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Champion high school debaters critique Clinton, Trump's performance

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Ethan Tan and Michael Hong
Austin Cross
Left to right: Ethan Tan and Michael Hong

Ethan Tan and Michael Hong aren't old enough to vote, but their astute observations about the night might rival those of pundits thrice their senior.

It was a fiery night at Hofstra University in New York, the scene of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 

The candidates clashed over on issues ranging from the economy to healing racial division. At the end of the evening, both camps claimed victory. But what did the viewers think? 

For reaction and critiques, Take Two spoke to high school debaters Ethan Tan and Michael Hong -- they're students at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, home to one of the top speech and debate teams in the state. Called the "Screamin' Eagles," the group ranks eighth in the nation. Together, they tackled the question: who won the night? 

Ethan Tan makes a case for Clinton: 

"First of all, she exposed the majority of Trump's plans last night. For example, she exposed his plans on jobs, taxes, especially how his tax plans benefit the majority of special interests and the special interests of himself. She also touched on climate change and Trump's plan for climate change, race relations, women's rights, equality, and, most importantly his tax return issues."

Michael Hong makes a case for Trump:

"I think Donald and Hillary have different focuses in terms of this debate because Hillary focuses more on policy, while Trump just has to appeal to the voters. I think his biggest thing was he appealed to outsider candidacy. We saw this through candidates like Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, as well as Ben Carson for the Republican side. I think he made the case really in this debate about how he's not one of these so-called corrupt politicians like Hillary Clinton is, but rather he brings us outside perspective that Hillary Clinton can't exactly bring because she's been in politics so much, and therefore he's differentiating himself. I think that's the most important thing for him in terms of this debate."

You're both trained debaters and the debates you're in are pretty structured. Last night, there was structure, but there didn't seem to be a ton. How did you feel about the way last night's debate unfolded? 

Ethan Tan: It was really different from what we're used to seeing in high school debate. They did have time formats, but I think Lester Holt as a moderator didn't do as good of a job controlling the candidates. In high school debate, we have a judge and both yourself and your opponents are really respectful to one another and don't interject in the speeches that each person gives. I feel like in the debate last night, both of them were really rude to each other and I feel like that should be changed in the future. 

If each of you had to give one piece of advice to the candidates to improve their debating technique, what would you tell them? 

Michael Hong: For Clinton, I would say she needs a lot stronger starts, especially on the economy. As for Trump, he needs more preparation as a whole, because, aside from the economy, I felt extremely shaky about what he said. And he started going back to his old rhetoric about insulting the old candidate instead of talking about what's wrong with her policies or trustworthiness. 

As far as they both go, they both need more preparation: Clinton on the economy, and Trump, basically everything else but the economy. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the full critique. 

Click the "bonus audio" link below that to hear reaction from viewers watching from Taix restaurant in Echo Park. 

(Note: This post was originally uploaded September 27th, 2016 and has been reuploaded after technical difficulties.)

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