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Clinton, Trump Clash in 1st Presidential Debate | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Donald Trump speaks as Hillary Clinton listens. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump bickered and traded insults on a wide range of topics, in a fiery U.S. presidential debate Monday, six weeks before election day. The rivals tackled issues such as ISIS, Islam, racism and tax.

Clinton said one key to fighting terrorism in the United States is working closely with Muslims living there.

The Democratic candidate said Trump has “consistently insulted Muslims abroad, Muslims at home.” She also stressed Muslim people can provide information that law enforcement may not be able to obtain anyplace else.

Both candidates were asked to explain how they would combat terrorism in the U.S.

Clinton said her plan includes an intelligence surge to obtain “every scrap of information” and to “do everything we can to vacuum up intelligence from Europe, from the Middle East.”

The former Secretary of State also said defeating ISIS and taking out its leaders would be a top priority as president.

Clinton said she’s hopeful the terrorist organization would be pushed out of Iraq by the end of the year, adding the U.S. could then help its allies “squeeze” the terrorist group in Syria.

Clinton stressed she would do everything possible to take out the group’s leaders, and make that one of her administration’s organizing principles when dealing with ISIS.

The Democratic presidential nominee also stated that the U.S. should be working to disrupt the organization’s online propaganda efforts.

“You live in your own reality” said the 68-year old Democrat, who accused Trump of launching his political career on a “racist lie” — the birther conspiracy theory that questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

Trump, who faces tough questions about his suitability for the Oval Office, started out with a more restrained tone — he even ditched his red power tie for a more statesmanlike blue.

But the Republican nominee quickly went on the offensive, repeatedly interrupting Clinton with verbal jabs.

The celebrity businessman branded Clinton a “typical politician. All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn’t work.”

He claimed the former Secretary of State does not have the “stamina” to be president and accused her of leaving a “total mess” in the Middle East.

Clinton was there when ISIS was “a little infant” and is not going to stop them now, Trump stressed.

“You’re talking about taking out ISIS. But you were there, and you were secretary of state when it was a little infant. Now, it’s in over 30 countries, and you’re going to stop them? I don’t think so,” he said.

This Super Bowl of politics took place at Hofstra University on Long Island, a mere 60-minute drive from Manhattan and chaired by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt.

This first 2016 presidential debate could be pivotal in deciding whether Clinton will become the first woman president, or if Trump can pull off the greatest upset in U.S. political history.

In one of the heated exchanges, the two candidates attacked each other for the controversy Trump stoked for years over whether President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.

The president, who was born in Hawaii, released a long form birth certificate in 2011 to put the issue to rest. Only this month did Trump say publicly that he believed Obama was U.S.-born.

“He (Trump) has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted. He persisted year after year,” Clinton said.

Trump repeated his false accusation that Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign against Obama had initiated the so-called “birther” issue.

“Nobody was pressing it, nobody was caring much about it … I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate and I think I did a good job,” Trump said.

African-American voters overwhelmingly support Clinton, but Trump in recent weeks has said he believes his policy agenda would benefit them and said the policies of Obama and Clinton had failed to help black Americans. He said Clinton’s arguments were disingenuous.

“When you try to act holier than thou, it really doesn’t work,” Trump said.

Clinton called the New York businessman’s tax policies “Trumped-up trickle-down” economics and Trump accused the former secretary of state of being “all talk, no action.”

“I have a feeling I’m going to be blamed for everything,” Clinton, the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party, said during one tough exchange. “Why not?” retorted Trump, a former reality TV star.

Clinton knocked Trump for not releasing his income tax returns and said that decision raised questions about whether he was as rich and charitable as he has said. She noted that the few years of tax returns he had released showed that despite his wealth, he had paid no federal income tax.

“That makes me smart,” Trump said.

“I have a tremendous income,” he said at one point, adding that it was about time that someone running the country knew something about money.

Clinton criticized Trump for failing to pay some of the business people with whom his company had contracted. She said she had met a lot of people who had been cheated by her opponent.

Trump said such incidents of non-payment had taken place when the work was unsatisfactory.