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A debate analysis works towards assessing in detail specific issues that arose during the discussion. By analyzing a debate, one can understand much about the debaters and their perception of the topic of discussion. This essay aims to assess the foreign issues that were discussed in the first and the third 2016 U.S. Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

The first debate introduced three Foreign Policy Issues. The issues under discussion included a direction that America should follow, a way to achieve prosperity, and a method of securing the country. The third debate introduced two major foreign policies related to immigration, namely how to deal with terrorist groups such as ISIS and the humanitarian and military actions that one could take to bring peace in Syria.

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The presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton

The Direction that the USA Should Take

The topic regarding the direction that America should take was connected with discussing the issue of racism since it is an international problem as it not only affects how America deals or relates with different domestic races but also with the international community. The debate moderator put it plainly that a majority of Americans believe that the problem of racism has increased in the last decade compared to the level it was years back. Racism is experienced through the shooting of African-Americans by the police. An example that was given was the shooting in Charlotte and Tulsa.

The first question was addressed to Clinton on how she would heal the divide. She started her response by admitting that racism is an urgent problem of today’s society. It was her argument that racism still determines where people live, school, and the kind of jobs they can secure. Clinton’s solution to this problem was that the government has an obligation to restore trust between the police and the communities. It was her promise that she would ensure that the police get the best trainings and techniques so that they only use force only when it is necessary. In her further statement, Clinton claimed that she would execute a plan that is aimed at remedying the problems that exist in the criminal justice to guarantee every citizen equal and unbiased access to justice.

Trump’s first response on the same question was that America needs enforcement of law and order. In what appeared as a blaming response, Trump argued that the numerous killings in Chicago happened from the time Obama assumed the office of president. Additionally, he made a statement that “we have to bring back law and order” (Blake, 2016). An inference that a critical thinker would draw is that legislation and order could only be realized after Obama leaves the office or by eliminating similar people. Proposing a solution, he argued that the best way to stop criminal activities was to confiscate guns from criminals. Following his line of thought and argument, by criminals he presumably meant the illegal immigrants. It is also highly probable that he did not pay attention to the people of color, where he demanded that they should be stopped and frisked to ensure that they do not have guns. Having been informed by the moderator that his approach and argument are for racial profiling, Trump made an allegation that “these people are bad and they shouldn’t have guns” (Blake, 2016).

Concerning this issue, the difference between these two candidates is that Clinton is much more liberal in her handling of the problem as she first admits that there is a problem. Unlike Trump who considers dealing with individuals, Clinton focuses on addressing the issue that is causing a drift between the two groups. Having realized that his statement may have hurt the African-Americans, at a later stage in the debate, Trump retracts his statements by blaming the politicians for the troubles that the African-Americans and Hispanic people experience. The candidates’ opinions on this issue were totally distinct bearing no obvious similarity.

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How to Achieve Prosperity

Regarding this issue, Trump’s ideology was that the best way to achieve success was to renegotiate trade deals with other countries. He further argued that what American should do is to prevent American jobs from being stolen from them by other nations. He also presented an idea that prosperity could be secured by giving incentives to companies such as, for instance, reduced taxes so that they can return to the U.S.

On the contrary, Clinton’s response was that what America needs to do was to invest in the middle-class people. Her idea of how prosperity could be achieved was to enable people to start many small businesses that will both provide employment and boost economy. Clinton also made a pledge to ensure that under her government all families will have paid family leave and the ill workers will have paid sick leave.

The major difference between the candidate’s answers was that Trump’s approach was centered on the wealthiest people, whereas Clinton concentrated on the middle-class people. The similarity in both arguments was that they both admitted that the way to achieve America’s prosperity was to create jobs for its citizens.

How to Secure America

On the topic of the possible methods to secure America, the moderator’s purpose was to establish the candidate’s views on who is behind cyber-attacks on the U.S. and how to resist them.

The first respondent was Clinton. In her response, she was quick to point at Russia being responsible for the cyber-attacks on the U.S. She argued that this country has used cyber-attacks against all kinds of organizations in America. Clinton did not offer a specific way in which she could fight this war, maybe so as not to inform the enemy of her tactics. She, however, made it clear that America was not going to engage in any kind of warfare, but it would rather defend its citizens regardless of who the enemy is.

On the other hand, Trump’s response to the same question was that he was not certain who organized the cyber-attacks on America. According to him, it could be Russia, China, or even a private person from his/her home. Unlike Clinton, his handling of this issue was more liberal as he did not focus on blaming an individual for the cyber-attacks. With the help of this method, he allows himself to think of the possibility that the enemy may be anybody. Regarding the way how to fight this vice, he stated that since the Internet was invented in America, this country should be leading in all aspects that relate to it, including cyber-security.

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The issue of immigration was partially touched in the first debate, but it became a subject of the animated discussion during the third debate. The first person to respond was Trump. His argument was that a wall should be compulsorily installed along the southern border. The candidate believed that it is due to the erection of the wall the U.S. would stop drugs smuggling. Apart from this, he noted that after building the wall, it shall be possible to remove the “bad” people from the country. According to Trump, the fate of the illegal immigrants will be dealt with only after the boarder is installed.

