US presidential debate: How a calm, prepared Clinton trumped Trump

Sonia Chopra
Sonia ChopraSep 27, 2016 | 11:36

US presidential debate: How a calm, prepared Clinton trumped Trump

The faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the first presidential debate was the most watched in television history with 100 million viewers.

This has been America's ugliest, most contentious and nastiest election season in history. And all polls have indicated that it is going to be a tough and tight race.

The two presidential candidates locked horns as they argued over jobs, race, terrorism and ISIS in a feisty 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in New York.


For the first few minutes, it almost seemed as if Trump was going to win huge points but then Clinton swiftly, masterfully and authoritatively took over the whole debate.

The CNN poll found that 62 per cent believe Clinton won the debate while 27 per cent said Trump came out on top. And while most of the American media is calling it a draw, I believe Clinton won because she was better prepared and her experience shone through.

Trump played to his base and said "jobs are fleeing the country" and blamed poor trade deals and President Barack Obama's administration for the "mess' the country is in currently. He vowed to "Make America Great Again."

"We are in a big, fat ugly bubble," said Trump as he accused Clinton of being a "typical politician" who is "all talk, no action." Clinton promised to create 10 million jobs and increase investment.

When Trump was asked by moderator Lester Holt why he had not released his tax returns as every single presidential candidate has done throughout American history and when he was going to finally do it, Trump used the moment to attack Clinton on her email scandal.


Trump said he would release his taxes if Clinton would release 33,000 emails that were deleted during an investigation into her private email set-up when she was the secretary of state. Clinton was able to skillfully deflect that by apologising for her "mistake' of using a private server.

There were some key moments as both candidates tried to win over the undecided voters. "I am going to cut taxes big league and you are going to raise tax big league," Trump informed Clinton.

Hillary Clinton asserted her affinity to African Americans, revealing that the not-born-in-America accusation “bothered and annoyed” Barack Obama. (Photo credit: AP) 

Clinton smirked at his insults and encouraged viewers to check her website for real-time fact-checks of Trump. Not to be outdone, Trump added: "And take a look at mine also!"

And while moderator Holt tried to grab control by steering the debate towards the economy, Trump wouldn't go there. He chose instead to say that Clinton "tells you how to fight ISIS on her website!"

Unfazed, Clinton replied "Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS." And then he hit low, "No wonder, you've been fighting ISIS your entire life." (Fact-check: ISIS is a few years old and Clinton is 68 years old).

Trump was also unwilling to let go of the "birther conspiracy theory" about President Obama, that he started five years ago. He said he thinks he did a "good job" claiming that Obama was not a qualified US citizen and pressured him to produce his birth certificate.


Clinton cleverly used that assentation to show that she has an affinity to African Americans, revealing that the not-born-in-America accusation "bothered and annoyed" Obama.

Clinton clearly irritated Trump when she said his business success came after he received $14 million from his father.

CNN and other channels used the spilt-screen technique effectively and viewers were able to see both opponents and their reactions in a minute-by-minute play.

Clinton looked presidential, she was better prepared, knowledgeable and connected with the people. She stayed calm and seemed measured, both in her speech and body language. Her vocabulary was extensive while Trump's favourite words were "tremendous" and "terrific".

Trump seemed to be restless and constantly drank from his glass of water, while Clinton didn't take a single sip. He pouted, he glowered, he shook his head and he inserted one-word responses like "wrong" while Clinton was speaking.

Clinton also successfully put to rest the question of stamina. "When Donald Trump travels to 123 countries and spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina."

As for temperament, Clinton succinctly recycled her old stand saying that Trump is "a man who can be provoked by a tweet "and "he should not have his hands anywhere near the nuclear codes."

To be fair, Trump did start out strong but as the debate wore on, Clinton took the lead early on. Enraged, Trump accused her of preparing for the debate. Clinton owned the moment when she admitted that she was prepared and she said: "You know what else I prepared for? Being President."

There will be two more debates and the election will be on November 8.

Last updated: September 28, 2016 | 17:28
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