HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — After months of tangling from afar, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met face-to-face in the first presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island — trading barbs on economic policy and the right direction for the country.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, it may have taken a village and the art of the deal to get Trump and Clinton on the debate stage. But for the millions tuned in, it was often riveting.
Lester Holt, anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” served as moderator for the debate. It was to be divided into six segments each 15 minutes long, covering the topic areas of achieving prosperity, America’s direction, and security.
Creating Jobs And Maintaining A Strong Economy
Holt began by asking about the economy and job creation. He noted that even though there has been job growth for six straight years and increasing incomes, income equality has grown worse.
Clinton said the key was to build an economy that “works for everyone, not just those at the top.” She said the focus needs to be on good jobs and rising incomes – including jobs in infrastructure, innovation and technology, as well a focus on as small businesses.
“We also have to make the economy fairer, raise the national minimum wage, and guarantee equal pay for women’s work,” Clinton said.
She also said the wealthy “need to pay their fair share.”
Trump, by contrast, said the main problem is that other countries have taken jobs and economic prosperity away from the U.S. – China and Mexico in particular.
“They’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing,” he said.
Trump said the solution is to reduce taxes for small and big businesses.
“That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch,” he said.
Clinton dismissed Trump’s plan as an extreme version of supply-side, “trickle down” economics that would not benefit the average worker.
Trump went on to emphasize the need for a renegotiation in trade deals and efforts to stop companies from leaving.
“If you think you’re going to bring in your air conditioners, or cars, or cookies, or whatever it is you make and bring them in without a tax, you’re wrong,” Trump said.
Clinton went on to attack Trump, saying he had a history of taking advantage of crises for business purposes. She said back at the time of the 2008 housing crisis Trump had said, “Gee, I hope it does collapse because I can go in and buy some and make some money.”
Trump interrupted, “That’s called business.”
Clinton went on to say that the crisis had cost the country 9 million jobs, left 5 million homeless, and caused the loss of $13 trillion in personal wealth.
Trump said Clinton has been involved in federal economic and trade policy for 30 years and has not done the best for trade deals or the economy as a whole.
“I will bring back jobs,” Trump told Clinton. “You can’t bring back jobs.”
Trump also accused Clinton of defending the North American Free Trade Agreement and changing her tune once Trump himself came out against it. Clinton said she had always been against NAFTA once it was finally negotiated.
“Donald, I know you live in your own reality,” Clinton said.
Trump also claimed that Clinton was in favor of regulations and high taxes.
“I’m going to cut taxes big-league and you’re going to raise taxes big league,” he said.
Clinton said she did, in fact, favor raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“What I have proposed would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, because they have made all the gains in the economy,” Clinton said.
Trump fired back that high taxes are to blame for the fact that companies end up taking their money out of the country, thus decimating the economy and jobs.
“I have a feeling that by the end of this evening, I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened,” Clinton said.
“Why not?” Trump replied.
Holt then asked why Trump refused to release his tax returns, as per tradition with presidential candidates. Trump said he was under audit, but and brought up a scandal of Clinton’s.
“I will release my taxes, against the advice of my lawyers when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted,” Trump said.
Clinton suggested that Trump had something to hide with his taxes.
“First, maybe he’s not as rich as he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable; as he claims to be, and third, we don’t know all of his business dealings,” but investigative reports indicate that he owes large sums to various banks.
She said there are also claims that Trump “paid almost nothing in federal taxes,” according to tax returns that were made public when he had to release them for a casino license.
As to the email scandal, she called it a “mistake” for which she takes “full responsibility.”
Trump insisted that he has been successful in business – with a great income and a highly-leveraged company. He said his reasons for pointing that out are not “braggadocious.”
“It’s about time that this country had somebody running it that has an idea about money,” Trump said.
Clinton fired back at what she called Trump’s contention that his “main claim to be president” is his business experience.
“Your campaign manager said you have built a lot of your businesses on the backs of the little guys,” such as dishwashers, architects, and marble, glass and draper installers, Clinton said. She said Trump had failed to pay the workers for the work they had done – including an architect who was in the debate audience.
Trump replied, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I wasn’t satisfied with his work, which our country should do too.” He added that he was very popular with many of his employees whom he called “unbelievably happy.”
Issues Of Race, Policing And Crime
Holt then asked the candidates to address America’s direction, beginning with current crises and controversies surrounding race – in particular police-involved shootings that have killed unarmed African-American men.
Clinton said there is a need to “restore trust between communities and the police.”
“We have to work to ensure that our police are using the best straining, the best techniques, and they’re well-prepared to use force only when necessary,” Clinton said. “Everyone should be respected the law, and everyone should respect the law. Right now, that’s not the case in a lot of our neighborhoods.”
Clinton also said the proliferation of guns are a serious problem.
“The gun epidemic is a leading cause of death for young African-American men,” Clinton said.
Trump said the solution is “law and order.”
“Secretary Clinton doesn’t want to use a couple of words, and that’s law and order. And we need law and order, and if we don’t have it, we’re not going to have a country,” Trump said.
He painted a bleak picture of the state of communities of color in major cities.
“We have a situation in which in our inner cities, African-Americans and Hispanics are living in hell, because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street and you get shot,” Trump said. “In Chicago, they’ve had thousands of shootings – thousands – since January 1 – thousands! And I say, what is this, a war-torn country?”
Trump said the solution was the stop-and-frisk policy touted for many years by the NYPD.
When Holt noted that it was deemed unconstitutional, Trump said that was not true. He blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for not continuing the Bloomberg administration’s effort to fight a federal ruling that came down against stop-and-frisk – claiming the city would eventually have prevailed and stop-and-frisk would have continued.
