Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Clinton pips Trump on points

Hillary Clinton won the first debate against US presidential rival Donald Trump, but there was no clear knock out, reports Khaled Dawoud

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Democrat Hillary Clinton accused Republican Donald Trump of racism, sexism and tax evasion, putting him on the defensive during their first debate Monday ahead of upcoming presidential elections 8 November. However, there was no clear knock-out for Clinton, with Trump remaining close in opinion polls.

Trump, a real estate tycoon making his first run for public office, said Clinton’s long years of service represented “bad experience” with few results and said she lacked the stamina to serve as commander-in-chief. He added that whether as First Lady as wife of former US president Bill Clinton, or later as secretary of state during the first administration of President Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate made the wrong choices.

He noted the policies of both Clinton and Obama strengthened the terrorist group Daesh, or the Islamic State, and created chaos in the Middle East region. He also repeated his proposal that wealthy, close US allies — namely Saudi Arabia —should pay for the support Washington provides them, and not enjoy American protection for free.

Clinton was under pressure to perform well after a recent bout of pneumonia and a drop in opinion polls, but her long days of preparation appeared to pay off in her highly anticipated first 90-minute showdown with Trump.

Trump, a former reality TV star who eschewed a lot of debate practice, was assertive and focussed early on, interrupting Clinton repeatedly. According to pollsters, Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, compared to 17 interruptions by Clinton who appeared more confident and calm.

As the 90-minute debate wore on, Trump became testy and less disciplined in front of the crowd at host Hofstra University and a televised audience that could have reached upwards of a record 100 million people.

A CNN/ORC snap poll said 62 per cent of respondents felt Clinton won and 27 per cent believed Trump was the winner.

On Tuesday morning, Trump called it “the debate of debates” and promised to be tougher on Clinton at their next meeting scheduled 9 October.

“I may hit her harder in certain ways,” Trump said in a telephone interview with Fox & Friends.

He made clear he pulled punches by not bringing up former president Bill Clinton’s sex scandals out of deference to the couple’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who was in the audience.

Trump also said contentious issues involving Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state were not addressed Monday night, including her use of a private computer server for government emails, the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, or question marks over the Clinton Foundation charity organisation.

In signs that investors awarded the debate to Clinton, Asian shares recovered after an early bout of nerves while the Mexican peso jumped Tuesday. Her chances in the 8 November election also improved in online betting markets.

 

“GREAT DEBATE”: “You feel good tonight?” Clinton asked supporters afterward. “I sure do. We had a great debate.”

Trump, 70, declared himself the winner to reporters at the debate site.

The 68-year-old Clinton relentlessly sought to raise questions about her opponent’s temperament, business acumen and knowledge.

Trump used much of his time to argue the former First Lady and US senator had achieved little in public life and wanted to pursue policies begun by President Obama that have failed to repair a shattered middle class, with jobs lost due to outsourcing and overregulation.

Trump suggested her disavowal of a trade deal with Asian countries was insincere. Her handling of the nuclear deal with Iran, and Islamic State militancy, were disasters, he argued.

In one of their more heated exchanges, Clinton accused Trump of promulgating a “racist lie” by suggesting Obama, the first African-American president, was not born in the United States.

The president, who was born in Hawaii, released a long-form birth certificate in 2011 to put the issue to rest. Only this month did Trump say publicly that he believed Obama was US-born.

“He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted. He persisted year after year,” Clinton said.

Trump repeated his false accusation that Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign against Obama started the so-called “birther” issue.

“Nobody was pressing it; nobody was caring much about it... I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate and I think I did a good job,” Trump said.

Trying to get under Trump’s skin, Clinton suggested her opponent was refusing to release his tax returns to avoid showing Americans he paid next to nothing in federal taxes or that he is not as wealthy as he says he is.

“It must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide,” she said.

Trump fought back, saying that as a businessman, paying low taxes was important. “That makes me smart,” Trump said. Such answer was likely, according to experts, to be used by Clinton’s campaigns to further raise question about Trump’s integrity and business dealings.

“I have a tremendous income,” he said, adding that it was about time that someone running the country knew something about money. He said he would release his tax documents after a government audit.

Trump sniffed loudly at times. A campaign aide said the candidate did not have a cold.

Clinton, the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major US political party, seemed to pique Trump when she brought up how Trump has insulted women.

“He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them and he called this one ‘Miss Piggy’ and then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’” she said.

During the debate, Trump darkly hinted at wanting to say something but stopped short. Afterwards, he told reporters he had held back from raising Bill Clinton’s sex scandals.

“I was going to say something extremely tough to Hillary and her family and I said I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice,” he said.

There was much speculation about how much debate moderator Lester Holt would intervene to correct facts. The NBC News anchorman largely left the candidates to fight it out, interjecting a few times to set the record straight.

Trump repeated his campaign assertion that he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, despite having voiced support for it in a 2002 interview. “The record shows otherwise,” Holt challenged him. “The record does not show that,” Trump shot back.

At other times, the candidates corrected each other. Towards the end, Trump said Clinton did not have the endurance to be president, but avoided mentioning her recent brush with pneumonia.

“She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina,” he said.

Clinton retorted: “As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents... or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

Clinton called Trump’s tax policies “Trumped-up trickle-down” economics, and Trump accused Clinton of being “all talk, no action.”

“I have a feeling I’m going to be blamed for everything,” Clinton said during one tough exchange. “Why not?” retorted Trump.

The Mexican peso, dubbed the “Trump thermometer” because of its sensitivity to the US presidential campaign, rose 1.6 per cent. Trump has pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border to prevent illegal immigration. However, he did not repeat this proposal during the debate, and he offered no apologies for his earlier proposal that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States, especially from troubled countries such as Syria and Iraq.

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