Election 2016: Candidates Clash on Jobs, Race During First Presidential Debate

Written by Sarah Toy

By Sarah Toy
BU News Service

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, her Republican rival, clashed on jobs, race relations and national security Monday night during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Clinton criticized Trump’s proposal to lower taxes for the wealthy in order to create incentives for companies to stay in the country and create jobs. She called it “trumped-up trickle-down economics,” and claimed that his plan would add $5 trillion to U.S. debt.

“Donald was very fortunate in his life,” Clinton said. “He started his business with $14 million borrowed from his father and he really believes that the more you help wealthy people, the better off we’ll be.”

Trump said Clinton’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy would drive businesses out of the U.S.

“Your regulations are a disaster,” he told her.

Trump’s own taxes were a subject of discussion. When asked about his returns, Trump said he could not release them because was under a routine audit, a pretext he has used several times in the past.

“As soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released,” he said.

Moderator Lester Holt objected, saying that Trump is free to release his taxes during an audit, according to the IRS. Trump declared he would release his tax returns when Clinton releases “the 33,000 emails she deleted.”

With the spotlight on her emails once again, Clinton said she had made a mistake using a private server.

“I take responsibility for that,” she said.

The candidates had vastly different ideas on how to improve racial relations and tensions. Both are trying to win over African-American voters, though Trump has much more ground to cover.

Clinton spoke about criminal justice reform, restoring trust between African-American communities and police, and putting aside funding for retraining officers. She acknowledged the existence of implicit bias.

“Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just the police,” she said. “Unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other.”

Trump focused on increased law enforcement.

“Secretary Clinton doesn’t want to use a couple of words, and that’s law and order,” he said. He praised the stop-and-frisk program, claiming it had worked well in New York.

Holt, however, pointed out that stop-and-frisk was at one time ruled to be unconstitutional, as it was seen as a form of racial profiling. And although murder rates have dropped over the last two decades in New York City, there is no way to tell whether or not this was due to stop-and-frisk.

The gloves came off when it came to the birther issue. Clinton took aim at Trump’s assertion that President Obama had been born outside the United States, calling it a racist lie. She also reminded the audience of the Justice Department’s 1973 racial bias case against Trump.

“He has a long record of racist behavior,” she said.

Trump and Clinton continued to spar over national security, particularly over issues in the Middle East. Trump slammed the Obama administration, including Clinton, for the way it withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq, creating a “vacuum” in which the Islamic State could form.

At one point, Holt pointed out that Trump had been for the war in Iraq, which Trump promptly denied.

The record shows otherwise,” Holt said.

Trump also criticized NATO, saying other member countries were not contributing their fair share. “We’re defending them, and they should at least be paying us what they’re supposed to be paying by treaty and contract,” he said.

As the security talk continued, the jabs became personal, bordering on nasty.

“I have much better judgment than she does,” Trump said of Clinton. “I also have much better temperament than she has.”

He continued, saying that he had overheard Clinton talking the other day behind a blue screen. “You were totally out of control. I said, there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.”

When prompted for a response, Clinton let out a laugh and shook out her shoulders. “Whew, okay,” she said, to laughter from the audience.

The second-to-last question of the night went to Trump, who had said earlier this month that Clinton didn’t have “a presidential look.” When asked to clarify what he meant, Trump said, “She doesn’t have the stamina.”

Clinton called out Trump’s pivot from looks to stamina.

“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers,” she said.

Clinton then mentioned a woman Trump had once called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”

When Trump challenged her as to where she found this information, Clinton replied, “Her name is Alicia Machado.”

“You can bet she’s going to vote this November,” said Clinton.

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