US presidential debate

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face-to-face in the first TV debate of the campaign

Hugh Linehan Mon, Sep 26
LIVE: US presidential debate

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  • 23:41
    Good evening and welcome to the Irish Times liveblog of the first debate of the 2016 US presidential election. I’m Hugh Linehan.
  • 23:45
    The 90=minute debate at Hofstra University begins at 9pm EST, which is 2am in this part of the world. If you’re in Ireland, there are plenty of different ways you can see the debate, via the BBC, Channel 4 or Sky News. Many TV platforms here also feature American channels such as CNN or Fox News. Streams are also available on YouTube and Twitter.
  • 23:55
    While televised debates have been a feature of presidential elections since Kennedy/Nixon in 1960, it’s not hyperbole to say tonight’s meeting of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is widely seen as the most dramatic and potentially crucial in 56 years. That’s due in large part to the phenomenon that is Trump – the businessman turned reality TV star who overturned all conventional wisdom to win the Republican party’s nomination on a platform of nativism, anti-immigrant rhetoric and opposition to free trade. In addition to those populist policies, Trump has succeeded in tearing up the rulebook on issues such as revealing his tax returns, telling the truth about his own past positions on issues, and frequently behaving boorishly towards anyone who opposes him.
    Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, is a seasoned politician with a long track record as First Lady, senator and secretary of state. While she has succeeded in persuading some traditional Republican voters to abandon Trump, she has yet to enthuse some parts of the electorate which voted for Barack Obama – especially younger voters. The fact she is the first female major party nominee, and that Trump is an unabashed misogynist, adds to the sense of drama.
  • 00:04

  • 00:16

    Our Washington Correspondent, Simon Carswell, reports:

    As the candidates prepared to leave for Hofstra University in New York, the venue for the first televised debate, a new Bloomberg Politics national poll had the two nominees deadlocked at 46 per cent each in a head-to-head contest. Mr Trump held a two- point advantage over Mrs Clinton, 43 per cent to 41 per cent, when third-party candidates, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (8 per cent) and the Green Party’s Jill Stein (4 per cent), were included. The Bloomberg poll in August had Mrs Clinton enjoying a six-point lead over Mr Trump, and a 12-point advantage when third-party candidates were included.
    Ann Selzer, the Iowa-based pollster behind the poll, attributed the narrowing of Mrs Clinton’s lead to her loss of ground among women and younger voters. Ms Selzer has shown uncanny skill in predicting results in her home-state’s key caucuses. Her poll showed Mrs Clinton maintaining strong support among non-white voters and suburban women, while Mr Trump’s poll numbers are helped by his support among white voters, those with no college degree and likely southern voters.

  • 00:19

  • 00:20
    Over the next few hours, I’ll be covering the event itself, plus the reaction from analysts and party supporters across the US and further afield. Remember you can tweet me @hlinehan with any comments or queries.
  • 00:22

  • 00:25

    So who is Lester Holt?


  • 00:30
    The anchor of NBC Nightly News Lester Holt will be the moderator. The first debate has been divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each. Holt will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. Expect the economy, national security, immigration and healthcare to all feature.
  • 00:40

    Tonight’s debate takes place at Hofstra University on Long Island in New York. It’s not one of the country’s best-known colleges, so how come it’s hosting a presidential encounter for the third election in a row? CNN reports:
    At ambitious institutions around the country, the road to a higher national profile typically runs through the gridiron or a basketball court. Hofstra has taken a different route. On Monday, the Hempstead, New York, school -- one that ditched its football program in 2009 -- will become the first to host presidential debates in three consecutive election cycles.
    Donors are buying in. A notable few are footing a large chunk of the estimated $6 million tab surrounding Monday night's debate, which was originally awarded to Wright State University. When the Ohio school dropped out this summer, citing budgetary concerns, then-alternate Hofstra stepped up -- and is now set to host what is expected to be the most-watched event in the history of American politics, with analysts projecting an audience of between 80 and 100 million TV viewers.
    On campus, where tests are carrying on as scheduled, homework is still being assigned and parking is always at a premium, the impending circus has met with mixed reviews. Still, there is no denying the interest -- nearly three in four students have applied online for one of the few hundred publicly available seats inside the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.
    The candidates will get their first look at the debate hall just a few hours before the public, Peter Eyre, a senior adviser with the Commission on Presidential Debates, told reporters as the hardhats on the floor sized up the stage.
    "This one is special," Eyre said. "We expect a lot of attention domestically and internationally."

    Read the full article here.

