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Who Lost the First Presidential Debate?

Analyzing Truthfulness and Integrity of Clinton and Trump

The American people lost the first debate. Is this the best we can do? Clearly, the cream does not rise to the top when it comes to the candidates who are running for President of the U.S.

Presidential Debate

Watching the debate last Monday was a depressing experience made worse by the fact that I missed the Monday night football game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The final score was 45-32 in favor of the Falcons. The score in the debate as I see it was +1 for Clinton and -1 for Trump. If I were grading the candidates, Clinton would receive a C- and Trump a D-, and I’m a generous grader.

Donald Trump

The claims made on both sides had more holes in them than Swiss cheese. The lack of principled behavior is troubling because it shows a lack of integrity. We expect very little of Trump and got much less in return. He can’t even get the number of times he filed for bankruptcy right. It was six not four, and he boasts of using the law to protect his assets and believes this is a good thing. He must live in a parallel universe. Can you imagine if you or I filed for bankruptcy six times? Our credit rating would tank. This is the guy who wants to run the country?

Trump’s insensitivity toward others is well known. He has disparaged women, the disabled, Hispanics, and just about every other group. He also “fat-shamed” former Miss America Alicia Machado who represented Venezuela in 1996 when he said she had gained too much weight after becoming Miss America. While it is true Miss America agrees to maintain her weight and appearance after winning the crown, it is the height of insensitivity to criticize a winner publicly. The best way to handle it is privately and tactfully, two qualities Trump does not possess – civility and respect for others.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s secretiveness is also well known. She’s like a shapeshifter that changes her position on issues to placate her base. Her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one such example. First she said in 2012 “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing.” Clinton came out against the TPP in October 2015, but it wasn’t because of Trump’s position, as he claimed. She did it because she saw how Bernie Sanders was capitalizing on his unreserved opposition to the trade deal especially with millennials.

How can we trust the job of running the government to someone who didn’t foresee the national security issues of having a private server and why didn’t Trump challenge her on this issue during the discussion about cybersecurity? The reason is he was ill-prepared to be the President of a glee club no less the President of the U.S. Someone who cares so little about preparation for arguably the most important moment in his life can’t be trusted to run this country.

Is Gary Johnson the Answer?

I watched Chris Matthews’s town hall last night with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson because I thought he might be the answer to my dilemma of who to vote for. However, he seemed to have no knowledge of foreign affairs, which we know because earlier on when he was asked about Aleppo he drew a blank. Matthews asked him to name his “favorite foreign leader” and he drew another blank. Johnson began to restate the question, and Matthews interrupted: "Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to, anybody."

Johnson sighed, and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, said his would be Shimon Peres, an Israeli statesman. I’m certain Weld said Peres because his name was in the news yesterday because he had passed away.

Is Dr. Jill Stein the Answer?

That leaves Doctor Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. The attributes I admire in her is she is forthcoming and addresses the issues. If you look at her position on the issues, you may not agree with them all but they are well thought out.

Ethical Failings of the Candidates

What can we do to restore the Presidency to its rightful place of representing the best among us? The fact is it’s getting increasingly difficult to do so because most people, especially politicians, think honesty is relative to each individual and each situation. This comes from a lack of understanding about ethics. Ethics is based on norms that do not change with the prevailing winds. Moreover, honesty, especially truthfulness, is cast aside not only when one lies but also one’s failure to disclose information that the American people have a right to know. In this regard both Clinton (the use of her personal server and the missing emails) and Trump (refusal to disclose his income taxes) fail the test.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 29, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at:

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