Summary of the First 2016 Presidential Debate

Image courtesy of Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Image courtesy of Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Monday night, presidential candidates Donald J. Trump (Republican) and Hillary R. Clinton (Democrat) faced off in what is likely to be the most watched presidential debate in history. In a conversation moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt, the two candidates met each other at Hofstra University amidst tightening polls, divisive rhetoric, and high expectations. The debate topics were partitioned between three parts: achieving prosperity, America’s direction, and securing America.

In the first section of the debated, “Achieving Prosperity,” Clinton and Trump focused on mostly economic policy, particularly trade partnerships and economic foreign policy. Clinton began the night by mentioning multiple economic reforms including closing the gender wage gap, raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, and debt free college.

On trade, both candidates stayed on message with Clinton embracing globalization, while Trump continued his message promoting mostly domestic business growth in response to countries such as Mexico and China “taking our jobs, giving incentives, their doing things that– frankly– we don’t do”. In a more Presidential fashion than usual, Trump called for tax reductions for businesses and incentives to keep jobs in the United States rather than outsourcing them to other countries.

During this section, Secretary Clinton announced that her website was going to be fact checking Donald Trump’s statements live, and she mentioned it routinely throughout the debate. Several scandals of the election also came up during this section including Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, and the rumored 33,000 emails missing from Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Donald Trump ended the discussion by saying, “I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when [Hillary Clinton] releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted.”

In the second section, “America’s Direction”, the candidates found common ground on the importance of community policing and increased training for police officers, however disagreed on issues such as stop-and-frisk. Trump emphasized strengthening of police and a better sense of “law and order” in inner-city communities. Both Clinton and Trump also agreed that people on the No Fly List or “terrorist watch list” should not be permitted to buy guns.

Moderator Lester Holt mentioned Trump’s recent change in stance on his birther movement, in which he had questioned President Barack Obama’s birthplace, even after he released a birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii.

Clinton took advantage of the question, saying, “[Donald Trump] has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black President was not an American citizen”.

National security, particularly the threat of Islamic terrorism home and abroad, as well as cyber security were discussed during the final section, “Securing America”. Clinton accused Russia of having a part in several high-profile hacks, such as the one against the Democratic National Convention. Trump, however, pointed to other countries, such as China, for possibly having a role. Trump outlined the importance of strong action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in addition to ensuring the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members are maintaining focus on terrorism.

Towards the end, Donald Trump said, “I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament”.

Despite some political bickering throughout the debate, both Clinton and Trump managed to stay more on message and increasing professional as the November 8 election day approaches. The next presidential debates will be October 9 and October 19.