  • 00:53

    Have you ever seen Donald Trump laugh? Some interesting thoughts on the subject in this piece from The Atlantic, including:
    Tony Schwartz, the repentant ghostwriter for Trump’s bestselling The Art of the Deal, explained on MSNBC recently what drives Trump’s tendency to project his own faults onto others (Hillary is the bigot; she lacks a presidential temperament). “Trump has a deep self-hatred and insecurity,” Schwartz said. “Any criticisms make him feel inadequate, and it is intolerable to feel inadequate.”
    Or to be laughed at. In his stump speeches, Trump often rails against countries like Mexico and China for “laughing at us.”
    “Superficially, the problem that torments Trump is trade. But his language—they ‘beat’ us and ‘laugh’ at us—provokes the emotional power of shame,” Trump biographer (Never Enough) Michael D’Antonio writesat The Daily Beast. Trump, he says, is “all about shame—avoiding it himself, and inflicting it on others.”

    More here.

  • 01:08

    Hillary's been doing a little light trolling in the last hour...


  • 01:11

    So what does a candidate need to do to win tonight? Ignore all the expectation-lowering from the Trump camp, says Josh Voorhees in Slate. For The Donald to be deemed the victor, the following has to happen:
    1. Trump must display a better understanding of the challenges facing the United States than Clinton, while also explaining why his policy prescriptions are more likely to solve said challenges than hers.
    2. Trump must offer a more forceful—while still legitimate—critique of Clinton’s trustworthiness than she does of his.
    3. Trump must be more transparent than Clinton, something that can’t happen unless he hands his tax returns to moderator Lester Holt, thereby finally releasing the important financial information every major party’s presidential nominee has done since 1976.

    More here.

  • 01:18
    CNN: 'Some people in the Trump camp are concerned the candidate is unprepared and over-confident'. Sounds like a double bluff to me.
  • 01:21

  • 01:25

    Monica Crowley in the pro-Trump Washington Times has a somewhat different view to Slate on what the Republican candidate needs to do:

    For a full TKO, Mr. Trump should do four main things.
    First, he should emphasize his pragmatic vision for turning America around: moving to pro-growth economics, restoring law and order, rebuilding the military and a strong national defense, reigniting America’s influence and prestige internationally, and defeating the corrupt, rigged system (as embodied by Mrs. Clinton).
    As a successful presidential candidate, he must offer voters a positive, compelling reason to vote for him, rather than just against his opponent. That’s why it’s critical for Mr. Trump to focus on his restorative agenda for the country.
    Second, as a compliment to his optimistic vision, he must smash Mrs. Clinton, both as a failed “leader” pushing failed policies and a destructive leftist ideology and as a deeply corrupt individual who cannot — must not — be trusted with the presidency.
    She will try to swarm him with policy details to try to demonstrate that he’s unprepared for the highest office in the land. She’ll try to sit above the fray, winking that she’s “been there, done that.” Well, yes. But the question is not whether she was in the game. It’s how she played it — and what results she produced. For her, the result was evermore power and a net worth of over $125 million. For the country, the result is that we are less wealthy, less prosperous, less safe, less secure, less powerful.
    Mr. Trump doesn’t have to show an encyclopedic knowledge of every policy nuance. He simply has to point to the wreckage of the Obama economy and foreign policy and say: “We tried it your way.”
    Mic drop.
    Third, he should “gaslight” her (hat tip to Alfred Hitchcock) by remaining totally cool and unflappable while calmly pushing on her vulnerabilities, from her disgraceful lack of integrity to her hypocrisy concerning women to standing by silently if she’s seized by one of her interminable coughing attacks.
    This must be done with the greatest care, taking the Reagan approach of regarding her more in sorrow than in anger: “There you go again.” And he should call her Mrs. Clinton in order to link her to the deeply flawed boy who brought her to the dance.

     More here.

  • 01:30

    This may come in useful.


  • 01:36
    Just 25 minutes to go.  If you’re  joining us now, welcome to the Irish Times live coverage of the first debate of the US presidential election. Proceedings will begin at 2am Irish time, and I’ll be reporting on the key points and reactions over the course of the 90 minutes.
  • 01:43
    We are into the final run-up, with commission officials explaining the format. There will be six 15-minute segments, kicked off with a question from the moderator followed by two minutes for each candidate and then a free-form debate. "Only Lester Holt knows the questions". Audience has been told to keep entirely quiet - 'no clapping, no cheering'.
  • 01:45

