President Trump and former Vice President Biden clashed in the first 2020 presidential debate that stretched the very definition of the word “debate.”
For the uninterrupted 90-minutes, the subjects, picked by moderator Chris Wallace, were: the supreme court, COVID-19, healthcare, race & violence in U.S. cities, the economy, and climate change.
The interruptions begin
Both candidates started off decently calm and collected. Both made their statements on the Supreme Court nomination, and there were no interruptions. This didn’t last for very long though.
“Well, you’re certainly going to socialist [sic]. You’re going to socialist-,” Trump interjected eight minutes into the debate. Full statements were also barely made after this point.
Coronavirus policy ambiguity
The next topic of the presidential debate, the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, has been an important point in both the candidates’ campaigns. At the time of the debate, the US had 7.2 million confirmed Coronavirus cases and 205.901 deaths. The US currently leads in the number of global cases. The number of both infections and deaths are still growing.
Trump’s answer to the Coronavirus policy question was riddled with inaccuracies. He failed to state a plan for the coming year except for his promise to release a vaccine by the end of this 2020, a promise he had made before.
This claim has been rejected by Trump’s own CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield. In congressional testimony, Redfield said, when asked about a generally available vaccine, that it would be available in the second or third quarter of 2021.
When pointed to this fact, Trump said that he disagrees with Dr. Redfield. “Well, we’re going to deliver it right away. We have the military all set up.”
Trump continued, “We have our military that delivers soldiers and they can do 200,000 a day.”
Who can we trust?
This answer raises doubt around the trustworthiness of CDC officials. If we can’t trust the head of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on things as fundamental as vaccines, who can we trust? Considering the multiple fallacies in Trump’s speech he does not seem like a reliable source either.
During the COVID discussion, Trump repeatedly said that Mr. Biden would have “lost far more people” and that the former Vice President would have been “months late” in his response to the pandemic.
We can’t know for sure how the pandemic would have panned out if Biden was in office but we can make an informed guess. Looking at the COVID timeline put together by Britannica ProCon.org, Biden labeled the virus as a “global health challenge” all the way back in January.
This was while Mr. Trump said the virus was “like a flu” well into February. The first time the current POTUS acknowledged the virus as a national emergency was March 13.
Given this, it’s highly likely that if Biden was in charge during the Coronavirus pandemic, steps to prevent and contain it would have been taken earlier and some deaths could have been prevented.
A telling answer
The debate had multiple moments with viral potential but the one that stood out specifically is moderator Chris Wallace asking the President to publicly denounce white supremacists. “Say it. Do it. Say it,” Biden interjected, spurring on Trump.
Wallace’s question was in response to Trump’s criticism of Biden’s reluctance to call out Antifa and other left-wing extremist groups. Trump in his turn had yet to comment on the right-wing violence that happened in Kenosha and Portland.
Instead of condemning right-wing violence and white supremacist groups, Trump’s message sounded more like a tacit endorsement. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he said.
A horrid presidential “debate”
From the onset of the debate, the expectations for both candidates were rather low. Trump is not known to be a strong debater with a tendency for impulsive, exaggerated statements, and personal attacks.
Biden was presented as near-senile in a monthlong Trump team effort and has, in the past, struggled to articulate his thoughts and has tripped up with numbers. Well-worded statements and self-control would be the basic tools needed to meet and exceed this baseline.
The Trump campaign put months into painting Biden as old and incompetent with spliced-together videos and the moniker “sleepy Joe”. This approach backfired last night. When Mr. Biden made concise clear points and didn’t allow himself to be baited into endless back-and-forth’s with the current president, he showed maturity, not old age.
Trump’s insults and rants highlighted Biden’s focus on reaching the American voters. Instead of stooping down to the President’s level, Biden smiled, nodded his head, waved his hand, said “will he just shush for a moment?” and stayed mostly on message.
Moderator Chris Wallace from Fox News announced beforehand that he would not be fact-checking either candidate. This would be an acceptable stance if the two candidates were known for factual rhetoric. However, since this is and has never been the case, the “debate” was instead a platform for Trump’s unsupported misinformation.
In a TV appearance prior to the debate, Wallace said: “If I’ve done my job right, at the end of the night people will say, ‘That was a great debate. Who was the moderator?’”
Had both candidates been respectful towards each other and of the debate’s rules, this could very well have been achieved. Since they were not, the crosstalk and interruptions made Wallace’s “Mister President, Mister President, Mr. President, Mr. President” the tune of the night.
Overall, the presidential “debate” lacked substance and dignity. It was continuous interruptions, insults from both sides, exaggerations, and an excessive amount of facial expressions from the POTUS.
The question is: who won? Definitely not the American people hoping to be further informed. Trump did nothing to convince voters that weren’t already squarely in his corner and while Biden made some points, he wasn’t able to fully explain his policies or finish his talking points.
All in all, this whole debate was, in the words of CNN’s Dana Bash “a shitshow.”
Please go out and VOTE.