With just six weeks to the polling day, US Presidential Candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have altercated and slung each other back and forth as Clinton accused her opponent of racism, sexism and tax avoidance, while Trump said Clinton’s long years of service represented “bad experience” and that she lacked the “stamina” to be president.
Yet before the ball was set rolling, debate began in a cultured manner, with both candidates greeting each other, shaking hands and delving themselves into the first question on trade. Whereas Donald Trump had planned to be civil and “very respectful”, his early approach quickly acquiesced to the instinctively confrontational mode – reminiscent of his preceding expositions at the Republican debates earlier in the campaign.
He repeatedly interrupted Mrs. Clinton’s answers, while the former secretary of state employed not her voice but a sarcastic smile as he spoke.
Clinton accused Donald Trump of propagating a “racist lie” over Barack Obama’s birthplace and suggested he may not pay income tax as the first of three presidential debates grew malicious and personal.
Given the recent high-profile police shootings and the resulting protests, it was little surprise that race played a significant role in the debate.
Mr. Trump proposed the return of “stop and frisk” – the controversial policing tactic that was ruled unconstitutional after being implemented in New York. He emphasized the need for “law and order”, while Hillary Clinton instead focused on discrimination against young black and Hispanic men.
When the topic turned to Mr. Trump’s role in the “birther” movement, he gave a meandering answer that shifted responsibility onto Clinton associates, saying he had “nothing” to say to black people who might have found it offensive.
Clinton responded by essentially calling Trump a racist, claiming that he had refused to rent apartments to black people in the 1970s decades before spreading a “racist lie” about President Obama.
She also issued stinging rebukes of Trump on his business record and his refusal to release his tax returns.
“For 40 years everyone running for president has released their tax returns,” Clinton said when asking why Mr. Trump had not released his. “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people to know he has paid nothing in federal income taxes.”
Instead Donald Trump wisecracked saying, “That makes me smart.”
But she immediately hit back: “That means zero for troops, zero for veterans, and zero for health.”
She also accused Mr. Trump of “stiffing” people he had hired to work on his real estate projects, and the several instances in which he declared business bankruptcy.
Towards the end of the debate, the Republican claimed Hillary Clinton does not have the “stamina” to be president, clearly alluding to her recent pneumonia attack.
“I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina,” he said.
Hillary Clinton fired back: “Well, 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.”