  • 01:53

  • 01:54

  • 01:56
    Here is our host, Mr Holt. "Please refrain from clapping or booing."
  • 01:58
  • 02:01
    OK, the punditting is over (for a little while). In the words of Ms Clinton, let's do this.
  • 02:05
    Lester Holt "the questions are mine and have not been shared with the commission or the campaigns"
  • 02:05
    The candidates walk on stage. Both in counter-programming colours. Blue tie for Donald. Red suit for Hillary.
  • 02:07
    First question is on jobs and income equality. Why is Clinton a better choice? "The central question is what kind of country we want to build together. I want us to invest in infrastructure, small business. I want to raise the minimum wage and - finally - equal pay for women."
  • 02:08
    Clinton: "Have the wealthy pay their fair share and close the loopholes." Addresses Trump ("Donald") directly. "You have to judghe us."
  • 02:10
    Trump: "Our jobs are fleeing the country. China is using our country as a piggy bank. They're building some of the biggest plants in Mexico. Jobs are leaving Michigan and Ohio. Hillary and I agree on childcare, maybe disagree a little."
  • 02:11
    Trump: "I'll be reducing taxes dramatically. That's going to be a job creator like we haven't seen since Reagan."
  • 02:12
    Clinton has a prepared line: "Trumped-up trickle-down." Then has a go at Trump's inherited 14 million dollars from his father.
  • 02:14
    Trump didn't like the inheritance jibe.
  • 02:14
    Trump: "She's been doing this for 30 years. Why hasn't she?"
  • 02:16
    Does Trump have a bit of a cold. Sniffles between each sentence.
  • 02:16
    "Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis." Trump: "That's called business by the way."
  • 02:19
    At the moment Clinton appears to have the upper hand - more forceful, more detailed. Trump unfocused, repeated grievances without specifics. But maybe that's just me. Trump looks nervous. A lot of repetition.
  • 02:23
    Things getting hot and heavy on trade agreements. Trump pushing harder on differences between Clinton and Obama.
  • 02:25
    Hillary plugs her own real-time fact-checker on her website. Must check that out myself.
  • 02:26
    Trump: "No wonder you've been fighting Isis your entire life." Huh?
  • 02:30
    Second outing for "trumped up trickledown". Have to say I'm not convinced.
  • 02:32
    Why hasn't Trump released his tax returns: "I'm under a routine audit and it'll be released."
  • 02:34
    "I get audited almost every year. It's become a way of life. As soon as she releases her 33,000 emails I'll release my tax returns."
  • 02:36
    Clinton on the attack, wondering whether Trump's tax shyness relates to his real income, his fake charity, or the fact he hasn't paid any taxes.
  • 02:37
    Here comes the Hillary email line. "That was a mistake and I take responsibility for it."  
  • 02:38
    Trump: "I am very underleveraged. I'm not saying that in a braggadociious way."
  • 02:41
    Clinton. "If your campaign is based on your business, we should talk about that. We have an architect in the audience who you wouldn't pay. Do the thousands of people you've stiffed not deserve an apology?"
  • 02:42
    This is exactly the territory which the Clinton team will have wanted to be playing.  
  • 02:43

  • 02:45
    The next subject is race in America. Clinton: "We have to restore trust between people and police."
  • 02:46

  • 02:47

  • 02:49
    Trump: "Almost 4,000 people have been killed in Chicago since Obama became president. We have gangs roaming the streets and in many cases they're illegal immigrants." Cites stop and frisk as a policy he favours. Holt questions, says it was found to be unconsttitutional. Trump disagrees on the legality.
  • 02:50

  • 02:51
    Clinton: "It's really unfortunate that he paints such a dire, negative picture of black communities in our country."
  • 02:54

  • 02:57
    Trump: "We have to look very strongly at no-fly lists" in relation to gun control. Mentions Clinton's use of the word "predator" to characterise criminals (and implicitly young black men) in the 1990s.
  • 02:59
    Here comes birtherism.
  • 03:01
    Trump namechecks Clinton's associate Sidney Blumenthal as the originator of the birth certificate controversy about Barck Obama's place of birth. Says he was the one who finished it. Holt presses him on why he only changed his mind five years after the certificate had been produced.
  • 03:03
    Trump deflects Holt's question about racial underpinning of birtherism. Clinton: "Just listen to what you heard. He started his political activity based on this racist lie."
  • 03:04
    Clinton: "Donald started his business career being sued for racial discrimination. He has a long record of engaging in racism."
  • 03:04

  • 03:07
    On to cybersecurity  I feel we have just had the real meat of this debate.
  • 03:10

    Veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz has this:


