Trump and Clinton face off in first US presidential debate: experts respond Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have met in the first of three presidential debates as the race to the White House heats up. The at-times-fiery encounter was marked by interruptions by the Republican nominee as the two candidates sparred over economic growth, free trade, race relations and American foreign policy. The Conversation’s experts from Australia and the US were watching the debate with an eye to key questions. Their responses follow.
Trump the bully or Clinton the baiter?Nicole Hemmer, Assistant Professor, Miller Center, University of Virginia, and US Studies Centre, University of Sydney It was a case of Clinton interruptus. Fifty-one times over the 90-minute debate, Trump shouted, interjected and scoffed as Clinton spoke. Not only did he interrupt three times more than Clinton, but the nature of his interruptions was striking. He seemed unable to contain – or possibly to control – himself, champing to answer every charge she made. And that seems to have been Clinton’s goal. Throughout the night, she deftly slipped into her answers the kinds of challenges Trump has been unable to resist. Case in point: in her second answer, she pointed out that Trump didn’t build his fortune from scratch. His father gave him a million-dollar loan, and later a US$14 million inheritance. Clinton then contrasted that with her own father, a drapery maker who “worked really hard”. The charge ruffled Trump, who brushed off moderator Lester Holt’s next question to defend the “very small loan” his father gave him. Then Clinton mentioned Trump had cheered on the housing collapse. Trump butted in:
That’s called business, by the way.That was just the beginning. Every time Clinton mentioned one of his outlandish statements or questioned his business bona fides, Trump unravelled a little more. The impression viewers were left with at the end of the night was a peevish Trump next to a patient Clinton, an image that underscored the wide gulf in the two candidates’ temperaments. With the first debate at a close, one of the big stories will be about Trump the bully. But the bigger story should be Clinton the baiter.
Trump thrilled his fans, but did he win any new ones?David Smith, Senior Lecturer in American Politics and Foreign Policy, Academic Director of the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney Both sides are probably going to believe their candidate won this debate. Trump’s consistent refrain was that his great wealth is evidence he “has the right ideas” to bring prosperity to America. His response to Clinton’s accusation that he has paid no income tax was:
It means I’m smart.When she brought up his 2006 comments that he hoped the housing bubble would collapse so he could make money from it, he shrugged it off as:
That’s called business.This will thrill his supporters, who agree with his admonition that Clinton and other politicians have failed for decades to prevent the loss of jobs and industries to other countries. As expected, Clinton was well prepared with answers to policy questions, while also showing a willingness to attack Trump on character grounds. Clinton’s supporters will welcome the fact that she directly questioned Trump’s business credentials, though they may worry that both candidates spent a long time talking about Trump himself, which always seemed to work in his favour during the Republican debates. Clinton’s calmness in the face of Trump’s explosive bluster will be evidence to many that she is far better suited to the presidency. The election may be decided by who can bring out more of their own party’s supporters on the day. Both candidates are historically unpopular and distrusted by many in the electorate. This debate is unlikely to have changed anyone’s mind, but it may give supporters on both sides added motivation.