Live-Blogging the First 2016 Presidential Debate

10:32 pm: Lester Holt asks Trump about his recent comment that Secretary Clinton “doesn’t look Presidential”–you know, she’s a woman.  He tries very hard to shift the focus to a claim that Clinton “doesn’t have the stamina to be President.”

Clinton comes back by saying that Donald Trump should negotiate international agreements and cease-fires, open up new markets, and sit through 11 hours of Congressional testimony before deciding what kind of stamina is required to be President.

10:21 pm-10:28 pm: Trump talks about geopolitics like someone’s drunken uncle–NATO members should pay us for the privilege of their defense, China should “go into North Korea” and take care of the problem of that state’snuclear brinkmanship.  He has no grasp of policy particulars or of statesmanship; his very presence on this debate stage is scary.

10:18 pm: Holt asks Trump about his suggestion that U.S. defense of NATO members should be contingent on what those members have paid into the common defense of NATO members–which could embolden Russia to attack certain Eastern European countries with relatively low military budgets–and he defends that dangerous claim, by arguing that he effected recent announcements of enhanced commitment to military spending by NATO members.

Secretary Clinton notes that the only time NATO’s Article V (An attack on 1 NATO member constitutes an attack on all NATO members) has been invoked was after September 11th, when all NATO members honored their defense commitment and joined the NATO campaign against Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan.

10:14 pm: Trump attacks President Obama’s decision to make a complete withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, noting that this created a military vacuum in Iraq.  He says we should have kept at least 10,000 US Armed Forces personnel in Iraq as a monitoring force, to prevent an incursion by militant Islamists such as the Islamic State…them he says the United States should have stayed and taken Iraq’s oil.  See? Trump was giving a measured critique, but then he kinda lost his mind there and called for some kind of weird neocolonial redux.

Clinton notes in response that the 2011 withdrawal was in response to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s refusal to reach a status-of-forces agreement over US military forces in Iraq.

10:00 pm: Donald Trump really is a fool.  When Holt asks him to elaborate on the Birther movement he led, which demanded to see President Obama’s birth certificate, he defends the action.  He says that he did the country–and most-gallingly, the President–a service by demanding that he prove he was born in the United States.

Secretary Clinton notes with indignation that President Obama quietly bristled foot a long time under the suggestion that he should have to repeatedly aire the public that he was really a native-born American citizen while the White Presidents who proceeded him did not.

Clinton also cited the fact that the Department of Justice brought charges against Trump twice for violations of Fair Housing policy; Trump defends himself by noting that he settled–paid a fine–without an admission of guilt.

9:45 pm: A surprisingly civil discussion over police procedure and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Secretary Clinton calls for procedural reforms that can address tragic police killings of Black men–she notes incidents over the past week in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.  Trump notes the high violent crime rate in many majority-minority inner cities, suggesting that respect for “law and order” would benefit Black Americans in the inner city.  He calls for the reinstitution of the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, suggesting that it would be upheld on appeal in the Federal Court system.

Clinton later drives the stake into a vulnerable point of his, suggesting that Trump’s loose way of talking about crime in the inner cities comstitutes a slur, and that noting that stop-and-frisk program was found unconstitutional by a lower Federal Court for encouraging police to target young Black men for frisking for weapons.  Donald Trump’s trawling for Black voters is unlikely to go anywhere, tonight’s debate being a case in point.  He makes another try for it, though, calling Clinton out for use of the racially-toned term “super-predators” in reference to hardened criminals and criticising American politicians for paying most attention to Black voters at election season.

9:36 pm: Holt asks Secretary Clinton if she wants to comment on her privatr email server now that Trump has brought it up; she says that she does, and that she made a mistake and that she would handle her private communications very differently if she could do it again.  She apologizes.

In response, Trump accuses her of deliberate malfeasance.  He isn’t the first person to suggest this, but he just sounds feckless, as if he wasn’t expecting Clinton to admit that she made a mistake.

9:33 pm: You’re a good man, Lester Holt: Holt asks Trump about his excuse for not releasing his tax returns–that he is under IRS audit.  He notes that a person under IRS audit is free to publicize his or her tax returns.  Trump tries to shift the focus to Secretary Clinton’s emails; Clinton suggests that Trump won’t release his tax returns because he may not be as rich as he claims…or as charitable as he claims…finally, in a master stroke, she suggests that  Trump may not have paid income tax for several years due to real estate tax provisions.

9:26 pm: Question #2.  Secretary Clinton bum-rushed Trump for almost 6 minutes, and all he did was reactively protest.  Even Lester Holt was unable to reign her in because she knew what she wanted to say and jumped right into it.

9:24 pm #ItsnotLestersfault

9:20 pm: Donald Trump loses his composure 20 minutes in.  He tries to go after Secretary Clinton very hard on free trade, but she talks for a full 4 minutes with only terse protests from Trump.

9:17 pm: Secretary Clinton notes that Donald Trump called global warming “a hoax brought to us by the Chinese,” which he denies several times.  She’s really getting under his skin.

9:13 pm: Trump calls Clinton “Secretary Clinton,” and asks if she is happy with that title.  “Good,” he says.  “I want you to be happy.  That’s important to me.”  He’s being tense; I think she got under his skin.  He maintains his composure for now, though; it isn’t enough for him to be agitated for am attack to count as a grand slam in this debate.

9:11 pm: Secretary Clinton draws first blood, calling Trump’s proposals to lower taxes and reduce regulations just a buffed Reaganomics–“Trumponomics.”

Then she notes Donald Trump’s good luck in getting a $14 million investment from his father to get his start in real estate.  She suggests that the very rich don’t appreciate how difficult social mobility really is.

9:09 pm: Donald Trump talks for almost his entire period about the ravages of past free trade agreements; he particularly focuses on declining auto manufacturing work in the Midwest.  As a supporter of free trade, the Liberal Ironist really doesn’t know how this will go down with viewers.  Trump does take an early lead with those who interpret or economic problems through a lens of anxiety.

Oh, he calls for tax cuts.

9:07 pm: Secretary Clinton starts off addressing a question on shared prosperity–We need equal pay for equal work, corporate profit-sharing with employees, paid family leave.

That’s paid family leave; Secretary Clinton’s proposal allows either parent to stay home to raise a newborn, and it’s much more-generous in its provisions than Trump’s.

9:05 pm: Lester Holt: “And now, let’s bring out the candidates–Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.”

Friend sitting next to me: “Oh, I can’t believe this is happening!  How horrible!”

9:00 pm: A lot of boring discussion about political optics.


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