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Clinton And Trump Clash In Tense First Presidential Debate

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt listen during Monday night's presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt listen during Monday night's presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

The first presidential debate was a tense affair between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as they clashed over their economic and trade plans, national security and race relations in the U.S.

The Republican nominee came out aggressively against Clinton, often interrupting her and talking over her, but the Democratic nominee didn't pull her punches either and had plenty of zingers ready. And as the night wore on, Trump appeared repeatedly rattled as he was pressed on his past support for the birther movement and controversial comments about women.

Moderator Lester Holt of NBC News mostly stayed out of the fray, letting the two candidates go at each other, but he did press Trump on his questions back in 2011 as to whether President Obama was born in the U.S. Earlier this month Trump said he did believe the president was born in Hawaii, but he again falsely claimed that Clinton's campaign had started the rumor and he said he was proud of the push he led.

"She failed to get the birth certificate. When I got involved, I didn't fail," Trump boasted.

Trump was also pressed on past comments he has made about women, including suggesting that Clinton — the first major party female presidential nominee — didn't have a "presidential look."

The Republican nominee doubled down on that assertion, repeatedly saying she didn't have the "stamina" required to be commander-in-chief.

"I don't believe she does have the stamina to be president of this country," Trump said. "You need tremendous stamina."

"Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire release of dissidents, and opening of new opportunities and nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina," Clinton retorted.

But it was Clinton who repeatedly rattled Trump as the night wore on. Trump had criticized her for taking several days away from the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, but Clinton's preparation seemed to pay off.

"And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president, and I think that's a good thing," Clinton responded.

Clinton also criticized Trump for past comments about women, including calling "women pigs, slobs and dogs, as of one who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men."

"One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman Miss Piggy. That he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald she has a name," Clinton said. "Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she's going to vote this November."

The often volatile Trump claimed earlier in the debate that, "I think my strongest asset may be by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament."

"Whew. OK," Clinton said, laughing, with a wide grin on her face.

She criticized Trump for many of his business practices, and he didn't shy away from admitting he made decisions that would benefit himself and his companies.

"Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis," Clinton noted. "He said, back in 2006, gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money. Well, it did collapse."

"That's called business, by the way," was Trump's defense.

Over Trump's refusal to release his taxes — something every other modern presidential nominee has done — he again said it was because he was under audit. But Clinton suggested that was because they might show he didn't pay any federal taxes — as previous returns that Trump had to turn over to obtain a casino license showed.

"That makes me smart," Trump retorted, and later added that his taxes might "be squandered too," seemingly admitting that he hasn't paid federal income taxes.

Trump said he would "release my tax returns, against my lawyers' wishes," if Clinton released emails she had deleted from her controversial State Department private server.

On how they would fight ISIS and the threat of terrorism, Trump criticized Clinton for outlining her plan on her website, saying it tips a hand to the enemy. He has said he won't detail his plan because of such concerns.

"She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don't think Gen. Douglas MacArthur would like that too much," he jabbed.

"No wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire adult life," Trump said — a puzzling statement since the terrorist group only rose up in the past few years.

Trump also again claimed he "did not support the war in Iraq" — something that's been repeatedly proved untrue — and said any assertion otherwise was simply "mainstream media nonsense."

The two also disagreed on race relations in the country. Asked by Holt whether she thought police had an "implicit bias" against African-Americans, Clinton responded that was a problem for everyone, not just law enforcement, and that she would commit federal money to retrain police officers.

"I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other," she said.

Trump, meanwhile, said Clinton refused to call for "law and order," and he defended controversial stop-and-frisk policies that have since been ended in New York City. He blamed abandoning that policy for a rise in violence. A New York Police Department spokesman tweeted that statistic was incorrect.

Trump did have a strong moment early on when he criticized Clinton for initially supporting trade deals — something he said she flipped on only after he came out against them.

"Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry. You go to New England, you go to Ohio, Pennsylvania, you go anywhere you want, Secretary Clinton, and you will see devastation where manufacturing is down 30, 40, sometimes 50 percent," Trump said. "NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country, and now you want to approve the Trans- Pacific Partnership."

"That is just not accurate," Clinton shot back. "I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts."

Trump claimed she "had no plan" but Clinton pointed out her campaign has put out a lengthy book detailing her plans on trade and other issues.

"I wrote a book about it," Clinton said. "You can pick it up tomorrow at a bookstore, or an airport near you."

She slammed Trump's plan to cut taxes on the wealthier versus hers that would cut taxes for the middle class as "Trumped up trickle-down economics" while the GOP nominee argued he would bring back jobs and companies that have moved overseas.

Trump worked to paint Clinton as a career politician and argued that if she hadn't helped to create jobs and stimulate the economy yet, she wouldn't in the future.

"Hillary, let me ask you this — you've been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now? For 30 years, you've been doing it. And now you're just starting to think of solutions," Trump said.

"I'm going to cut taxes big-league, she wanted to raise taxes big-league, end of story," he later argued, using one of his favorite phrases at his campaign rallies.

"I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened," Clinton said at one point.

"Why not?" Trump shot back.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.

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