WASHINGTON – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton traded barbs over foreign policy in an aggressive debate on Monday night, when the two repeatedly attacked each other’s character, integrity and fitness for the Oval Office.
The focus of the debate in its second half turned toward issues of foreign policy, and Trump took the opportunity to attack Clinton for her role in preparing talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Slamming the agreement with the Islamic Republic as “the worst ever signed,” Trump referenced his meeting on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that the premier is “not a happy camper” over the deal or its implementation.
Clinton and Trump Debate
Iran was a “country that was ready to fall” under the pressure of sanctions, Trump said, and is now set to become a “major power” because of the nuclear accord.
He also criticized the administration’s subsequent delivery of more than $1 billion in cash to Iran, in what has been described by critics of the administration as a ransom payment for four American captives.
The money was negotiated as a settlement to a Hague tribunal case months earlier, but its delivery was conspicuously timed alongside the transfer of Tehran’s hostages back to US custody.
Clinton has supported the nuclear deal, and claimed during the debate that it put a lid on Iran’s rapidly advancing program.
“I voted for every sanction against Iran when I was in the Senate, but it wasn’t enough,” she said. “We did drive them to the negotiating table.”
Clinton took the opportunity to highlight concerns with Trump’s temperament, noting his warning that he would blow Iranian ships out of the water, and saying he would start a war with the Islamic Republic should he win the presidency.
Trump also charged Clinton and President Barack Obama with “creating a vacuum” with the way the US military left Iraq; Clinton countered that was a policy adopted by Republican president George W.
In return, Clinton attacked Trump’s claim that he had not supported the US-led invasion of Iraq, and his positions over NATO and other international allies.
The debate overall was a slugfest, with Trump repeatedly interrupting the Democratic nominee – the first woman to receive the nomination of a major American party – and calling her politically crooked.
Clinton, for her part, called Trump a racist and sexist man living in his own reality, unfit to control codes to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
Trump, a former reality TV star who eschewed debate practice, was assertive and focused early on.
As the night wore on, he became testy and less disciplined in front of the crowd at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island and a televised audience that reached upwards of a record 100 million people.
A CNN/ORC snap poll reported 62% of respondents felt Clinton won and 27% believed Trump was the winner.
On Tuesday morning, Trump called it “the debate of debates” and promised to be tougher on Clinton at their next meeting on October 9.
“I may hit her harder in certain ways,” Trump said in a telephone interview with Fox & Friends.
He made clear he chose not to bring up former president Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals out of deference to the couple’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who was in the audience.
Trump, 70, also said contentious issues involving Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state were not addressed on Monday night, including her use of a private computer server for government emails, the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, or the Clinton Foundation charity.
The 68-year-old Clinton relentlessly sought to raise questions about her opponent’s temperament, business acumen and knowledge.
In one of their more heated exchanges, Clinton accused Trump of promulgating a “racist lie” by suggesting Obama, the first African- American president, was not born in the United States.
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 US-born.
“He 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.Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.