Hillary or Donald? She’s a patient fighter, he’s a mouthy newcomer, yet both have the support of the American people. With the all-important presidential debates heralding the final outcome of this long drawn out political fight, Wendyl Nissen looks at th
on the home straight in the presidential race
When the United States goes to the polls on November 8 to decide who will be their new President, Hillary Clinton could be excused for having a very strong cup of tea and a long lie down while the votes are counted.
Because unlike her opponent
Donald Trump, who is a newcomer to the rigours of politics, it has been a very long haul for Mrs Clinton. Everything she has done in her adult life has been directed to this moment. She used her time as First Lady to campaign for expanded health insurance and women’s rights while supporting her husband, President
Bill Clinton. She positioned herself at the centre of the Democratic Party as the senator in New York State from 2000, and then there was her failed bid in 2008 to be the Democratic presidential candidate, standing aside to let Barack Obama go on to win the election.
When she lost to Obama it was not just a disappointment, it was the shattering of a lifelong dream. Obama named her as his Secretary of State in an attempt to heal the rift within the Democratic Party after the bruising campaign, and so Hillary settled in for eight years of patiently waiting and tirelessly working to get back to where she is today, on the brink of becoming President of the United States of America.
Yet no one could anticipate just how unusual her campaign trail would be this time around. That the emergence of the Republican Party candidate Donald Trump would take the whole show to a new level of dirty politics with his controversial and offensive views, which have brought charges of misogyny, racism and inaccuracy. As media organisations started fact-checking his statements, it soon became apparent that the self-styled billionaire and entrepreneur was simply making things up a lot of the time.
Yet his popularity has given him good ratings in the polls, at times putting him neck-and-neck with Hillary, which has forced her to alter her traditional political campaigning model to encompass dealing with the television ratings-winning formula of trivia and abuse. At the first of the three presidential debates, which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump participated in on September 26, it became very clear that this was like no other debate the United States had ever seen before. Described as “the most watched – and certainly the weirdest and wildest – presidential debate in American history”, the two candidates needled each other, sometimes very close to the bone.
Hillary remained calm and collected during the 90-minute debate, clearly keen to show that her opponent didn’t have the temperament to do the job. When Donald suggested that Hillary might not have the stamina to be President, she hit back with one of the more memorable quotes of the encounter: “As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”
She hit him hard when she said: “This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs. And someone 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. “And 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
Hillary worked tirelessly to get back to where she is today, on the brink of becoming President.
‘Miss Piggy’. Then he called her
‘Miss Housekeeping’, because she was Latino. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado.”
And finally there was a section on race relations. Donald boasted of his travels to speak to African-American voters, telling Hillary: “You’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home and that’s okay.” But Hillary responded: “I think Donald just criticised me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President. And I think that’s a good thing.”
Following the debate, Donald was widely accused of “manterrupting” Hillary with his frequent attempts to talk over her. Shouting, talking over, bulldozing and “mansplaining” (when a man explains something to a woman in a patronising or condescending manner) are Donald’s trademarks. According to vox.com, he interrupted Hillary 51 times – whereas she interrupted him just 17 times.
During the debate it became clear that both had skeletons in their closets. Hillary has worked hard to deflect the scandal around the news that she may have breached federal rules during her time as Secretary of State by using a private email account for official business, including potential sensitive information, and refusing to release emails she deleted. Donald, meanwhile, will not release information about his tax payment status, and Hillary homed in on this.
“You’ve got to ask yourself,” she said, “why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is.
“Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be.
“Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings but we have been told, through investigative reporting, that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks.
“Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes because the only years that anybody has ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino licence and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax…”
At which point, Mr Trump interjected: “That makes me smart.”
But one topic that didn’t rear its head to shame Hillary was that of her husband Bill’s affairs – notably his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which came to light in 1998.
Trump said after the debate that he didn’t pursue a line of criticism he could have, out of respect for Hillary Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea.“I’m really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton,” he told CNN.
At 36, Chelsea Clinton, who was at that first debate supporting her mother, has been a big part of
Hillary’s campaign, and gave birth to her second child just months ago in June. In 2008 she hit the road for weeks at a time to support her mother on the campaign trail and this time she has also been front and centre.
She lives in New York with her husband Marc Mezvinsky and their children Charlotte and Aidan. She has three university degrees, one book to her name, and a second coming out next year. She plays a high-profile role as vice chair of the family’s global philanthropic foundation. She also teaches, writes, gives speeches, and sits on corporate and non-profit boards.
Come November, should Chelsea once again become the First Daughter, she will be in for a life of even closer scrutiny than she had to endure as a teenager during her father’s term in office, before the age of social media. Her relationship with Hillary is very close and she said earlier this year that the next President must be “a dreamer and a doer and, I would also argue, a fighter. And I don’t know anyone who combines that more effectively and powerfully than my mom.”
Chelsea has seen firsthand, from a very young age, exactly how hard her mother has had to work to get to where she is now. There have been disappointments, sacrifices made, and a lot of hard work. But as Hillary proved in that first debate, she is definitely a fighter – and one who won’t give up.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will debate again on October 9 and finally on October 19.
LEFT: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the presidential debate on September 26. Hillary was interrupted by Donald 51 times, compared to her 17 interjections.