  • 03:15
    Trump: "Obama and Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq. They wouldn't have been formed if we left troops behind. If we'd taken the oil, they wouldn't have had it".
  • 03:17
    Clinton has a snipe at Trump's claim that he opposed the war in Iraq, then returns to domestic security, criticises his approach to Nato allies.
  • 03:22
    Trump: "I was against the war in Iraq". Holt: "The record shows otherwise." Says Fox News' Sean Hannity is his witness. Did interview "just after the war started", citing 2004 interview (two years after war).
  • 03:25

  • 03:27
    Trump on US allies. "If they don't pay their fair share they may have to defend themselves."
  • 03:28
    Looks like we're going to run over the clock. Oh, here's Trump on Russia. "I would not do first strike. But I can't take anything off the table."
  • 03:29
    Trump: "China should go into North Korea". Really?
  • 03:32
    I'm a little flabbergasted that Trump has called for China to invade North Korea. Just when you thought things couldn't get any weirder...
  • 03:37
    Clinton pulls one out of her back pocket: "One of the first things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest who he called Ms Piggy and Ms Housekeeper because she was a Latina." Trump says he decided not to say something which she and her family would not have liked.
  • 03:39
    Last question on legitimacy of election outcome. Clinton says yes. Trump says he "if she wins, I will absolutely support her."
  • 03:39
    And that's a wrap. Phew.
  • 03:41

  • 03:46
    Twitter just exploded, the spinning has begun and the next few hours will be a snowstorm of partisan agenda-setting. However, for what it's worth, on taxes, on race, on his business record and on temperament, I thought Trump got stomped on. Badly. Some of Clinton's set-piece putdowns were pretty clumky (please, enough of the trumped-up trickledown), but she clearly succeeded in getting under his skin on his personal finances, and that seemed to unnerve him for the rest of the debate.  
  • 03:48

  • 03:49
    It also seemed that Trump left several hostages to fortune. On racial discrimination is his business, on birtherism, on China invading North Korea. And probably a few other things too.
  • 04:06

  • 04:07

  • 04:10

    Quick takes coming in. This from Politico:

    After Trump says Clinton lacks the "stamina" to be president, she fires right back by talking up her travel as secretary of state and her 11 hours in front of the House Benghazi Committee. And then she pivots to hitting him for his comments on women's looks. Devastating.

    And Trump responds by doubling down on his criticism of Rosie O'Donnell and says he's holding back in his criticism of Clinton and her family. "It's not a nice thing that she's done," he says of her attack ads, then talks up his latest poll numbers.


  • 04:17

    From the Washington Post:

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton clashed in unusually personal terms during a taboo-breaking first general-election presidential debate on Monday evening, with Clinton accusing Trump of pushing “racist lies” about President Obama’s birthplace, and Trump accusing Clinton of lacking the “stamina” to be president.


    More here

  • 04:24

    From the conservative Weekly Standard:

    I'm not positive Hillary actually won the debate. But I'm sure Trump lost it. He choked.

  • 04:28

  • 04:30

  • 04:33

    CNN's post-debate poll is in. Health warning! A sample of people who watched the debate (which means it skews Democratic)  

    Who won the debate?

    Clinton 62 per cent

    Trump 27 per cent

  • 04:37

  • 04:41

  • 04:50

    Trump to Sean Hannitty on Fox News:

    "I didn’t want to say—her husband was in the room along with her daughter, who I think is a very nice young lady—and I didn’t want to say what I was going to say about what’s been going on in their live... I decided not to say it. I thought it would be very disrespectful to Chelsea and maybe to the family. But she said very bad things about me... it’s a disgrace.”

  • 04:58

    The Clinton campaign has just released this video about Alicia Machado, the beauty contestant who Trump allegedly called "Miss Piggy".

  • 05:04
  • 05:08

  • 05:13

  • 05:15

  • 05:40

    Here’s a summary of the night’s events.
    Hillary Clinton is widely believed to have defeated Donald Trump in the first presidential debate at Hofstra University.
    The two engaged in sometimes highly personal clashes on everything from racism to taxes to trade and terrorism. Trump held his own to a certain extent through the opening exchanges on trade, but as the debate wore on, Clinton clearly bested him with her command of the details on subjects such as cyber warfare, policing and foreign policy.
    An exchange where Trump accused Clinton of lacking stamina and having the wrong temperament backfired badly on the Republican. Clinton attacked Trump on his refusal to release his tax returns, his “racist” behaviour, and his statement on climate change being a Chinese “hoax,” while Trump argued Clinton had been in politics for 30 years so bore responsibility for current problems.
    A snap CNN poll of viewers found that 62 per cent believed Clinton had won the debate.

  • 08:55
    This live blog has now ended.