To quote Democratic Presidential nominee/budding Westchester real estate tycoon Hillary Clinton from last night’s debate, “Woo! OK.” That pretty much sums up how most of America feels after watching the former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State spar with Republican opponent Donald Trump for 90-plus minutes last night at Hofstra University.
There were highs, there were lows, there was poise and there was panic. Odds are, with two debates remaining (on October 9 and 16, respectively), partisan voters haven’t veered from their gut, while undecided or third-party outliers saw and heard little to compel them toward either primarily appointed candidate.
We, of course, shall maintain our editorial objectivity. That’s not to say we didn’t tune in. We were indeed rapt, and these were the five most significant insights we gleaned from Hillary v. Donald, Round 1.
The Pop-Culture Clash
It’s not very often both Howard Stern and Rosie O’Donnell get name-dropped in the course of a Presidential debate, but here we are, in a campaign like no other. Trump once again reiterated that an off-the-cuff remark on Stern’s radio show during the early stages of our intervention in Iraq has been broadly interpreted as having endorsed the war. And toward the end of the proceedings, on the issue of his characterizations of women, Trump himself cited his notorious attacks on Rosie O’Donnell, doubling down by remarking, “I think everybody would agree she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.” For anyone already leery that both Trump and Clinton are ringleaders of a celebrity circus, neither reference could have been reassuring. But on the other hand, Baba Booey!
Being a Moderator Is Hard
Pity Lester Holt. The NBC news anchor was bound to get slammed from the right for being soft on Hillary, as well as held to a high standard of due diligence by liberals, especially after the Matt Lauer fiasco. Holt (who, incidentally, is a registered Republican) was seemingly more at ease admonishing the occasionally vocal live audience than either candidate, though he arguably held his ground amid Trump’s abrupt outbursts and efforts to redirect lines of inquiry. As expected, the reviews were mixed: The Street applauded his largely laissez-faire approach, while FOX News claimed he stacked the deck against their preferred conservative nominee. Your move, Anderson Cooper.
Bill of Lefts
The legacy of Clinton’s husband loomed large over last night’s exchanges. Trump wasted little time blasting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of Bill’s most significant and divisive concords while in office. And then there was the scuttlebutt over whether Trump’s campaign invited Clinton sex-scandalite Gennifer Flowers to the debate (Donald’s team insists that was a false rumor). Hillary, for her part, stood firm in saluting her husband’s presidential initiatives. Bill, for his part, has stayed mum over the past 12 hours, save a straightforward Tweet this morning encouraging citizens to register and vote. That dog.
Checks and Balances
As in the enormous sums that both candidates can claim in their accounts. Trump didn’t flinch when it came to the subject of his earnings. The real estate magnate boasted of reaping $694 million last year. He then defied Clinton or anyone else to fact-check his financial accumulations at various “fine institutions” while the IRS continues auditing his wealth. Clinton (who has released her tax returns) deflected attention from her own status among the one percent by accusing Trump of a “bait and switch” on the topic, questioning his forthrightness, and sticking concretely to her agenda for bringing the lower and middle classes back to livable wages. Though for disaffected millennials eyeing Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, they may have looked at their screens and simply seen a pair of rich, un-relatable hucksters. Did we mention they both have a lot of money?
No Russian to Judgment
There’s plenty of ground left to cover in rounds two and three, from the crisis in Syria and what it portends for future overseas instability; the delicate dance of international diplomacy; whether we’re headed to another Cold War or just self-fulfilling it so; more incisive clarity on how to combat the viral expanse of terrorist extremists; what job creation on our soil is going to really look like beyond the platforms and promises; and a host of social justice issues that are what currently matter most to millions of Americans. Between now and then, all we can do is keep an eye on whether Trump stays the course of campaigning between debates rather than polishing his technique, and if Hillary can dissuade skeptics that she’s not laying low and prepping as a means of monitoring her stamina. Either way, we’re already exhausted.