‘The Best American Debate Since World War II’: How the World Saw Clinton and Trump

The world watched last night's debate. Here's what it saw.

HEMPSTEAD, NY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.  The first of four debates for the 2016 Election, three Presidential and one Vice Presidential, is moderated by NBC's Lester Holt.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HEMPSTEAD, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. The first of four debates for the 2016 Election, three Presidential and one Vice Presidential, is moderated by NBC's Lester Holt. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump sparred over America’s international military obligations during Monday night’s first presidential debate, Clinton sought to reassure world leaders that today’s alliances will remain strong if she is elected in November.

“I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe,” she said, adding that “people around the word follow our presidential campaigns so closely, trying to get hints about what we will do.”

Well, the world certainly watched last night. Below, Foreign Policy has compiled reactions from international leaders, media, and others who certainly followed along closely.


Russian daily newspaper Izvestia headlined an article “Clinton’s Victory Guarantees Conflict with Russia,” referencing her potential victory in the upcoming election — not the debate.

The article says that according to viewer polls, Hillary won Monday’s debate and that “neither candidate avoided the Russian issue, which is playing an unprecedentedly large role in this campaign.” It also mentions that Clinton blamed Russia for hacking (“even though Russia has said on multiple occasions that it was not involved”) and repeated Trump’s response that it could have been anybody — including a mention Trump’s confusing suggestion that it even could have been a 400-pound man.

“On the one hand, Trump’s untraditionally friendly attitude towards Russia distinguishes him from other presidential candidates … which undoubtedly attracts attention to him,” the article says. “On the other hand, such a position could cost him a certain amount of votes from those Americans who have gotten used to the representation of Russia as the United States’ main geopolitical rival which has been actively circulating in the American media.”


The Telegraph came through with a more neutral headline: “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Clash on Race, Temperament and Taxes in Fiery First Presidential TV Debate.”

“The debate concluded with both candidates pledging to respect the results of the election no matter who wins,” the article said. “It’s a sign of just how contentious this election has become that such a pledge is even necessary.”

The Guardian led its debate coverage with this headline: “Hillary Clinton Calm as Trump Struggles on Issues of Racism, Sexism, and Foreign Policy.”


Le Monde, France’s largest daily newspaper, had multiple stories on its homepage this morning about the debate. Here are the headlines:

–American Election: Clinton-Trump, Experience Versus Incoherence

–Relive the First Debate Between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

–Iraq, Sexism, Ford, Taxes … The True and the False from the Clinton-Trump Debate

–In a Manhattan Bar, Between a Donald Drumpf and a Secret Server

–The United States, in an era of Trump, as seen by Kirk Douglas 100 Years Ago


German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the Social Democratic Party, said Tuesday that Clinton won the debate.

“Trump didn’t have a plan. Neither for the U.S. nor for the big foreign policy challenges,” Gabriel told German newspaper Bild. “Clinton convinced with competence and clarity. It was a clear victory for her.”

Deutsche Welle

“Clinton Wins Contentious First U.S. presidential debate”

Suddeutsche Zeitung  

“Trump Lost, but Clinton Didn’t Win”


La Repubblica

Clinton Beats Trump in First Televised Debate

This Italian daily said “the duel of the century with 100 million spectators was worth the wait. It was spectacular, exciting. Maybe decisive.”

La Stampa

Calling it “one of the best debates in the United States since World War II,” Italian commentator Maurizio Molinari — known for his analysis of American events — said in a televised segment that the debate was “spectacular,” “vibrant,” and “rich in content.” The conversation ranged from analyzing Trump and Clinton’s outfits (he had a messy tie, she “was always perfect,” but later says “there isn’t a doubt that Trump prevailed on content,” pointing to his comments on the Islamic State and insistence he was opposed to the invasion in Iraq.


Spain’s largest international daily, El País, tracked down a group of Latino immigrants watching the debate in Los Angeles for its top story on its homepage. The headline? “Latinos laugh at Trump, approve of Clinton.”

“I don’t think that Trump could convince any Latino,” they quote one observer as saying, noting that the debate watchers erupted in laughter at Trump’s claim he had good relationships with the African-American community.

Another article called the debate “the fight of the century.”

Hong Kong:

South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper, led with “Cybersecurity, terrorism, trade, and nuclear threats … why U.S. Presidential Debate Couldn’t Ignore China”

“China featured much more prominently in first US presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton compared with the last two elections,” the article said.

South Africa:

Mail & Guardian

This South African daily followed the local currency as it made gains while the market reacted to Clinton’s perceived victory over Trump. “Hillary Clinton’s debate ‘victory’ boosts rand to five-week high,” the headline read.


On Monday, Univision, a Spanish language broadcaster, had some 231,000 viewers and reached more than 12 million people with its Facebook Live broadcast of the debate.

Mexican officials have repeatedly rebuked Trump’s claims that he is going to build a wall on the southern border with the United States and they are going to pay for it. Former Mexican Vice President Vincente Fox reacted to the debate by trolling Trump on Twitter, saying “Ay, @realDonaldTrump, you don’t debate, you only talk gibberish.”

“Why hasn’t @realDonaldTrump released his tax returns? Are you afraid of people realizing that you’re a scam?” he asked.

He also called the debate reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast.”


One country has an even more dysfunctional political drama playing out. Embroiled in its own impeachment crisis, Brazil didn’t pay as much attention to the debate as the rest of the world. On Brazil’s Huffington Post, one of the two short articles on the debate was focused on Mark Ruffalo’s claim he would host a naked dinner in his next film if Americans don’t vote for Trump.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

Kavitha Surana is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy, where she produces breaking news and original reports with a particular focus on immigration, counterterrorism, and border security policy. Previously, Kavitha worked at New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery blog, CNNMoney, The Associated Press in Italy, and Fareed Zakaria GPS and has freelanced from Italy and Germany for publications like Quartz, Al Jazeera America, OZY, and GlobalPost/PRI. In 2015, she was awarded a Fulbright trip to Germany, as well as a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to report on migration and integration. She also reported from Rwanda and Senegal. Kavitha studied European history at Columbia University and holds a master’s degree in journalism and European studies from New York University. She has studied in Italy and Peru and speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. @ksurana6

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