2020 Election Op-Eds Opinion

Fitzgerald: The last presidential debate had no shortage of personal attacks

Nora Fitzgerald
@nora.fitzg

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage for a final debate last night in Nashville, Tenn. The debate was moderated by Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent from NBC news and co-anchor of Weekend Today. 

The first topic of discussion was the pandemic response, more specifically how each candidate would lead during the next stage of the virus. President Trump promised a vaccine very soon, and stated that we are “rounding the corner,” despite surges in cases across the country.

He claimed that the American people understand the virus and are learning to live with it, to which Biden responded, “Learning to live with it? People are learning to die with it.”

Biden repeatedly criticized the Trump administration for their inability to contain the virus over the course of the debate. The former Vice President said that under a Biden-Harris ticket, he would ensure rapid testing and national standards for reopening schools and business safely. 

National security, election interference, and foreign relations became a very heated segment of the debate. Both candidates accused each other of secret dealings with Russia and China so frequently, it was hard to take away any real policy discussion from this segment. 

However, Biden did state that if he were President, he would promote allyship and follow the “international rules.”

Next, Welker shifted focus to health care and the current dispute over the Affordable Care Act. President Trump showed pride in his commitment to dismantle the ACA and accused Biden of supporting socialized medicine. 

The President did not have a clear answer on how he would replace healthcare for the millions of Americans who would lose coverage if the ACA is repealed. Nonetheless, he promised a “beautiful” new healthcare plan if re-elected. 

Biden defended the ACA and said that if he were president, he would build on Obamacare and create a new system: “Bidencare.” He explained that he supports private insurance, but has a plan to enforce Obamacare with a public option. Biden said that this public option would reduce premiums and costs of pharmaceuticals. 

On the issue of immigration, we saw more emotional responses from the candidates. Welker asked the president to offer an explanation for the 500+ children in detention centers separated from their parents. 

Trump insisted that many of these children crossed the border with gangs, the cartel and coyotes — not with families. He added that the children are “so well taken care of” and seemed unconcerned about their well-being.

We saw a more angered response from Biden. He denounced the Trump administration’s actions at the border, and called it criminal. 

When Welker asked about the Obama administration’s failed immigration reform, Biden admitted that they did not get it right. He says that if elected, he wants to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA children, and do better than he and Obama did. 

On the issue of race, Biden and Trump attacked each other’s records. Trump heavily criticized Biden’s support for crime bills passed in the 80’s and 90’s, and insisted that Biden has done nothing in 47 years of public office. He also called himself “the least racist person in this room.” 

This was a bold statement, especially considering the moderator herself is a woman of color. Biden insisted that the crime bills he supported in the past were a mistake. He said he now supports eliminating mandatory minimums, and emphasized the value of drug rehabilitation over incarceration.

The final topic of the presidential debate was climate change. Trump boasted about America’s clean air and water, and defended his decision to back out of the Paris Climate Accord. He claimed that it would have destroyed our businesses, and said that the Biden-Harris climate plan is an economic disaster.

Biden declared that climate change is an existential threat to humanity, and said that his environmental plan is supported by many environmental and labor organizations.

With just under two weeks until election day, this debate was, essentially, the final chance for the candidates to win over undecided voters. Given that mail-in voting and early voting is already underway, many Americans have already made their decisions and are anxiously awaiting results. Although, it is unclear if we will know the results of the election on Nov. 4.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to make a plan to vote. For many of us, this is the first presidential election we can participate in. Now is our opportunity to make our voices heard, and play a role in arguably the most important election of our lifetime.

Photo: The Washington Post

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