27 October 2016
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with her Republican rival Donald Trump after their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Monday. Photo: AFP
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with her Republican rival Donald Trump after their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Monday. Photo: AFP

Clinton, Trump clash over race, experience in first debate

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate tycoon Donald Trump clash in their first US presidential debate, with the Democratic nominee accusing her Republican rival of racism, sexism and tax avoidance.

Trump, 70, said Clinton’s long years of service represented “bad experience” with few results, Reuters reports.

It remains to be seen how voters would judge their performance.

But in a sign investors saw Clinton, 68, as the winner, Asian shares recouped early losses on Tuesday and the dollar edged away from a one-month trough against the yen, the news agency said.

Markets have tended to see Clinton as the candidate of the status quo. 

In one of the more heated exchanges, the two candidates attacked each other for the controversy Trump stoked for years over whether President Barack Obama was 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 (Trump) has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen,” Clinton said.

“There was absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted. He persisted year after year.”

Trump repeated his false accusation that Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign against Obama had initiated 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.

African-American voters overwhelmingly support Clinton, but Trump in recent weeks has said he believes his policy agenda would benefit them and the policies of Obama and Clinton had failed to help black Americans.

Clinton wore a red pantsuit, and Trump wore a dark suit and a blue tie to the encounter that could shift the course of the tight race for the Nov. 8 election.

She called him Donald. He called her Secretary Clinton for much of the debate before switching to her first name.

Toward the end of the debate, Trump said Clinton did not have the endurance to be president.

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

Citing her own public record, 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.”

Each accused the other of distortions and falsehoods and urged viewers to check their campaign websites for the facts.

Clinton called the New York businessman’s tax policies “Trumped-up trickle-down” economics and Trump accused the former secretary of state of being “all talk, no action”.

Clinton knocked Trump for not releasing his income tax returns and said that decision raised questions about whether he was as rich and charitable as he has said.

She noted that the few years of tax returns he had released showed that despite his wealth, he had paid no federal income tax.

“That makes me smart,” Trump said.

“I have a tremendous income,” he said at one point, adding that it was about time that someone running the country knew something about money.

Clinton criticized Trump for failing to pay some of the business people with whom his company had contracted. She said she had met a lot of people who had been cheated by her opponent.

Trump said such incidents of non-payment had taken place when the work was unsatisfactory.

Trump attacked Clinton for her trade policies and said she would approve a controversial trade deal with Asian countries despite opposing it as a candidate.

“You were totally in favor of it, then you heard what I was saying, how bad it is, and you said, ‘Well, I can’t win that debate,’ but you know that if you did win, you would approve that,” he said.

Clinton rejected the criticism. 

“Well Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts,” she said.

Opinion polls have shown the two candidates in a very tight race, with the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling showing Clinton ahead by 4 percentage points, with 41 percent of likely voters.

A second Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday showed half of America’s likely voters would rely on the debates to help them make their choice.

Two other presidential candidates – Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein – were not invited to take part in the debate because neither had obtained at least 15 percent support in national polls, the threshold established to qualify.

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