I’m proud to report that I did my civic duty by enduring all four and a half hours of the three televised presidential debates this year. Just in case you had something better to do when they were on (like playing with your cat or braiding your own hair) I’ll give you my report card on how I thought Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fared in the debates.
I will grade each candidate on these categories that I thought the debates shed some light on: relevant experience, platform and character.
Clinton: You could certainly make the argument that Hillary Clinton is about as prepared to be president as any candidate ever has been based on her many years in public service. You could also argue that her job performance while in government service only demonstrates that electing her president might just allow her to screw things up on a much larger scale. Grade: C-
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Trump: His business experience certainly would give him a fresh perspective on how to run things in Washington, but his business experience has not been the long unbroken string of successes that he tries to spin it as, either (see Trump “University” and the near billion dollar loss that has allowed him to avoid paying federal income tax for years.) He also does not seem to have any grasp of or interest in how our government functions. It’s like he expects to pass the test without studying the material because, well, he’s just that awesome. Grade: D
Clinton: Although the debates largely consisted of endless personal attacks, Clinton did manage to discuss some specific things she wants to do as president. She would keep but try to improve Obamacare, raise taxes on the wealthy and create a new federal fund to provide college educations to anyone who wants one. You won’t like her platform if you’re a conservative, but this is a grade that reflects how well she articulated her position. Grade: C+
Trump: Giving specifics about what he wants to do as president has never been part of Trump’s strategy, and during the debates he continued to make vague, grandiose promises to do things like “knock the hell out of ISIS” and “bring manufacturing jobs back” to America. We did learn about his tax cut plan that independent financial analysts say would balloon our already out-of-control national debt. And that is exactly why he tries to stay away from specifics. Grade: D
Clinton: Hillary Clinton has been involved in politics for most of her adult life, so she has been lying to us for a very long time. We’ll never know where all those missing emails went, she’ll never admit that she traded influence for contributions to her charitable foundation and the Benghazi situation was an embarrassment to us all. She is as slippery as an eel and crooked as a mountain road. Grade: F
Trump: A lot of people say they love that Trump is straight-shooter and always tells It like it is, but that’s not what I saw in the debates. He certainly doesn’t filter what he says and doesn’t care who he offends, but by no means do I think he “always tells the truth.” I believe he is lying about his touchy-feely history with the ladies and his excuse for not releasing his tax returns smells like what wafts out of a cow pasture on a hot summer day. He is certainly not the polished liar that Clinton is, but he is not someone I trust any further than I can throw him, and I believe he may genuinely suffer from one or more serious personality disorders. Grade: F
My final assessment is that both candidates came off as shifty and hugely flawed but Clinton won on style points because she obviously prepared harder and was able to easily bait Trump into going off on some of his trademark bone-headed, unnecessary tangents. All he needed to do to win this race was to stay on message and act like a grownup when it counted most, but that is not who he is.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at email@example.com.