Amid Insults and Accusations, Debate Focuses Little on Foreign Policy

By Daniel Garay
Web Editor

The first United States presidential debate, watched by a record-breaking 84 million viewers on television, was called by many commentators as the “Super Bowl of politics:” the first female nominee of a major party, Hillary Clinton, versus a businessman and reality television star-turned-politician, Donald Trump.

Although the debate was filled with accusations and insults, and did not venture far beyond domestic policies such as taxes and unemployment, the candidates briefly covered trade, cybersecurity, and terrorism.

Trade

Donald Trump stuck to the talking points on trade that made his campaign infamous. Mr. Trump continued to blame China and Mexico for stealing jobs, as well as dollars, from the United States. He criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed by former President Bill Clinton, and placed blame on Mrs. Clinton for the deal as well. He also pushed the same attitude to Sec. Clinton’s approval for the Trans –Pacific Partnership in its initial form.

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, said that she believed in “smart, fair trade deals” and investments, and that a sound trade policy is important for national security. She expressed optimism that the U.S. can be the clean-energy superpower. When grilled on her support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), she claimed that she is against the deal in its final form, although she was in favor of the idea at its conception. Mr. Trump also claimed the same about his change of opinion on the TPP.

To curb the trend of outsourcing and to reinvigorate the U.S. economy, both candidates called for a change in tax policies. Mrs. Clinton called for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and for investments in infrastructure. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, called for a reduction in taxes, especially corporate taxes, to create more domestic manufacturing jobs.

Cybersecurity

Without hesitation, Secretary Clinton named Russia as the culprit of recent American hacking woes. The U.S. government has not yet named the culprit or the country in which the culprit resides. The Clinton campaign, however, has reason to blame someone for these recent cyber-attacks, one of which breached the servers of the Democratic National Committee. The leaked emails, showing an organized effort to favor Clinton’s campaign over that of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.t, were an embarrassment to the Clinton campaign and ended the leadership of Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.).

Possibly due to working with Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager and an adviser of a pro-Putin political party in Ukraine, Trump admonished Clinton for jumping to conclusions about Russia, saying it could have been “China, or someone sitting on their bed who weighs 400 lbs,” CNN reports.

Both candidates called for an intelligence surge, but specifics were not given at this debate.

Terrorism

The fight against the Islamic State is a pressing national security issue, but instead, the candidates talked about how the other is helping ISIS in terms of recruitment and strategy.

Clinton spoke of her role as secretary of state in the take-down of Al-Qaeda leaders, citing it as the experience necessary to take down the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Mr. Trump, however, criticized her for posting her plan to defeat ISIS on her campaign website – the plan gave, it should be noted, gave nothing that would be of strategic value on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. Trump continued to argue that his plan would defeat ISIS, but that he would not divulge it for strategic reasons.

Conclusion

Contrary to expectations, few points were exchanged on immigration and foreign policy issues like the Iran nuclear deal, military alliances, and nuclear proliferation. The next debate, scheduled for October 9, should focus on questions that will test each candidate’s trustworthiness with the nuclear launch codes. Additionally, the vice-presidential debate will be on October 4.

Daniel Garay

DANIEL GARAY is a junior at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Outside of the media, he also participates in Model UN and Seton Hall’s UNA-USA chapter. Contact Daniel at daniel.garay@student.shu.edu.

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