Clinton’s approach to the immigration issue was entirely different from that of Trump. She sympathizes with the four million children that were born in America but whose parents are not the U.S. citizens. She argues that since America itself is an immigration nation, the best way to handle the immigration issue is to boost border security. Her argument is that unlike Trump who wants to have all illegal immigrants deported, the only persons who should be deported are the criminals who deserve deportation but not the peaceful and law-abiding individuals. She stated that she was about to introduce an immigration reform bill that would aim at ensuring the possibility for eleven million illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Thus, Clinton demonstrates a more democratic approach to solving this issue.

The similar feature in these arguments is that they both agree that the border should not be porous and that there should be some reliable ways to protect the border. What they do not agree upon are the actual safety measures that should be taken.

Military and Humanitarian Support for International Peacekeeping

The question that was addressed to the candidates was targeted at eliminating uncertainty about the situation if Iraqi forces successfully remove ISIS from Mosul, whether the new president could put the U.S. troops into the vacuum to guarantee that ISIS would never return or would not be replaced by something even worse.

Clinton’s response was that it would not be wise to put American soldiers on watch. She argued that the goal of the U.S. is to win the war and incapacitate ISIS. This candidate’s opinion was that the ultimate better solution to Syria was to initiate negotiations that are aimed at ending the civil war, which if remains unsettled, would continue as the hotbed of terror.

Trump did not support the opinion that soldiers should be taken to Mosul as he insisted that the U.S. should not have engaged in that fight in the first place. He argues that even after successful conquering Mosul, the only country which may get some advantages is Iran.

The difference in their arguments is that Clinton finds that the U.S. has a responsibility to help international community to attain peace without necessarily looking at how much they will gain. Trump as a business person, looks at this issue from the point of view of how the U.S. will benefit. Hence, if America is not going to benefit, no matter how many people are affected, he seems to remain indifferent.

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Brief Overview of the Candidates’ Realism and Liberalism

An analysis of these two debates shows that Clinton is much realistic and liberal in her proposals than Trump. For instance, on the issue of erecting a wall on the southern border, he did not indicate how the funds would be realized. Another issue relates to the illegal immigrants, when he did not introduce a realistic plan for handling the situation with the eleven million illegal immigrants. It is obvious that Trump failed to consider the fact that they may have families in the U.S. who are law-abiding persons.

School of Thought that Each Candidate Belongs to


Clinton’s policies seem to be in agreement with the Hamiltonian and Wilsonian Policy approaches. Her argument on how to deal with the immigrants and her response to Syrian crisis is not a heavy responsibility but a moral duty. The Wilsonian policies concern themselves with moral values that spread the U.S. policies across the world. The focus of the Hamiltonian policies is to ensure that they promote expansion, open foreign markets, and cultivate allies where necessary. Unlike Trump’s ideology regarding the method for gaining prosperity for Americans, Clinton believes that since the U.S. is only 5% of the world economy, there is a great need to cooperate with the other 95% to be successful. Nevertheless, Trump believes that America should renegotiate its terms and fight against the countries that are “stealing” their jobs.


Trump would fit the description given under the Jeffersonian approach. This method puts much concentration on economic power. As one of the most successful business persons in the U.S., this candidate believes that every policy should be geared towards financial stability or profit-making. Owing to this policy, he regards the immigrants as an economic burden to the country without giving much consideration to the social aspect. He also believes that engaging the U.S. troops in Mosul does not bring any benefit to America. Instead of being involved in this war, people who adhere to the Jeffersonian approach would rather impose economic sanctions.

Best Policy Approach Method for Application to Fight ISIS

Wilsonian Approach would be the best method that the U.S. should apply in the fight against ISIS. This approach does not advocate for active involvement in the war but rather for creation international institutions that will help in its prevention. This position is generally accepted by Americans for the fact that more and more soldiers continue dying in the war zones and that the war is consuming a considerable sum of the taxpayers’ money. Since the Syrian war is a result of civil unrest, negotiations that may lead towards self-governance and peace can be introduced.

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Whether the U.S. Foreign Policy would Change if Trump Wins the Election

America is a nation that is ruled by the laws that are not enacted by the president but by the legislature. Though Trump’s win may influence change in the U.S. foreign policy, it depends on both houses of Parliament. However, giving his controversial argument during the debate some consideration, it was his position that he does not understand why the U.S. should not cooperate with Russia, even though Russians are being accused of cyber-stealing information from the U.S. It is possible that he would ensure that the Mexicans who get an opportunity to sell products into the U.S. get stiff taxation. As a result of his actions, the other countries in the world may become new allies with economic powers such as, for example, European Union, China, and Germany.


The U.S. has one of the most celebrated democracies and it is a country that is guided by the rule of law. As illustrated in this paper, regardless of the difference in the politicians’ viewpoints, they are all guided by the U.S. four pillars of policy making that were authored by great Americans who laid a foundation for past, modern, and future generations. Regardless of who wins the election, every choice would have its consequences; but America will still remain strong as long as the new regime respects the constitution and constitutional institutions such as the Judiciary and the Parliament. In my opinion, however, the best policy would be one that combines all the four policy approaches. In such a way, a leader would ensure to support the policies that solve domestic issues and at the same time meet the U.S. international obligations.

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