President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage on Tuesday night for the first presidential debate of the 2020 election with just 35 days until the election. Tensions were running high in Cleveland, and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace struggled to manage the conduct of both candidates.
While Tuesday night’s debate may have been a bit chaotic, Wallace kept the candidates to discussing six major issues. The first segment of the debate was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump adamantly defended his actions and his push to reopen states, despite rising case numbers. He then went on to say that Biden would “close down this country and destroy this country if he were president.” Biden, on the other hand, shifted his focus to Trump’s unwillingness to take the virus seriously from the start.
“You should get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap and your golf course and go in your Oval Office and bring together the Democrats and Republicans and fund what needs to be done now to save lives,” said Biden.
Wallace followed up by asking the candidates to talk about the economic fallout from the pandemic, and how they expect the economy to recover. President Trump claimed that prior to the “China plague,” he had built the best economy in history. He reiterated the importance of opening states back up because people “know what to do” and it is unfair to keep them closed.
Biden argued that millionaires and billionaires have done very well in the midst of this pandemic, and the American people have suffered. He then criticized the decision for schools to reopen, to which Trump responded, “I’m the one who brought back football.”
The candidates were specifically asked to explain if the economy would take a U-shaped recovery or a K-shaped recovery, however, neither candidate seemed to give a complete answer on that matter.
Trump was also asked to explicitly state how much money he paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 in response to the New York Times article that stated he only paid $750.
“Millions of dollars,” President Trump asserts, “And you’ll get to see it.”
With the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wallace asked President Trump to clarify his decision to appoint Amy Coney Barrett as the Supreme Court nominee. “We won the election,” Trump said. “Elections have consequences.” He insisted that Barrett is respected by all and even has support from the left.
Biden believes that the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice should be handled after the election because it’s inappropriate to do so while people have already begun voting in some states. Biden also voiced his concerns about Barrett’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and women’s reproductive rights.
Between bickering and catty remarks, Wallace prompted the candidates to defend their stances on certain racial issues. Wallace specifically asked President Trump to explain why he made an executive order to ban racial sensitivity training for federal workers and contractors.
President Trump claimed that these trainings are part of “a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools, all over the place.” However, when asked to denounce white supremacy and violent militia groups, Trump refused.
In fact, he told the Proud Boys, who are classified as a far-right hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to “stand by.”
On the matter of police reform, Biden declared that he does not support defunding the police, instead he believes that the police need more assistance and favors the idea of “community policing.” He did add that he condemns violence of any sort in the fight for racial justice.
The final segment of the debate was centered around election integrity. Biden reinforced the importance of voting in this election and explained that Trump’s own Homeland Security director and FBI director both attest to the legitimacy of mail-in voting. Biden also promised to support the outcome of the election once all the ballots are counted.
President Trump, on the other hand, alleged that the ballots are a “disaster.” When asked if he would wait to declare a winner until the election is independently certified, Trump evaded the question and continued to deny the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.
Tuesday night’s debate is just the first of three debates between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden before the election. On Oct. 7, we will hear from Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris as they engage in the first and only Vice-Presidential debate of 2020.
These debates are an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates. As frustrating as they may be to watch, it is just as important as ever to stay informed on the most pressing issues in our country. And if you are eligible and haven’t already done so, I urge you to register to vote.
Photo: Time Magazine