HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Donald Trump repeatedly clashed with Hillary Clinton during Monday’s first presidential debate, interrupting her and appearing agitated at times as they tangled over the economy, her use of a private mail server and his unwillingness to release his income tax returns. Clinton maintained an even demeanor, smiling indulgently when Trump turned aggressive.
Clinton and Trump engaged in a vigorous back-and-forth on the debate stage at Hofstra University as polls showed them locked in a tight race. Given the wide interest in Trump, the business mogul and former reality TV star, and Clinton, the first woman to win the nomination of a major party, the debate was expected to draw a massive viewing audience.
Here are the top takeaways from Monday’s debate:
TRUMP’S TEMPERAMENT: If Clinton aimed to get under Trump’s skin in the first 30 minutes of the debate, the Democratic nominee appeared to succeed. Clinton often put Trump on the defensive, saying he had “rooted for” the collapse of the housing industry and had considered climate change to be a hoax. In another exchange, Clinton said, “I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I’ll be blamed for everything that ever happened.”
Trump interjected, “Why not?” Later on, Trump said he had a “winning temperament,” prompting Clinton to respond: “Whew. OK.”
CLINTON’S ZINGERS: Often delivered with a smile, Clinton came prepared with pithy lines that undercut Trump’s case on the economy. In an early exchange, Clinton said Trump would push for “trickle-down” tax cuts that would only benefit the wealthy, calling it, “trumped-up trickle-down.” When Trump got in a dig at Clinton’s absence from the campaign trail, she said there was nothing wrong with spending time preparing for the debate. “You know what else I did?” she asked. “I prepared to be president.”
THE POLITICAL OUTSIDER: Trump repeatedly underscored his role as a political outsider, questioning the economic stewardship of President Barack Obama and the administration of former President Bill Clinton, who sat in the front row. Describing the loss of manufacturing jobs in states like Michigan and Ohio, Trump said Clinton had been in government for 30 years, asking, “Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?” When the discussion turned to foreign policy, Trump said Obama and Clinton failed to confront the Islamic State group, saying his opponent was there when it was “an infant.”
TRUMP’S TAXES: Clinton savaged Trump with a lengthy explanation of why Trump won’t release his tax returns, concluding he’s got something to hide. She said Trump may not be “as rich as he says he is” or “maybe he’s not as charitable” as he says he is. Clinton warned that perhaps Trump hadn’t paid any federal income tax at all, noting that some of Trump’s income tax returns in the 1970s showed he had paid no federal income taxes in certain years. Trump disclosed the returns to New Jersey casino regulators.
CLINTON’S EMAILS: Clinton took responsibility for using a private email server as Obama’s secretary of state and gave Trump nowhere to go. Despite her past statements in which she changed her story from previous iterations or left wiggle room by not being completely accurate, on Monday she avoided getting wrapped up in a lengthy exchange over one of her biggest liabilities. When Trump said he would release his tax returns if Clinton put out what he called her “33,000 deleted” emails, Clinton said, “I made a mistake using a private email” server. Trump interjected, “That’s for sure,” prompting Clinton to respond, “I take responsibility for that.”
RACIAL POLITICS: Trump has said black voters have “nothing to lose” by supporting his candidacy but he was forced to answer for his role in claiming Obama was born outside the United States. Clinton accused Trump of spreading a “racist lie” that our “first black president” was not an American citizen, adding, “He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior.” Trump responded by recalling the bitter debates between Clinton and Obama during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, saying Clinton treated Obama then with “terrible disrespect.” Later, when Clinton said Trump’s view of black communities was too grim, Trump sighed, rolled his eyes and said, “Ugh.”