Fiery Trump and Clinton Debate Ended in a Tie
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
With the presidential race in a virtual dead heat according to recent polls, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton engaged in their first combative presidential debate. Neither scored a knockout blow against the other and the night ended in a draw.
With the bar set extremely low, all Trump had to do was show up and look plausible as president. Trump did not go over the line, but at times he resorted to his old bombastic ways. Trump allowed himself to be forced to play a defensive game against Clinton, a tactic that Clinton exploited.
Trump missed opportunities to challenge Clinton on her email scandal, the Clinton Foundation’s activities, her ties to Wall Street and other issues.
Clinton presented herself as we knew she would, showing her command of major issues and a solid understanding of policy. However, she never conveyed a clear vision of what she is about and how her presidency would differ from the Obama administration.
The missing components of last night’s debate were details of the candidates’ domestic and foreign policies, including their handling of U.S. economic problems and the challenges posed by foreign governments and organizations.
The candidates battled aggressively over taxes, race and terrorism. However, they left many unanswered questions about the specifics of their policy proposals and moderator Lester Holt of NBC News failed to press for answers and let Trump talk over him on occasion.
The debate centered on three themes: the U.S. economy and the achievement of prosperity, America’s direction and America’s national security.
Clinton Favors Investments in Economy; Trump Prefers Bringing Back Overseas Jobs
The first question dealt with jobs and the economy. Holt asked how each candidate would create viable employment and deal with income inequality.
Clinton responded first. She replied, “I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure; in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology; clean, renewable energy; and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guaranteeing, finally, equal pay for women’s work.”
She continued to discuss other areas such as paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare and debt-free college. Clinton would finance all of these economic changes by raising taxes for the wealthy and closing corporate loopholes.
Neither Trump nor Holt pressed Clinton about how her proposals would be any different than what President Obama has tried. When Holt asked Trump the same question, his answer focused on bringing jobs back from overseas and a sharp reduction in taxes.
Under his plan, Trump plans to reduce taxes “from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies — small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”.
The central focus was trade and taxes. However, Holt failed to question Trump about how other countries would react when he instituted his trade policies.
Both candidates sparred over trade and whose plan would expand the national debt. Neither candidate spoke about how they would deal with entitlement spending, the biggest driver of the national debt.
Even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last month that the deficit will rise this year and in the forthcoming years from the increase in entitlement and healthcare spending.
Candidate Spar Over America’s Future Direction
As the debate pivoted to “America’s Direction,” the moderator focused on race, especially with regard to the string of African-American shootings by the police across the country.
Clinton focused primarily on reforming the criminal justice system, often implying the system is rigged against the minority community.
When he was asked to respond, Trump focused primarily on law and order, citing examples of Chicago and the deplorable conditions in many inner cities across the country.
Both candidates traded barbs over the controversial aspect of Trump’s law-and-order approach, which uses stop-and-frisk searches. Trump referenced how New York mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg effectively used these tactics to reduce crime; Mayor Bill de Blasio later discontinued this policy.
Holt mentioned that stop-and-frisk searches were ruled unconstitutional in New York because they unfairly targeted the minority community. This statement drew a rebuke from Trump who stated that the current mayor has never received appeals to challenge the constitutionality of this approach.
The debate continued to focus solely on policing and its impact on race, without going into how the federal government spent enormous resources in many of inner-city communities with only minimal results.
Clinton’s website mentions investing more resources into urban America, but she did not provide details in the debate about how her actions would be different from what has been done in the past. Trump argued that Democrats control many urban cities across America and have exerted this control for decades, but he failed to state nor was he pressed by the moderator on what he would do differently.
The entire focus on “America’s Direction” was on the need to change policing by law enforcement and Trump’s law-and-order approach.
Differing Views on National Security at Debate
The final aspect of the debate was on “Securing America.” The first focus was on cyber warfare. Holt started the questioning by asking, “We want to start with a 21st- century war happening every day in this country. Our institutions are under cyber attack, and our secrets are being stolen. So my question is: Who’s behind it? And how do we fight it?”
In her answer, Clinton mentioned Russian cyber attacks, especially with regard to the attack on the Democratic National Committee’s computer network. She went on to state, “We need to make it very clear — whether it’s Russia, China, Iran or anybody else — the United States has much greater capacity. And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.”
Security was the most perplexing aspect of the entire debate. When it was Trump’s turn to respond, he focused on numerous generals and admirals who support him. He never mentioned Clinton’s private email server that many people believe has been hacked, compromising the most sensitive of U.S. national security secrets. He let this golden opportunity go.
Trump’s decision to not mention Clinton’s email scandal may have been intentional or just a huge missed opportunity where he could remind voters of her untruthfulness and duplicitous nature.
Once the questioning moved away from cyber warfare and moved to how each candidate would defeat ISIS, it divulged into re-litigating the Iraq war all over again, with Trump spending a sizable portion of his time on how he was against the war from the beginning.
Both candidates discussed how they would defeat ISIS. Clinton provided more detail than Trump, but both fail to understand the complexities of the Middle East. Clinton highlights working with our Arab and other allies in the region but fails to understand that American allies view Iran as the greater threat, not ISIS.
Her repeated statements of support for the Iran nuclear deal will only make it difficult or next to impossible to get support from American allies. Russia’s entry into Middle Eastern affairs and the Obama administration’s sending of $1.7 billion to Tehran further complicate this situation. Our allies only see a bolder Iran, a resurgent Russia and a disengaged America.
Trump talks tough so far, but he only has a thin understanding of the complexities in the Middle East. Clinton and Trump have not articulated their visions for the U.S. after Obama’s presidency ends.
Holt did not ask either candidate about immigration, the refugee crisis and the arrival of people from Syria and other countries. He also failed to ask questions about Russia, China or any other region of the world.
Will Trump or Clinton Clearly Describe Their Policies in Future Debates?
Right now, there is no global vision from either candidate regarding the United States, especially when the U.S. is focused on economic woes.
Hopefully, in the next two presidential debates, the moderators will force the candidates to be more candid and thorough in their answers. America needs to know if our next president has well-developed domestic and foreign policies, or we will regret not pressing harder for solid answers, to our detriment.