The campaign for the US presidential poll 2016 is likely to go down as the most explosive, most abusive and most colourful in living memory. The contrasting persona of the contestants has made the campaign particularly interesting. One is a woman and former first lady and secretary of state, giving her an awesome profile and the other a big-mouthed real estate tycoon who critics find it easy to describe as an ‘upstart.’
The string of abuses and remarks, descending below the belt at times, during the primaries and later has made the campaign somewhat reminiscent of the Indian poll scene. This also made indifferent and disinterested casual followers in India sit up and take notice.
Interest in the campaign reached a peak on Monday night during the first of the three most important debates before the polling day in November. The protagonists – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump- did not disappoint and made the sleep lost worth every wink missed.
Hillary, the candidate of the Democrats, who are generally seen to be liberal and possess a world view of issues, came out more polished than her Republican rival, generally seen to be more local in his approach and jealous of guarding American interest worldwide. No surprise, therefore, Trump came out inelegant, accusing immigrants of robbing Americans’ jobs. But the answer to the problem was not to send the hard-working immigrants packing but to create new jobs. This was the sober line taken by Hillary.
The two jousted over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to America. Hillary accused Trump of promoting a “Trumped-up” version of trickle-down economics philosophy focused on tax cuts for the wealthy. She favoured raising the federal minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure projects and guaranteeing equal pay for women. She also made bold to suggest taxing the rich adequately.
Trump criticised policies that he claimed have led to American jobs being moved overseas, in part because of international trade agreements that Ms. Clinton has supported. He taunted Hillary for her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact while she was serving in the Obama administration.
Hillary blasted Trump’s endorsement of Russian President Putin and accused him of encouraging Russia to hack into confidential emails. She also called him a rabid anti-woman individual who had no respect for them. She also savaged Trump over the disastrous Iraq war which, she said, he had espoused.
Trump protested with a strident “Wrong” and picked holes in her soft approach to racism and immigration. Sample this personal attack.
Trump dragged in Bill Clinton and blamed his tenure for the loss of jobs in the US. Hillary hit back saying that it was Trump Sr. who left his son millions, suggesting that without the start-up, Donald would have been nobody.
The debate was animated from the start, with Trump frequently trying to disrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers. Hillary was more calculated and self-possessed but made sure to annoy Trump over his business record and wealth as well as tax payment record. “There’s something he’s hiding,” she declared, taunting him over his repeated contention that he won’t release his tax returns because he is being audited.
Finally, was there a winner in the debate? It is difficult to answer the question.
As one observer put it, Hillary was at her best and Trump was not at his worst. Hillary kept her cool throughout, smiling gently even when under severe attack. But Trump’s body language betrayed unease and discomfiture
“I think Donald just criticised me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did,” Hillary said. “And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”
Trump addressed her as “Secretary Clinton” and asked for her approval for the term.
When asked by moderator Lester Holt to explain a previous comment that Clinton doesn’t have a “presidential look,” Trump simply repeated the comment. “She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”
Well, stamina, staying power and sheer skills will be crucial for both the candidates before they are done with the current presidential contest, arguably one of the most keenly followed and watched US elections in its over two-century history.