September 27, 2016
by Alexandra Ares

Clinton Brought Her A Game in the First Debate, But Didn't Play Fair; Trump Fought Hard, But Didn't Do His Best  

So they finally appeared together on the same stage: Hillary Clinton, dressed in imperial red from head to toe, to amp-up her recently sickly stamina and look more presidential, if not royal; Donald Trump, with a boring blue tie that seemed borrowed from Bernie Sanders to dial down his flamboyant persona, and look more humble, if not presidential. She seemed radiant, well-rehearsed, and in her element; he seemed flustered like a high-school boy who came there to impress a date; not his usual devil-may-care: "I am here to slay my rivals." He addressed her (like Sanders before him) with Madam Secretary, she called him back dismissively Donald. Big mistake to play - out of chivalry - by the rules of a female opponent who is known for skirting them. Trump's strength in the primaries was to be irreverent and mention all the elephants in the room. This is why he survived 17 opponents, while Bernie Sanders and his kid gloves vanished into the sunset. Without his irreverence, Trump was like Sampson tricked to offer his hair to Delilah.  

The debate started with an easy question from the moderator Lester Holt who ashed Clinton why is she better equipped to create jobs. From there followed an intellectual wasteland of 90 minutes full of generic ideas that any fan of the two candidates could have answered easily and often times even better; nothing new or inconvenient of any significance was asked or discussed. The moderator strategy for the debate seemed to be to 1) play it safe and keep his job, 2) avoid Matt Lauer’s criticism, and 3) avoid upsetting the members of the Presidential Debates Committee, who reportedly all but one had donated to Hillary Clinton.  

Hillary Clinton brought her A game, reversing the collapsing trend started by her fainting spell at the 9/11 ceremony and her other recent health problems. She came much better prepared than her opponent, both in front and behind the camera. Nothing was left to chance: from the previously intimidated moderator, who never interrupted her like he interrupted Trump, and who never dared to ask her about her iffy record (the  the many documented conflicts of interest (with the Clinton foundation,  the controversial FBI investigation, the negative IG report,  the 30,000+ deleted emails after they were suponaed, the laptop with classified data lost in the mail, the documented DNC rigging of the primaries, as shown in WikiLeaks; the recent proof of intent found by Paul Gambetta work ticket labeled “Hillary cover-up” and his forays on Reddit to learn how to delete sensitive data from Hillary’s emails, etc.).; to the split screen that cut a few inches of Trump’s left side of the head, making him look awkward, smaller and cornered, while Hillary’s camera framing was 100% flattering; to the defective mic that made Trump sniff uncharacteristically; to the content of the debate questions and answers.         

Clinton delivered not a single solution to improve race relations or anything in particular, only sound bites that sounded good and knowledgeable and compassionate, but amounted to nothing concrete; no real ideas or clear proposals. Donald Trump spoke with intensity and conviction but he was winging it, speaking on top of Hillary to defend himself but with mangled sentences, and he jumped from one idea to the next, often before finishing his thoughts, too rushed and aggravated to properly word his arguments.   

In conclusion, the first debate offered us a stark choice between a polished politician who represents the status quo and who exudes a queenly arrogance and is a master of scripted platitudes that never translate into action; and an undisciplined businessman who is relatable and has good judgement, but is rough around the edges, improvisational, and easily taunted. While watching it, I wished Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein were on stage to bring their eloquent proposals regarding education, healthcare and military restraint (Sanders) or roll-back (Stein) to the 100 million of people in the audience, and lead both Trump and Hillary, as well as Lester Holt, to more meaningful subjects for our everyday life. 

Trump was  like a singer constrained to sing in the wrong key, a Trump-lite key suggested by his advisers. By trying too hard to be nice and presidential, he lost the chance of framing the conversation from the get go, and had to act defensively most of the debate.

The unfair bit came when Clinton accused Trump of calling a former Ms. Universe winner Ms. Piggy after she gained weight, and when Hillary accused Trump of wanting equal pay for men and women if they do an equally good job. Here Trump lost it; perhaps because he was attacked under his belt. I don't know if the first assertion was true, but Clinton has ran adds with it for two months and he shoud have been prepared. He should have said that if a woman voluntarily enrolls in the world's top beauty pageant than she is expected to look in a certain way and, if she wins, maintain her looks and weight for one year  as per her contract. It's about  being professional. If the same woman wants to be judged for her intellect she could enroll in a chess tournament or in the Olympics for Math or in a piano-playing contest. People are judged by the rules of the game they want to win and voluntarily submit themselves to. It goes the same for equal pay for men and women as long as their job is equally good. You can't use feminism as a weapon to gain preferential treatment, and cry victim when you don't get it.   

The real "Trump" from the first Republican debate, who talked like someone with nothing to lose, had been more effective. This time he made some good point, but he forgot to mention that the country needs no more Clinton and Bushes. He occasionally lost himself in meaningless details that made Clinton smile, instead of framing his case in broad, bold strokes. 

Hillary came across as the smooth talker between the two, the real politician; but still not someone who could inspire people or bring change to the millions who need it. Will it be enough for her  to win?  

It remains to be seen how Trump will up his game at the next debate. It  remains to be seen if Hillary’s polished debate skills will be enough to counteract people's mistrust and her tainted track record.