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Clinton and Trump Meet for First Presidential Debate

American presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent Monday night criticizing each other during their first debate.

Trump and Clinton each spoke about their plans to strengthen economic growth and what role the United States should have in the world.

The two disagreed with each other for almost all of the 90-minute long debate. They often spoke up while the other was speaking.

Trump, a businessman, is the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. Clinton, the former Secretary of State, is the Democratic Party’s candidate. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, were not invited to the debate in Hempstead, New York.

The event began with Clinton and Trump shaking hands. But it did not take long for the two candidates to start attacking each other.

Trump questioned many of Clinton’s answers. He repeated his belief that she is not healthy enough to serve as president.

“I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home and that’s OK...”

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for -- I prepared to be president.”

Trump also said Clinton’s policies have caused many problems, including the threat from ISIS.

“She’s telling us how to fight ISIS. Just go to her website. She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website."

“Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS.”

“No, no, you're telling the enemy everything you want to do.”

“No, we’re not.”

Clinton said Trump’s economic plans would help only wealthy people. She said Trump does not want to release his tax records because they could show the businessman is not as rich as he claims he is. That led Trump to raise a question about the private email server she used while serving as America’s top diplomat.

“I will release my tax returns against my lawyer’s wishes when she releases her 33-thousand emails that have been deleted.”

“And I have no reason to believe that he's ever going to release his tax returns because there's something he's hiding.”

Clinton said she had gained experience during her time as secretary of state by traveling to 112 countries, and negotiating peace deals and ceasefires.

Trump said she may have experience, but called it “bad experience.” He sharply criticized the nuclear deal the United States and other powers reached with Iran to limit that country’s nuclear program.

Clinton said it was an example of effective diplomacy that stopped Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Trump criticized the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq. He said at least 10,000 should have stayed there. He said that would have prevented the creation of the Islamic State.

Clinton noted that the Iraqi government failed to offer legal protection to the U.S. forces if they stayed. She said that was one of the reasons the troops did not remain in Iraq.

Mark Cuban, a billionaire businessman who supports Clinton, said he was happy with her debate performance.

“She gave depth to her answers. She didn’t hesitate. He was a counterpuncher, and like a lot of counterpunchers, when you throw your jab and it misses, you get frustrated and you press...”

David Plouffe worked on President Barack Obama’s two successful presidential campaigns.

“I think he (Trump), as the debate went on, had a hard time retaining focus. I mean, Trump had some moments where it’s hard to keep track of what he was really talking about...”

Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Trump showed he is better prepared than Clinton to help the American economy.

“She’s a total phony. She was a failed secretary of state and what she demonstrated tonight is an incredible ignorance of the economy. How are you going to keep jobs in this country if you tax businesses more? Why would a business want to pay more taxes?”

Hans Noel is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University. He told VOA “I think that what we saw was very, very much the Trump that we’ve been seeing up until now, and the Clinton that we’ve been seeing up until now. And so probably most voters are going to have the same material that they had before.”

Noel said he did not think the first debate would cause many Americans to change their opinion about which candidate to support. He noted that people who watched the debate are likely to believe the candidate they have already decided to support.

“Most people have already made up their mind, so when Trump says something and someone challenges him on the facts and he says ‘No, no, I’m still right,’ the people who are inclined to like Trump are going to continue to think that way,” he said.

“They’re going to believe that. And the same when Clinton says something and some people challenge her on that or push back and then they're going to say ‘I’m going to believe her’ because they already did.”

Cary Covington teaches political science classes at the University of Iowa. He said that Trump was “very forceful, very assertive.” He said Clinton appeared “more calm, and in control.”

He told VOA “Hillary Clinton demonstrated commands of policy questions. Donald Trump focused in on a small number of issues that he wanted to talk about, [but] wasn’t as adept at speaking broadly to the range of topics that were asked about.”

Covington said presidents must be prepared for any issues that affect the country. He thought Clinton did a better job during the debate of dealing with many issues.

“Trump’s goal has to be to overtake Clinton. That’s a much more difficult task. That means persuading people who are either on the sidelines or are leaning towards Clinton to come over to his side,” he said.

​“I don’t think he did much to help himself on that goal. But it’s a more demanding goal than the one that Hillary Clinton faced. Hillary Clinton needed to reassure voters who don’t want to vote for Trump that she’s acceptable. She’s already got the lead. She was able to give that impression.”

The candidates will meet in two more debates, before the presidential election on November 8th. The next debate will be October 9th.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise. reported this story from Washington and from Hofstra University in New York. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reports into VOA Special English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ISIS - n. short for the Islamic State militant group

role – n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation (usually + in)

return – n. a report that you send to the government about the money that you have earned and the taxes that you have paid in one year

delete – v. to remove (something, such as words, pictures, or computer files) from a document, recording, computer, etc.

hesitate – v. to be unwilling to do something because of doubt or uncertainty

counterpunch – v. to hit someone quickly after they have hit you or criticized you

frustrate – v. to cause (someone) to feel angry, discouraged or upset because of not being able to do something

focus – n. a subject that is being discussed or studied; the subject on which people's attention is focused (usually singular)

keep track of – expression to follow; to understand; to be aware of how something is changing, what someone is doing, etc.

phony – n. a person who pretends to be someone else or to have feelings or abilities that he or she does not really have; a person who is not sincere

inclined – v. to think or to cause (someone) to think that something is probably true or correct (followed by to + verb)

assertive – adj. confident in behavior or style

adept – adj. very good at doing something that is not easy

topic – n. someone or something that people talk or write about

sideline – n. the space outside the area where a game is played on a field or court (usually plural); often used figuratively

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