Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first debate
> Candidates trade insults, spar over temperament
WASHINGTON: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump traded insults and sparred over temperament, stamina and judgment yesterday, in a fiery US presidential debate that often saw the Republican on the back foot.
With six weeks until election day and polls showing a virtual dead heat, Clinton repeatedly questioned her rival’s fitness to serve in the Oval Office.
Before an anticipated television audience of up to 100 million, Clinton painted the celebrity real estate mogul as fatally out of touch and willing to say “crazy things” to get elected.
“You live in your own reality” said the 68-year-old Democrat, accusing Trump of launching his political career on the “racist lie” that Barack Obama is not American.
As Clinton projected steady experience, Trump played the populist bruiser, pitching to frustrated blue-collar voters fed up with politicians.
“Let me tell you, Hillary has experience. But it’s bad, bad experience,” quipped the billionaire, accusing the former secretary of state, first lady and US senator of being a “typical politician. All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn’t work”.
The 70-year-old Trump has faced tough questions about his temperament during a deeply polarising 15-month campaign that has brought rightwing populism to the American political mainstream.
He began the keenly awaited debate at New York’s Hofstra University with a restrained tone.
But as the temperature rose, he brought out the verbal brickbats, repeatedly interrupting Clinton and even questioning her stamina after a bout of pneumonia.
“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,” Clinton shot back.
Trump appeared to get increasingly irritated and riled, at one point rolling his eyes and emitting a frustrated “ugh”.
In a snap CNN poll of 521 voters, 62% judged that Clinton had won the debate against 27% for Trump.
John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that “hands down, Clinton looked better than Trump”.
“You don’t have to think that her performance was perfect, but the unique part of a presidential debate is that you don’t have to excel, you just have to do better than the only other person on stage.”
Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, also praised Clinton’s performance.
However, he said, “Trump more than held his own with an informal and often unorganised ‘speech salad’ where he mixed things in odd ways but often with humour, and cleverly”. – AFP
Trump shakes hands with Clinton at the conclusion of their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York yesterday.