Monday night, September 26, was the first presidential debate, a much-anticipated face-off between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  The debate was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island. Lester Holt, the anchor of NBC Nightly News, had the challenging role of moderating this debate.  The questions were his, and in his introduction to the debate, he told the audience that he did not share them ahead of time with either campaign.  The topics and summaries, as they are listed here, were taken from the transcript put forth by the Federal News Service.

Going into the debate, the two candidates were neck-and-neck in the polls.  Different polls have offered different exact figures, but the largest margin either candidate had in a poll was 4%.  According to the U.S. edition of The Guardian, in past elections, the polls have generally stabilized by Labor Day. This year, however, “they continue to point all over the place. On Sunday, a survey by the Economist and YouGov found that Hillary Clinton had a lead of 4%. Less than 24 hours later, a poll from the L.A. Times and USC Tracking put Donald Trump 4% ahead.” Four percent is not a particularly strong lead, and even if a candidate performs poorly in a debate, there is still time to recover.  So as far as we can tell, pretty much anything can happen.

The evening was, as expected, filled with a lot of name-calling, arguing, bait-and-switch responses, and time spent off topic, so we’ll gloss over the heated exchanges.  In order keep my article out of the “Snippets of Strange” column, I dug through the transcripts to give the basics of actual policy ideas that were put forth.  This is the no-bantering, reality-TV-free version of the debate; nothing but the candidates’ actual perspectives and policy ideas have been included

Jobs & The Economy
Clinton: Increase jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business.”  Institute a national minimum wage and a guarantee of women’s equal pay.  Encourage profit sharing: if you help the company make a profit, it should be distributed to all employees, not just the executives.  Have the wealthy pay their “fair share” to cover costs of paid family leave, affordable childcare, debt-free college.
Trump: Block the outsourcing of jobs in Mexico and China by reducing taxes for companies.  Remove the red tape to encourage companies to build domestically, which ultimately will benefit the middle class, who will have more jobs.

Trump’s Tax Returns, Clinton’s Emails
Trump: I’ll release my tax returns when the audit is completed. But if Clinton will release her deleted emails, then I’ll go against my lawyers’ advice and release them now.
Clinton: lists several hypotheses about why Trump hasn’t released his tax returns, mainly that he doesn’t regularly pay federal taxes, which Trump replied, “that makes me smart.” C: If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have used my work account for personal emails.

Race in America
Clinton: Race still determines too much, often determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools they can get, and, yes, it determines how they’re treated in the criminal justice system.” We need to restore trust between communities and police and provide better training to the police to prevent implicit bias. I’m calling for criminal justice reform and create more second-chance programs for nonviolent criminals.  Stricter gun laws should be created to keep people feeling safe.
Trump: Stop-and-frisk worked, so we should reinstitute it in New York and implement it in other cities.  In places where gang members are illegal immigrants, we have to be vigilant.  Right now, the police are afraid to do anything. [Followed by some debates with the moderator over whether or not stop and frisk and racial profiling are constitutional.]  These people are felons, and they shouldn’t have guns. More police officers and better community relations are needed to create law and order.  Candidates “talk good” around election time, but the African-American community has really been let down by our politicians.

“Securing America”
On cyber security:
Clinton: Cybersecurity will be a major issue in the coming presidency because we face two kinds of enemies: independent hacking groups and cyber attacks from states and organs of states.  We have to make it clear that the U.S. has a much greater capacity, and we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.
Trump: We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not.” We created the Internet, and ISIS is beating us at our own game.
Clinton: We have to intensify air strikes and support our Arab and Kurdish partners. We’re hoping that within the year we’ll be able to push ISIS out of Iraq and then out of Syria. I would do everything possible to take out their leadership and disrupt their propaganda efforts online. We need to increase intelligence.  “I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good.”
Trump: We have to get NATO and surrounding nations to go into the Middle East with us. Nuclear weapons are the single greatest threat to the world.  We shouldn’t be defending other countries without receiving some sort of payment from them.  They have to defend themselves or help us out. We’re not keeping up in terms of warcraft and capabilities.  We need to negotiate better trade deals.

Mutual Acceptance
Trump: I want to make America great again.  I don’t believe Hillary will do that, but if she wins, I will support her.
Clinton: I believe in democracy.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  I will support the outcome of the election.

Having spent a few hours combing through to put together this summary, I must say, the amount of digging that was required to find real policy suggestions was absurd.  Nevertheless, I hope this rundown provides voters with some thoughts on what each candidate actually wants to accomplish as U.S. President, should they be elected.

Following the debate, different groups made different claims about the winner.  Several public, online polls still showed a 50/50 approval of each candidate, while major (largely liberal) news outlets have claimed that Hillary was the victor.  There’s no real question that Hillary Clinton retained a lot more composure than Donald Trump did throughout the debate, but some critics question if this will help her in the long run – perhaps she continued to appear too academic and stiff to appeal to “the masses?”  Yet somehow, Trump maintained that he has the better temperament of the two.  Both candidates spent a lot of time telling us about one another’s shortcomings, which is probably why they continue to be touted the two least popular presidential candidates in the last thirty years of American politics.  

The race to November seems to continue to be close, so the debates that follow could still be game-changers for the election.  The next presidential debates are scheduled for October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis and October 19 at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the upcoming vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.


  1. Dear Editor: Oct. 9, 2016

    A vote for Donald Trump, I’m convinced, is akin to an act of avodah zara, idol worship, inasmuch as the nominee believes himself to be a god, above other humans, infallible, with the right to exercise vengeance and crush his rivals, competitors and opponents. Adolf Hitler once said of himself that Providence was on his side.
    But when it comes to national leaders I take my cue from Moshe Rabbeinu of whom it was said he was the humblest of human beings (Bamidbar 12:3).
    Donald Trump, in contrast, is among the most arrogant of humans. The media, rather than faulting him for what he said on this or that issue, should have caught his underlying character, his lies and his sick, boundless ego at the beginning of the campaign.
    Think of how many of the seven Noahhide Laws he has violated down the years. At least two, I’d say, with the third, the one on murder, he dealt with jocularly (“I can stand on Fifth Ave. and shoot people…”.
    Just about all of his decisions have been and will continue to be guided by his lust for power, dominance, control, boosting his image and certainly his accumulation of more wealth. As for his assumed support for Israel, it’s a ruse, unqualified and unknown. He’s already said he’d demand more payment for US assistance.
    The most patriotic act he could perform for the United States and mankind would be to quietly drop out without blaming the media, his opponents or even his supporters,

    Ray Kestenbaum
    98-15 65th Rd.
    Rego Park, NY 11374