After months and months of petty insults, verbal sparring, social media jousts and telling one another to delete their accounts, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, finally faced off at the Hofstra University in New York in the first (and perhaps the most crucial) presidential debate of the election season.
The highly anticipated meeting between the two people in line to become the next commander-in-chief certainly lived up to its hype. The debate, the first of three, had a perfect amount of political zingers, stinging one-liners, and wisecracks to keep viewers entertained. The White House hopefuls also discussed an array of social and political issues plaguing the United States — making it painfully obvious that only one of the candidates had come prepared and the other was merely winging it.
While the Democratic nominee focused on systemic racism and plans to tax the ultra wealthy, the GOP candidate touted the impact of unconstitutional stop-and-frisk tactics and pushed tax cuts for billionaires (like himself).
At the end of the night, focus groups and polls declared Hillary Clinton the clear winner.
A presidential demeanor
Taking the stage and answering moderator Lester Holt’s questions, the former secretary of state came across as an educated, dignified, and professional leader. Her composure and discipline were uncanny throughout the 90-minute event. Clinton was well-prepared, followed the script, and rebounded quickly and effectively from critical questioning.
Trump, on the other hand, chose to behave like his usual self. He constantly interrupted his opponent, appeared unprepared on fundamental policy issues, grew frustrated of the questions, yelled about his temperament, and "unspooled" in front of millions of people watching the debate at home.
The "stamina" question
One highlight of the night came after Trump tried to say that Clinton lacked the “stamina” needed to run the country — something he has said previously on the trail as well.
“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina,” he exclaimed. “And I don’t believe she does have the stamina to be president of this country. You need tremendous stamina.”
Clinton took it all in a stride.
“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” she hit back.
On the defense
The billionaire business mogul, who has a penchant for racism and xenophobia, couldn’t fight Clinton back on her knowledge, so he reverted to the tricks he has been using since the conception of his campaign. He bullied, interrupted, rolled his eyes, made derogatory remarks, lied, and sniffled (the last one may just be a cold).
Perhaps the former reality TV star hoped to leave voters more convinced he could handle the role of president, but found himself on the defensive as Clinton meticulously baited him into unraveling.
Not paying federal income tax?
After the very first question about the economy, the former first lady presented a laundry list of policies to create jobs and raise wages, while her rival answered with an attack on free trade and a plan-less promise to defend American workers.
When he later suggested the U.S. had become a third-world country, Clinton quipped, “Maybe that’s because you don’t pay any federal income tax.” Instead of rushing to deny this marked dissent, Trump arrogantly retorted, "That makes me smart." Furthermore, Trump avidly resisted admitting the true reason he wouldn't release his tax returns.
Preparing to be president
Trump also tried to slam Clinton for taking time off from the campaign trail to prepare for the debate.
“You look at the inner cities — and I just left Detroit and I just left Philadelphia — you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place… you decided to stay home, and that’s OK,” he said.
Clinton shot back with perhaps the best line of the night, “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president.”
Trump, the misogynist
As Clinton talked about helping women in the workplace, Trump opted to insult them.
Moreover, Trump could be seen visibly flinching when Clinton decided to call the GOP candidate by his first name, "Donald," instead of "Mr. Trump." At the beginning of the debate, Trump called his opponent "Secretary Clinton," but eventually became so frustrated with her that he reverted to calling her "Hillary." Clinton remained steadfast.
If anything, the first presidential debate served as concrete proof that you cannot wing your way to the White House.