Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's Best Zingers from the Presidential Debate
It was the showdown billed as the most important moment of the 2016 presidential campaign so far.
Although the pair started off with unexpected restraint, it was Clinton who fired the opening salvo, labeling her opponent’s economic plan “Trumped-up, trickle-down economics.”
Later, as the Republican candidate defended his economic plan, the gloves came off in an exchange that seemed to encapsulate the tension between them throughout the campaign.
It began when Trump said some of his economic ideas stalled because “we have no leadership, and honestly, that starts with Secretary Clinton.”
“I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened,” Clinton responded with a chuckle.
“Why not?” Trump shot back.
“Why not? Yeah, why not? Just join the debate by saying more crazy things,” Clinton said.
That was only the first of several heated exchanges between the pair, who talked with only occasional interruptions by moderator Lester Holt. Read on for more:
Race and the birther controversy
The pair sparred over the birther controversy that Trump most recentlyresurrected earlier this month when he finally admitted in public that President Barack Obama was indeed born in the U.S.
Clinton bluntly called out Trump for “really start[ing] his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen.”
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Meanwhile, Trump continued to contend – in what has been roundly exposed as a lie – that Clinton started and stoked birther questions herself. “She failed to get the birth certificate,” he said. “When I got involved, I didn’t fail.”
He didn’t back down when asked what he would tell the country about racial healing.
Donald Trump on Race: ‘I Say Nothing’
“I say nothing,” he said. “Because I was able to get him to produce [his birth certificate]. He should have produced it a long time before. I say nothing.”
Emails and tax returns
The candidates were also on the attack about thorny issues that have dogged the other – in Clinton’s case, the use of her private email server; in Trump’s, his refusal to release his tax returns.
When asked about his decision to withhold the tax returns, Trump said that his lawyers advised him to keep them private until his “routine audit” was complete. But, he added, he would change his mind under one condition.
“I will release my tax returns – against my lawyers’ wishes – when [Hillary Clinton] releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted.”
Clinton guessed that Trump, in refusing to release his tax returns, was trying to hide that he’s either not as rich as he claims, not as charitable as he claims, or paying zero in federal taxes.
“That makes me smart,” Trump said before Clinton went on: “Zero. That’s zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health.”
She later got the last word on Twitter:
Clinton also touched on Trump’s controversial praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin, pointing out that Trump “publicly invited Putin to hack into” American systems, a nod to the belief that the Russians were behind the recent Democratic National Committee email leaks. But Trump swiftly tried to turn attention away from the Russians, saying that it’s not clear whether the Russians were behind it, or possibly the Chinese or “someone sitting on their bed who weighs 400 lbs.”
Trump made some of his boldest assertions toward the end of the debate, when he brought up the topic of temperament: “I have much better judgment than she has. I also have a much better temperament than she has. I think my strongest asset by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament,” he said as the crowd laughed.
RELATED: Clinton Says Trump’s Political Activity Started With ‘Racist Lie’
Stamina – and Rosie O’Donnell
Shortly before the debate wrapped up, Trump and Clinton got especially personal when Trump questioned Clinton’s readiness for the role of commander-in-chief, arguing that she “doesn’t have the stamina” to be president.
“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” she replied.
Clinton then brought up some of the comments he has made about women, specifically mentioning a beauty pageant contestant he called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina.” Trump argued that most of his derogatory comments had to do with Rosie O’Donnell due to their long-running feud, and pointed out that he stayed away from hammering away at Clinton’s marital issues and her husband’s infidelity.
“I said to myself: I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.”