The competitors for the White House have faced off in what could have been the most-watched presidential debate in US history.The stakes were high as the candidates headed into the debate tied in most national polls ahead of the November 8 election.

As US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton exchanged a handshake and a smile at the lip of the stage provided by New York’s Hofstra University, there was a palpable sense that the ‘warmth’ — no matter how insincere — would be ephemeral.

And it was.

No sooner had the moderator, Lester Holt, asked the first question — relating to jobs and job creation, that both Clinton and Trump began laying into each other.

“Trumped-up trickle down economics” was the phrase used by Clinton to describe how Trump intends to ‘Make America Great Again’, adding, “Donald wants to help the rich so as to build the economy. I want to help the small businessmen.” In turn, the Republican candidate fired back that it was the trade agreements, particularly Nafta (the North American Free Trade Agreement), that were to blame. And fixing these ‘defective’ trade agreements, he claimed, was something “Clinton, politicians and others should have been doing this for years”.

And that was when the floodgates opened.

Clinton: Donald thinks climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese
Trump: I did not, I do not say that

Trump: The single biggest problem we have is nuclear, not global warming as you and your president think.

Trump: I will release my tax returns against my lawyers wishes when she releases the 33,000 emails that have been deleted.
Clinton: I made a mistake using private email. I’m not going to make excuses. It was a mistake.
Trump: That was not a mistake. That was done purposely

Trump: If he (in reference to a man who was not paid for constructing a building on one of Trump’s golf courses) was not paid, it’s because he didn’t do a good job.
Clinton: I’m relieved my late father never did business with you

Trump: I was endorsed by cops, generals, immigration people, admirals. I’ll take that anyday over the political hacks that have led this country.

Trump: She’s saying Russia (is responsible for hacking the US), but it could also be China. It could also be someone sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds.

Trump: It (the issue of President Barack Obama’s place of birth) was started by Hillary’s campaign team. I got him to give the birth certificate… I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate. I think I did a good job. Just like she can’t bring back jobs, she can’t produce the certificate.

Clinton: Donald has begun his political activity with this racist lie that our first black president was not an American. He persisted year after year, because his supporters either believed it or wanted to believe it. Donald began his career in 1979 by being sued by justice dept for racial discrimination for not renting out apartments to African-Americans. He has a long record of racist behaviour.
Trump: You treated Obama with terrible disrespect. When you try to act holier-than-thou, it really doesn’t work.

Clinton: I hope the fact-checkers are turning up the volume and really paying attention.

Trump: I did not support the war on Iraq! That is mainstream media nonsense put out by her! (points at Clinton)

Trump: I have better judgment than she does. I also have better temperament than she does. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not… The other day, behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you (Clinton) were talking to, but you was out of control. I said, “There’s a person who has a temperament problem”.

Clinton: A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not be anywhere near a nuclear code.
Trump: It’s getting old.
Clinton: It’s a good one though.

Well, you get the idea.

“It really felt great,” Trump told reporters after the debate.

But political analyst Jason Johnson told Al Jazeera that he would not be surprised “if we see slight chances in the polls at the end of the week ” in favour of Clinton.

“Trump came out aggressively … but never offered much in terms of substance or answers,” he said.

“I think Hillary did what she needed to do better than Trump. She offered solutions.. explained how she sees America and her worldview. Her supporters will come out very enthusiastic.”

It was the first time the two candidates stood side by side since becoming their parties’ nominees.

Two more debates are to follow on October 9 and October 19. It appears that will have to wait until then.

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