It took the last presidential debate, but finally the American people had the chance to watch a debate that was more about real issues and less about character assassination. At times, they exchanged barbs, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump finally discussed the various policy proposals they have for the country after the election.

Who Won The Final Presidential Debate?

Neither candidate scored a knockout blow. At first, Trump had his best debate performance and did not allow himself to be drawn in by Clinton.

But Clinton had a slight edge, which is now the subject of much public conversation. This edge is due to the question asked by Fox News moderator Chris Wallace’s question to Trump, “Will you absolutely accept the results of this election?”

Trump’s response is the lead story today. Even when Wallace pressed Trump for an answer, Trump couldn’t state categorically if he would accept the election results. Trump finally said, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?”

Instead of a post-debate analysis discussing Clinton’s policy statements or how she failed to mention the differences of her policies from those of President Obama, we are now discussing how Trump may or may not accept the final results of the election.

Trump and Clinton Differ on Choices for the Supreme Court

Unlike past presidential debate moderators, Wallace started right out of the gate with substantive policy questions and not character questions. He began the debate with the contentious issue of the type of candidates that Clinton or Trump would select as nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wallace asked both Clinton and Trump, “First of all, where do you want to see the Court take the country? And second, what’s your view on how the Constitution should be interpreted? Do the founders’ words mean what they say or is it a living document to be applied flexibly, according to changing circumstances?”

Clinton said, “We need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community, that will stand up and say no to Citizens United, a

[Supreme Court] decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.”

Trump said, “We need a Supreme Court that in my opinion is going to uphold the Second amendment and all amendments, but the Second Amendment, which is under absolute siege.”

Neither candidate answered Wallace’s question on the founders’ intent for the Constitution, especially with regard to the separation of powers.

Trump and Clinton Sharply Disagree on Economic Policies

There was one area of sharp disagreement. It is the top question that Americans want answered: How would a Trump or Clinton administration jump-start the U.S. economy?

As Clinton has repeatedly mentioned throughout the campaign, her economic plan focuses on infrastructure spending, jobs in manufacturing and expansion in clean energy, all paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Clinton again  underscored the fact that under her plan, no one making less than $250,000 would pay any additional taxes.

Both Candidates Evade Direct Answers on Their Economic Policies

Wallace challenged Clinton on how her economic policies would differ from what President Obama has pursued, especially in regard to infrastructure spending, additional stimulus spending, and taxes. Clinton never explained how she would do things differently.

She cited the economic situation Obama inherited when he came to the White House. However, Clinton never did described how her policies would be different and how the U.S. economy would get a different result while the government pursued the same programs.

Wallace applied the same scrutiny to Trump by telling him that even conservative economists who have looked at his plan say the numbers don’t add up. Wallace said, “You talk a lot about growing the energy industry. They say with oil prices as low as they are right now, that’s unrealistic as well. Your response?”

Trump’s reply focused on a sharp reduction in taxes and a massive overhaul of current U.S. trade policies, especially as they relate to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)and the current Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. But he never explained how changes in trade policies would affect our trading partners, with many economists saying that Trump’s plan would be a disaster for the U.S. economy.                                          

Little Said about Obamacare and the National Debt

In the debate, neither candidate substantially addressed other issues such as healthcare and the national debt. Trump offered little information about how he would replace Obamacare and Clinton did not discuss her idea for improving or expanding the Affordable Care Act.

For the first time, Wallace brought up questions about the national debt. Trump and Clinton merely retreated to their own previously stated positions without addressing the biggest aspect of the debt, entitlement spending.

Trump repeated that reducing the debt will grow the U.S. economy; Clinton again pledged to make the wealthy pay more in taxes. A serious discussion about the national debt is needed now, not later.

Time to Focus on Foreign Hot Spots

The final portion of the last presidential debate was in regard to foreign hotspots. Unfortunately, the only hotspot raised was the ongoing crisis inside Syria and the Iraq offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS.

Both candidates’ rhetoric centered on which person would be better at dealing with the situation. Nothing was said about China or the situation in Venezuela.

Also, there was little mention of Iran, Russia or any other region of the world. The sole focus was on ISIS.

It’s amazing that after 15 years of conflict in the Middle East, our leaders still have not grasped the complexities of the region. The discussion still revolves around the use of military force as the center of our foreign policy debates. Neither candidate has provided a clear vision of the role and place of the United States in international affairs.

Plans to Defeat ISIS Lack Substance

Throughout the debate, Trump continued to highlight how the U.S. got into this situation and consistently blamed the policies of President Obama and Hillary Clinton for the rise of ISIS. He attributed the rise of ISIS to the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Trump has never enunciated a plan or strategy on what he would do differently in the Middle East.

Clinton stated that one of her proposals would be to create a no-fly-zone to protect civilians inside Syria. She would begin negotiations with Russia and the Syrians as this would be best for all concerned.

She failed to mention a Russian general warned that any air attacks on Syrian forces would indicate a direct response by the Russian military. This information was mainly intended to intimidate the U.S.

This presidential debate at least began with substance and policy discussions, but it still left a lot of answered questions. Whoever wins, the next president will have his or her hands full.