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A Messy, “Presidential” Debate —Was There a Winner?

A Messy, “Presidential” Debate —Was There a Winner?

Afia Sengupta, contributing

Cleveland – In a catastrophic display of bullying, name-calling, and constant interruptions, Tuesday night’s presidential debate was a mess. The debate was to consist of six segments, in which each candidate would have two minutes to respond to questions per segment. However, President Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden easily got off track from the topics presented by the moderator of the evening, Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Both men spoke over each other constantly, and the moderator struggled to reign them in.

When asked about his nomination for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, President Trump said “We won the election, and elections have consequences.” He did not clarify what he meant. 

Trump went on to say liberals have endorsed Coney Barrett, but he did not name any names. Trump also said that if the tables were turned, Democrats would not have waited until the election to appoint a justice if they were in power. 

Biden responded by saying he was not opposed to Coney Barrett as a justice. However, Biden said he disagrees with her views on the Affordable Care Act. The two candidates  could not stay on the topic of the Supreme Court, as they spiraled into a nonsensical conversation on healthcare.

When Trump claimed that private insurance would no longer exist under Biden’s healthcare plan, Biden quickly refuted to say his plan consists of “increas[ing] Obamacare.” This means that “poor” Americans who qualify for Medicaid would be enrolled in a public option, and the vast majority of Americans would not fall into this category.

As Trump further agitated Biden about opposition in the Democratic Party, Biden responded with, “My party is me, I am the Democratic Party right now.” 

The president said insulin prices are going down “80 to 90 percent”, and that insulin is as cheap as “water.” The first part of this claim lacks evidence. The last part of the statement can’t be quantitatively measured. 

When asked about the practicalities of distributing a COVID-19 vaccine next month, Trump openly said he disagrees with his own Operation Warp Speed scientists. Biden took a jab at Trump’s coronavirus pandemic record, warning Trump that he needs to be “a lot smarter or a lot quicker.” Trump retorted with, “Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me, Joe,” and went on to insult Biden’s intelligence. The two men lost control of the topic at hand, and Wallace struggled to bring them back to reality.

When the hot topic question came up about the alleged $750 in yearly income taxes that was part of a New York Times expose, Trump declared that he had, in fact,  paid “millions” of dollars in federal income taxes.  Biden asked Trump to prove his claim by showing his tax returns. But Trump retorted that they will be released when the returns are “ready.” Trump has never  released his tax returns during his tenure as president — something presidents have done since the 1970s. 

On the topic of the economy, President Trump said the recovery from the 2008 recession was the “slowest economic recovery since 1929,” which is misleading, as growth was slowing for decades before he took office. While the two were meant to be debating on the economy, Trump insulted Joe’s son, Hunter Biden’s, military service. Joe Biden tried to bring it back by making eye contact with the camera to say, “It’s not about my family or his family, it’s about your family.” Again, the two did not stay on topic.

Another topic of the night was “race and violence in our cities.” The president refused to condemn White supremacy groups. Instead, he called upon one such group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.” 

The president also referred to racial diversity training as inherently “racist.” In this way, Trump implied that America is, in fact, a racist country, as that training is meant to educate Americans on racial inequities. 

Biden promised he would accept the election results but the president’s answer was less concrete.  While Biden encouraged the public to vote, Trump tried to discredit the process of mail-in voting, and urged his supporters to “go to the polls and watch very carefully.” Mail-in voting has been practiced by the American military since the end of the Civil War and has never been slandered until now.

This debate was nothing short of a mess. This debate is now being called a train wreck with both candidates leveling a string of personal attacks against each other. The candidates focused on humiliating each other—though Biden attempted to lay out his healthcare and COVID-19 plans, Trump’s interruptions caused them to often veer off topic.

Will there be any more presidential debates if this one was so insufferable to watch? If so, how could either candidate get a word in if they keep interrupting each other?

Image Credit: Morry Gash/Pool, Reuters

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Lead developer and editor; legal/political reporter for the Current Affairs Times. World traveler. Mac 'n' cheese lover.

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