After decades of political experience, and running against President Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton's performance Monday night was as good as it gets. The first presidential debate between democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and republican nominee Donald Trump, which was held at Hofstra University, broke the viewing record on Monday evening, with over 84 million people watching the live action. This is three times the number of viewers for the season finale of the Apprentice in 2004.
Lester Holt, anchor of "NBC Nightly News," served as moderator and semi fact checker. The resulting scrutiny of his performance will lead future moderators to check and double check their questions and performances. The 90-minute no commercial format, with only one adversary on stage, was much different than the debate experience Trump had during the republican primary, where there were up to 10 contestants on stage.
Trump easily cleared the first hurdle of the first debate -- he stayed on stage, was articulate and passed the "can I imagine him as president?" test. He stood side by side with someone who has prepared for decades, and came across as a reasonable alternative.
Clinton, prepared, poised and polished, might have marginally won the debate from the perspectives of the pundits and the political class; but Trump laid the groundwork for a chasm of difference between the two. The Chasm: a politician who is polished and poised, but represents the status quo, and a business person who represents real change.
By referring to her as "Secretary Clinton" Trump reminds us that Clinton is part of the current administration, and that her tenure as Secretary of State included controversies regarding her use of a private email server as well as her leadership and communications regarding Benghazi.
Trump's statements of fact are powerful. "She's been doing this for 30 years... [Clinton's a] Typical politician. All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn't work. Never going to happen. Our country is suffering because people like Secretary Clinton have made such bad decisions in terms of our jobs and in terms of what's going on."
The difference is vast and real, and if people are happy today with how the government works, they should vote for Secretary Clinton.
Alternatively, as he articulated at the debate, Trump has "a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world, and I say that only because that's the kind of thinking that our country needs."
His statement to the American people that "I'm with you" is the perfect contrast to Clinton's theme of "I'm with her."
Clinton reinforces this split during the debate. "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. And I think that's a good thing," she said. While it drew applause from her supporters in the hall, but also reinforces the fact that Clinton has been doing this for decades and does not represent the real change that many Americans are seeking.
For the next debate Trump has two opportunities. The first is to answer potential controversial questions prior to the next debate. For instance, the questions about his tax returns. The second opportunity is to ask questions unasked by the moderator of Clinton during the debate regarding her private email server, the Clinton Foundation and her handling of Benghazi.
Regarding his taxes, a possible response it to simply say to voters, just like you, I follow the tax laws of our nation and pay taxes as they state. I know how crazy our current tax system is -- it must be simplified and restructured. Every dollar the government spends comes from taxpayers, either collected from you today -- or in some point in the future due to government borrowing. I want to make sure that the government spends every on of your dollars is spend wisely and not wastefully.
In business, we have contracts, and if the vendor delivers a substandard product or does not deliver on time, then there is often a discount or penalty. There are often incentives to finish a project early. This system allows us to deliver large projects under budget and before deadlines. This same thought process needs to be applied to the federal government, which currently spends millions and millions of your hard earned dollars without any results.
You deserve better, you deserve government that makes sure every dollar it collects, is spent wisely.