A political grudge match is playing out right now for the highest office in the Free World. The U.S. Presidency. The debates have been marked by fierce argumentation. So we wondered if you would like to see how one of the best high school debate teams in Southeast Texas viewed the Presidential debates.
We went to West Brook High School to talk to the "Student Congress" debate team and asked, "Do we believe that both of these candidates are terrible debaters?"
Every hand in the room went up. Among a group of 8 debaters, there was unanimity.
Some students identified as liberals. Some identified as conservatives. But we didn't ask for their candidate choice. We set the debaters side by side with both candidates. We asked about the perceptions of leadership, and about honest, effective debate. This week 12News sat down with the group to watch the 3rd of the Presidential debates this election cycle.
In the debates of the students they lose points for insulting opponents.
Emily Werner told 12News, "Debate is NOT about bashing your opponent."
And yet, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton did that many times in the Las Vegas debate.
"And in terms of debate, being spontaneous and not backing up your argument and thinking about what you're going to say, THAT can harm you... typically Hillary has more of a structured response," said Bassam Syed.
Some of the students "lowered the boom" on Trump's debate performance.
Khadeja Javed told us, "It kind of shows that a lot of people lose interest in him (Trump) as an actual candidate because he isn't able to stay level headed while making a case."
Most of the students generally saw Trump as erratic and Clinton as condescending.
Jacob Harbour said, "Definitely, sometimes whenever she (Clinton) gives a response to something that Donald Trump has said, its noticeable that she was a little bit perhaps unnerved or otherwise offended by it. And so she will sometimes laugh with a derisive tone or do her little shoulder shimmy."
12News asked, "how many of you have noticed what you'd call bickering? Noticed? (hands up) Everybody? Okay."
This team seemed to indicate the "body language" of the candidates was "off" for both. They said "silly jabs" left the candidates either not relatable, off topic, or just plain mean spirited.
"You can in debate, prove your opponent wrong, and so that will benefit you. But simply bashing our opponent on their past or plain being rude or condescending isn't going to help you," Antonio Ponce interjected.
As Kennie Merbach told us, "A debate is for if you're going to attack their plan. You're not attacking the actual person."
After seeing a Presidential debate exchange in which Donald Trump reference late term abortion as "ripping" a baby out of a mother only days before birth, one of the students explained her surprise.
"In a debate we wouldn't say it like "rip" the baby out. we would definitely use statistics," said Tiffany Tran.
Then 12News got down to business. We asked, "Who thought Donald Trump just looked silly?" Every hand in the room was raised... including some who identified as conservatives. But all but two of the students said Hillary Clinton also looked silly.
Who got the "thumbs up" from the panel? Who did NOT look silly? Actress Kate McKinnon as Hillary and Alec Baldwin as Trump on Saturday Night Live which we also watched with the students. They are after all, still high schoolers.