MATT EPSTEIN ’19
From “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” to “The Bachelor,” the United States loves reality TV. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that on Sept. 26, Donald Trump turned the first of three presidential debates into another episode of the reality TV show that is his candidacy. From name-calling, to –– perhaps the cardinal sin in presidential debates –– interrupting the moderator, Trump undeniably provided our country with a great night of entertainment. While Trump entertained, Hillary Clinton offered the record-high 84 million watching carefully laid out policy proposals, a pragmatic plan for our countries future, and above all else, a temperament befitting of our next Commander-in-Chief.
Although many saw the debate as a victory for Clinton, it was more aptly described as a loss for Trump. Clinton for the most part played “par for the course,” debating in a traditional way against an untraditional candidate. It can not be denied, however, that Clinton’s strategy was highly effective, with 66 percent of participants declaring her the winner in a CNN/ORC poll.
From the onset of the debate Clinton prodded Trump into making regrettable statements, and Trump took the bait numerous times. When Secretary Clinton mentioned that Trump had welcomed the housing collapse, he replied (interrupted), “that’s called business, by the way.” While Trump is more of an expert when it comes to real estate, does our country really want a president who not only celebrates, but takes advantage of the misfortune of millions of hard working Americans? Most likely not. Already far removed from the struggles of the middle class, Trump’s comments probably further ostracized those who are not wealthy and/or undecided in this election. Additionally, Trump later repeated the line that his father gave him a “small loan.” While it may be small for someone of his means, a reportedly million dollar loan is no small sum for the majority of Americans.
Throughout the past year, Donald Trump’s candidacy has been marked by his refusal to release his tax returns, a practice typically followed by major presidential nominees. Candidates in the Republican Primary, as well as Clinton, have speculated as to why Trump refuses to release them. During the debate, Clinton forced his hand on the matter, and it did not work out well. When Secretary Clinton suggested that Trump will refrain from releasing his tax returns because they would reveal that he does not pay any income tax. Trump interrupted her, telling the millions watching that withholding that information “makes him smart,” –– an admission in they eyes of many that he in fact does not pay income taxes.
The next day, Vice President Joe Biden, quick to respond to Trump’s comments, told a crowd at Drexel University, “tell that to the janitor here who’s paying taxes. Tell that to your mothers and fathers who are breaking their necks to send you here and are paying their taxes. It angers me.” The Vice President likely spoke for many Americans.
If the possibility that billionaire Trump does not pay his fair share of taxes is not taken as a red flag to those considering voting for him, then what is?
Much of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric has been divisive over the past year, but he may be the only presidential candidate in our country’s history to have ostracized half of the population with blatant misogyny. When the moderator confronted Trump about his comment that Clinton does not have the “presidential look,” he attempted to avoid the question, instead offering that Clinton does not have the “stamina” needed to be president. Clinton, clearly prepared for this, was not only quick to point to her accolades as Secretary of State, but also reminded us of Trump’s history of demeaning comments towards women, saying that “he tried to switch from looks to stamina, but this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.”
While Trump attempted to defend his comments, the debate –– a night of self-inflicted damage for him –– mercifully ended shortly thereafter. Although though it remains to be seen how, the next debates and Election Day will play out. If this first debate is any indication, Hillary Clinton will be our next president.