Webb: After the debate

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The first presidential debate of 2016 qualifies as the ultimate reality show: One of the two candidates, Donald J. Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton, will become the president of the United States. 

On Monday night, for the first time, we saw Trump and Clinton dueling onstage. It was Trump’s first time engaging in an event of this type, against a 30-year practiced politician — how much did this play into the businessman’s ability to respond to Clinton? — and both candidates took different approaches in their preparations: Clinton more traditional, Trump more nontraditional. 

{mosads}Who won, who lost and what matters? These are the questions following a political debate. The media consensus that Clinton won is countered by online polling that, in general, shows Trump with the momentum and the energy. Once again, this is an election that defies historical norms.

Did either candidate take the issues that were on the debate table to the next level? The answer to this question is no. This is often the case in debates — only so much can be done in 90 minutes. Trump dropped the ball in some areas where he could’ve attacked Clinton. He needs to incorporate the ability to pivot on topics to attack points, which is something hard to acquire.

A big aspect of the night had nothing to do with the candidates: Moderator Lester Holt made himself a part of the story, just as Candy Crowley did four years ago, also at Hofstra University.  Holt queried Trump with follow-up questions six times and did not do the same with Clinton once. Some will say this is just what happened, but I find that hard to believe with Clinton’s long political history. 

One of Holt’s “corrections” was about the constitutionality of New York’s stop-and-frisk program. Holt is factually wrong: Stop-and-frisk has not been ruled unconstitutional. There is not a debate on this issue. Trump is running to be the law-and-order president and supports stop-and-frisk. 

Clinton stated that stop-and-frisk did not work and that it led to implicit bias. But the thin scratch of CompStat crime-tracking reports in New York and other major cities provide data to the contrary, and by significant margins. Clinton’s assertion, supported by her fellow safe-space advocates and those who claim that white privilege is “a thing,” is ridiculous.

Holt did not ask Clinton about Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation or her email scandals from the State Department, areas that speak to her trustworthiness and ability to protect our nation. Both of these are issues of importance. Was Holt really a moderator, or was he a partisan Hillary Clinton supporter?

It is important to note that this will not be the only debate between Clinton and Trump; there will be three debates total, not to mention the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine on Oct. 4, and the results of this first event for Clinton will be damaging if her poll numbers do not increase. The trajectory for her this cycle has been downward. When you examine the amount of money her campaign has spent, compared with the lack of spending by Trump, we have essentially a tied race in key states and in the national polls. 

I was at Hofstra University for the debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in 2012, and, by comparison, I observed much more international media at this debate. America does not exist in a vacuum. The world is watching, because on both economic and national security, America is still the premier global actor. Americans face a fundamental decision: Do they want a change agent with a Trump administration, or a ’90s Clinton redux that gives Obama a third term?

I’ll leave the reader with the question: Was there anything new for you in the debate? 

Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox News contributor and has appeared frequently on television as a commentator. Webb co-founded TeaParty365 in New York City. His column appears twice a month in The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Mike Pence Tim Kaine

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