Temperament: The Key Word of the First Presidential Debate

Image courtesy of the Public Domain

By Henry Feldman

News Reporter

Of the 100 million people who tuned into Monday night’s presidential debate, only a small fraction were thoroughly informed on all of the issues that the candidates discussed. NBC’s Lester Holt designed a debate program that covered a wide array of topics, ranging from fiscal policy and job creation to international terrorism and cyber security. The candidates attempted to delve into the intricacies of such issues and offer their proposals on how to address them.

The average viewer may or may not be able to walk away from their television and accurately summarize the policy suggestions and disputes. However, the ability to evaluate a candidate’s temperament is something that most Americans possess. It isn’t particularly difficult to see when a candidate feels nervous, stressed, overwhelmed, intimidated, angered, etc. In fact, it’s quite easy.

At countless times throughout tonight’s debate, Donald Trump appeared visibly infuriated in front of the American people. He spent the first half of the session interrupting Secretary Clinton, attempting to pump up his base by channeling the domineering behaviors that carried him through the primary season.

At times when Holt or Clinton brought up Trump’s record, citing his approval of the Iraq war, his tweet claiming that Climate Change is a “Chinese Hoax,” or his encouragement of Russian hackers, Trump told the speaker that they were “wrong,” often without offering further explanation.

In another crucial moment, which seemed to be the climax of the whole debate, Trump defended his temperament as one of his best qualities that makes him well suited to hold the Presidential Office, saying, “Well, I have much better judgment than [Clinton] does. There’s no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has.”

If tonight’s debate is anything close to an accurate representation of Trump’s personality or temperament, this assertion is hard to believe. Secretary Clinton remained calm and poised when Trump attacked her and repeatedly spoke over her. After Trump made the remark about his temperament in comparison to her’s, Clinton humorously replied “Woo, okay,” shaking off his insults before moving onto more substantive matters.

All policy disputes and partisanship aside, I would hope that the average American viewer can make similar conclusions about tonight’s proceedings.