Trump said murders were up in New York City this year without stop and frisk, which NYPD Assistant Commissioner for Communication and Public Information J. Peter Donald was quick to dispute. He said the city is down 16 homicides so far this year compared with the same time last year.
Holt also asked Trump about his past defense of birtherism – the claim that President Barack Obama was not really born in the U.S. and questions about his birth certificate.
Trump recently said he does believe Obama was born in the U.S., and blamed Clinton and her 2008 presidential campaign staff for spreading the birtherism claim. He accused Patti Solis Doyle, a longtime Clinton aide, of spreading the rumor, “and you can go look it up and check it out.”
Trump said the 2008 Clinton campaign was not able to get Obama to produce a long-form birth certificate proving that the president was born in Hawaii, while Trump himself was.
Clinton said Trump could not talk his way out of endorsing birtherism.
“He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that this first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it, but he persisted, he persisted year after year because some of his supporters that he wanted to bring into his fold apparently believed it or wanted to believe it,” Clinton said.
Security And The Nation’s Greatest Threats
In discussing threats abroad, Clinton said cybersecurity needs more attention that it has been receiving, in particular nefarious efforts by Russia.
“I was so shocked when Donald invited Putin to come in and hack into Americans,” she said.
Trump said there was no way to know for sure whether it was really the Russians who hacked into Democratic National Committee servers. He said it could be China, and “it could also be someone sitting on a bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
But Trump did say cybersecurity was indeed a major crisis, and said ISIS was successfully recruiting online and beating efforts to stop them.
Holt himself said the record showed Trump had been in favor of the Iraq War, but Trump insisted that he wasn’t.
“I did not support the War in Iraq,” Trump said. “That is mainstream media nonsense.”
He claimed that he had quarreled with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who was in favor of Iraq War, and claimed that Hannity could corroborate the claim.
The candidates were also asked about how to protect the country from threats at home, given the bombings this month in Chelsea and in Seaside Park and Elizabeth, New Jersey, as well as an attack at a mall in Minnesota and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this year.
Clinton said an “intelligence surge” was the way to go, noting how multiple police agencies worked together to apprehend local bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami quickly. Clinton also emphasized the need to “work more closely with allies,” a need toward which she said Trump’s attitude is “dismissive.”
“Donald has consistently insulted Muslims abroad and Muslims at home when we need to be cooperating with Muslim nations and with America’s Muslim community,” Clinton said. “They’re on the front lines. They can provide information that we may not get anywhere else.”
Clinton went on to accuse Trump of having a “cavalier” attitude toward nuclear weapons, and not caring if another country – even a hostile one – acquired them.
She characterized Trump’s attitude as, “If there were a nuclear war in East Asia, that’s fine – have a good time, folks.”
Trump said the opposite was true. He said nuclear weapons were the greatest threat to national and world security – not global warming as he claimed Clinton and Obama believe.
But he said the U.S. needed to rethink how it handles its role as policeman of the world. He noted that the U.S. Armed Forces defend Japan, Germany, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.
“They don’t pay us and they should,” Trump said.
Holt went on to ask Trump about a remark that she doesn’t have a “presidential look,” given that she is the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.
“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina, and I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you have to have tremendous stamina. You have to be able to negotiate our trade deals. You have to negotiate – that’s right, with Japan; with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said.
Clinton had a snappy response.
“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,” Clinton said.
Clinton also would not let Trump off the hook for what she said were his past misogynistic remarks.
“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” Clinton said.
Both candidates also said they would accept whoever turned out to be the winner.
Clinton said she believes in democracy, and “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I certainly will support the outcome of this election.”
Trump said he believes he can “make America great again” while Clinton cannot, but, “if she wins, I will absolutely support her.”
Interest in the presidential race has been intense and an estimated 100 million viewers had been expected to watch the 90-minute televised debate.
The high-stakes Monday night showdown was the first of three presidential debates. It came as both candidates were viewed negatively by large numbers of Americans, with Democrat Clinton facing questions about her trustworthiness and Republican Trump struggling to convince many voters that he has the temperament and policy depth to be president.
Former “Face The Nation” host Bob Schieffer, who has moderated three presidential debates and has reported on just about all of the others, said the debate between Trump and Clinton stood out for its lack of order and politeness.
“I’ve never seen one where the decorum broke down the way it did tonight. You just almost never see audience responses like we saw tonight. We were expecting a different kind of debate and I think it that way, we saw one,” Schieffer said. “I don’t think Donald Trump lost any votes tonight. I’m not sure Hillary Clinton gained any votes tonight. What we saw was an example of just how deep the divide is now between Democrats and Republicans. I didn’t learn very much new tonight.”
Schieffer said Clinton “maintained her composure throughout,” and “zinged him a couple of pretty good times” on the issue of Trump’s income taxes, but both were preaching to their respective choirs instead of exploring how to get together and build coalitions.
Clinton has been banking on voters seeing her as a steady hand who can build on the record of President Barack Obama. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, told “CBS This Morning” on Monday that she fully understands she still needs to earn voters’ trust.
Trump has tapped into deep anxieties among some Americans, particularly white, working-class voters who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying nation.
While the real estate mogul lacks the experience Americans have traditionally sought in a commander in chief, he’s banking on frustration with career politicians and disdain for Clinton to push him over the top on Election Day.
The Trump-Clinton debate came 56 years to the day after the first televised presidential debate. John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon faced off before a national audience for the debate broadcast from Studio 1 at the since-demolished CBS Building at 630 N. McClurg Ct. in Chicago. Kennedy went on to win the presidency.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)