Donald Trump’s great, tremendous, unbelievable penchant for hyperbole at the first presidential debate

“That makes me smart.”
“That makes me smart.”
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Donald Trump’s fear-mongering, crusade-laden, sensationalist, and hyperbolic rhetoric was on full display in his first debate yesterday (Sept. 26). Here are the words he relied on to make the case against Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival for US president.


Trump’s go-to superlative. “I will tell you I’ve been all over, and I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ll ever meet within these communities,” he said in reference to inner city communities that, he said, are disenfranchised with their politicians. He referred to America’s relations with its allies in the Middle East as “the greatest mess anyone has ever seen.” After years of publicly questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth (which he has now backtracked on), Trump said: “I think I did a great job and a great service, not only for the country but even for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate.”


Trump used this word 13 times throughout the debate; Clinton never uttered it. He used to it to point at his rival’s health: “To be president of this country you need tremendous stamina,” Trump said. He also referred to his own “tremendous income” and the “tremendous problems” America faces. He promised he would “be reducing taxes tremendously” and that his income tax cut would “create tremendous numbers of new jobs.” 

Thousands of

When Trump wants to emphasize the scale of an issue, without getting into the specifics, he talks in terms of thousands. “The companies are leaving,” he said. ”I could name, I mean there are thousands of them, they’re leaving and they’re leaving in bigger numbers than ever.” And of violent crime in Chicago, he said: ”In Chicago, they’ve had thousands of shootings, thousands, since January first. Thousands of shootings.”


“So bad,” Trump said of the red tape and bureaucracy that he claimed are forcing companies to leave the United States. “Our country is suffering because people like Secretary Clinton have made such bad decisions in terms of our jobs and in terms of what is going on,” he added. When discussing gun crime and law and order, he said: “So there’s some bad things going on, some really bad things.”


“We owe twenty trillion dollars [in debt], and we are a mess,” Trump said of America’s debt. “We haven’t even started.” On cybersecurity: ”Look at the mess that we’re in. Look at the mess that we’re in.”


Trump pointed to several of these:

  • “Our energy policies are disaster.”
  • “Your regulations are disaster, and you’re going to increase regulations all over the place.”
  • “[Libya] was another one of [Clinton’s] disasters.”
  • “We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster.”


A variant of “really bad things”: “It’s terrible. I have property there [in Chicago]. It’s terrible what’s going on in Chicago.” Trump also accused his opponent of treating outgoing president Barack Obama with “terrible disrespect” in earlier debates.


Another adjective Trump wheeled out more than once. He spoke of his “unbelievable company” (twice) and the “tens of thousands of people that are unbelievably happy and that love me.” When discussing how to strengthen cybersecurity (or, “the cyber”), he marveled at how “unbelievable” his 10-year-old son was with computers.


Trump referred to winning three times during the session; Clinton never mentioned it. He praised his own “winning fight” and “winning temperament.” Implying that the presidency was a zero-sum game of success or loss, he said of his opponent: “I know how to win. She does not know how to win.”