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Trump Does Himself No Favors in First Debate With Clinton

Trump Does Himself No Favors in First Debate With Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Donald Trump says he has the better temperament of the two, that not paying taxes is "smart," and that Rosie O'Donnell deserved his insults. 

In their first debate of the general election campaign, Hillary Clinton was calm, policy-focused, and occasionally funny -- and Donald Trump was, well, Donald Trump.

That is to say, he often raised his voice, interrupted or talked over Clinton (far more than she did to him), and made several truly bizarre claims, some familiar, some new -- among the latter, that he has the better temperament to be president.

The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees met at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., for a debate moderated by NBC journalist Lester Holt. They touched on a broad range of topics -- economic policy, race, law enforcement, birtherism, foreign policy, and, toward the end, Trump's attitude toward women.

At one point, Clinton directed viewers to her website for live fact checking. One of the most well-known outlets for that sort of thing -- -- reported so many people were trying to sort out the fiction from the truth that it suffered outages.

Clinton critiqued Trump's economic plan, involving massive tax cuts, as "trumped-up trickle-down," a reference to the theory embraced by President Reagan, that more money in the hands of the wealthy would "trickle down" to the middle and lower classes in the form of better jobs and wages. He denounced her as wanting to overregulate businesses and drive them overseas, while saying he would bring jobs back to the U.S. When Holt pressed him on how he'd bring them back, he said by not letting them go in the first place.

Trump also contended Clinton has supported bad trade policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he called "the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country." It was approved when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president. However, according to National Public Radio senior business editor Marilyn Geewax, part of the NPR fact-checking team, "Most studies show NAFTA had a relatively small impact on the economy." Clinton also said she carefully scrutinized every trade deal that came before her when she was a U.S. senator from New York, and supported some and not others.

On other economic topics, Clinton said Trump rooted for the housing crisis of eight years ago, saying it would enable him to buy properties cheaply and make a profit selling them later -- a claim PolitiFact rates as "mostly true." Trump's response to Clinton was "That's called business, by the way."

Trump likely did himself no favors with that remark, nor with his responses to questions about his long-delayed release of his income tax returns. Clinton said he may be hiding something, such as that "maybe he is not as rich as he says he is" or "maybe he's not as charitable as he claims to be."

"Or maybe he does not want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he has paid nothing in federal taxes because the only years that anybody has ever seen [are] for a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license," she continued. "And they showed he did not pay any federal income tax." Trump interjected, "That's being smart."

He also offered to release his tax returns when Clinton releases 33,000 deleted emails from her time as secretary of State; she has come under fire for using a private email server during this period. "I think you have just seen another example of bait and switch here," she responded. When Holt pressed her on the use of a private server, she said it was a mistake, something she has said many times. Trump called it an "illegal server," but no one involved with it has been charged with any wrongdoing.

On the question of race, with two more black men -- one who was definitely unarmed, one who may have been -- killed by police recently, Holt asked the candidates what they would do to repair race relations in the nation.

Clinton noted that "race still determines too much," including how people are treated in criminal justice matters. We have to restore trust between communities and the police. We have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they're well prepared to use force only when necessary." Holt asked her, based on a statement she made last week, if she believes "police are implicitly biased against black people."

She replied, "I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think unfortunately too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other. And therefore I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions about, you know, why am I feeling this way? But when it comes to policing ... it can have literally fatal consequences." Police want more and better training, she said.

Trump denounced her for not using the words "law and order," and he defended the use of the "stop-and-frisk" strategy in New York City, police stopping pedestrians and frisking them for weapons. Holt pointed out that the practice was abandoned because a judge found it unconstitutional; Trump contended if that ruling were appealed, the city would have won. Bill de Blasio decided not to appeal it when he succeeded Michael Bloomberg as mayor.

The conversation also came around to Trump's promotion of the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore was ineligible to be president. Holt asked what took Trump so long to disclaim this theory, which he did only this year, after the president produced his birth certificate five years ago. He didn't really answer, instead blaming Clinton and her campaign staff for starting the rumors when she was running against Obama for the 2008 presidential nomination -- but numerous news organizations have found that Clinton and her staff had nothing to do with this.

Other flashpoints of the evening: Trump denied that he ever supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying he did nothing more than say "I dunno, maybe" when the subject came up before the war -- again, demonstrably false. And when Holt asked Trump about his judgment, he said he would have better judgment than Clinton, and I also have a much better temperament that she has. ... I think my strongest asset may be by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament." That elicited laughter from the audience.

And Clinton brought up his remarks about women, saying, "This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers." He also, she said, called a contestant in one of his beauty pageants "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" because she was Latina.

Trump didn't respond directly, instead demanding, "Where did you find this?" When Holt told him his time was nearly up, he switched to noting Clinton's commercials, many of which use his own words against him. "Some of it's said in entertainment," Trump said. "Some of it's said -- somebody who's been very vicious to me, Rosie O'Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her."

That is, well, arguable. For more on the debate, check out NPR's transcript, with fact-checking, here, and The Washington Post's annotated transcript here, also with fact checking.

Trump and Clinton will debate again October 9 and 19, and their running mates -- Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, respectively -- will debate October 4.

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