interest.