• By Tyler Luban

First 2020 presidential debate: A recap

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the long-awaited first presidential debate took place between current U.S. president and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump and former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace moderated the debate, and his night was a busy one to say the least. In a 90-minute clash the two addressed many concerns facing the American public today, including the COVID-19 pandemic, race issues, law and order, and healthcare. Tensions rose throughout the debate, and with both candidates interrupting each other every chance they got, many Americans are beginning to question if a change needs to be made to the debate structure in order to provide equal speaking times for both sides.

In what was supposed to be a six-topic back-and-forth discussion with two minutes of uninterrupted talking from each candidate, followed by open debate immediately after, the jabs at each other’s character began early, leaving Wallace struggling to keep the peace.

The first topic was focused on President Trump’s recent Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Trump came out of the gate stating that since he won the 2016 election, it’s his responsibility to nominate a judge. Biden announced his stance on Barrett’s record, mentioning that since the election process is underway, such declarations should be halted until the American people choose their elected leader. Biden continued, “We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is.” Tensions rose when Trump began to question the Democratic intentions when it comes to having power in the courts and the impact of this election in correlation to the judge vacancy.

In what would be a recurring theme throughout the night, the two began going off topic with Trump quickly attacking Biden for wanting to “abolish private healthcare,” a statement that was denied as fast as it was asked. In response to Trump’s attack on healthcare, the former vice president turned the conversation around, mentioning how Trump’s administration was destroying the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Biden was a part of during the Obama presidency. In an even sharper turn, President

Trump took it a step further by claiming that if Biden was in control during the coronavirus crisis the deaths would be a lot higher. “It would be 200 million people because you would have been late on the draw,” Trump said.

As Wallace tried to steer the conversation back to the topic, President Trump began questioning the moderator himself saying, “I guess I’m debating you, not him. But that’s okay, I’m not surprised.” The two candidates then got into an off-topic clash with Trump continuously interrupting Biden, which led to the former vice president snapping at Trump by exclaiming, “Shut up, man!”

Wallace was able to take back the conversation and changed the subject to the topic of COVID-19. Trump began describing the praise both he and his administration received for their work on the virus since the outbreak started. Biden followed with an attack on Trump’s initial lack of response to the pandemic, along with Trump’s disregard for safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“He’s not worried about the people,” said the former vice president.

Earlier this week, the New York Times released an article about Trump’s income taxes and the amount he paid in 2016 and 2017. It was reported that the president paid only $750 in income tax, well below the national average. Wallace asked the president if he had paid more than the $750 reported between those years, to which Trump responded that he had paid millions in taxes. Biden saw this as an opportunity to throw a jab about how the president had not released his tax returns since taking office.

After questioning from both sides about the other’s family character, the tone finally shifted towards racial issues in the country. The president rationalized his directive to limit racial-sensitivity training by speculating that it taught people to dislike America, and he took it one step further to claim that the training itself was racist. Biden criticized Trump for his responses to police brutality and racial injustice. Trump then returned to Biden’s career as a politician, mentioning how his administration created a crime bill that eliminated lengthy prison sentences caused by Biden’s days in the U.S. Senate.

President Trump continued to bash the current state of Democratic-run governments and their treatment of law enforcement, even saying to Biden, “Name one law enforcement group that has come out and supported you. One. Think. We have time.” The former vice president talked about police reform and denounced full defunding of the police.

Climate change was the next issue that the moderator brought to the floor. The president has made numerous claims against the Democrats’ propositions on global conservation efforts and upped the ante by saying that the current plans from the left are outrageously expensive and unnecessary. Biden replied with a claim that his own plan would pay for itself in no time and eliminate all carbon emissions by the year 2035, a plan which Trump immediately proclaimed as not true.

The final topic was the integrity of the election. The current president described his fears of mail-in ballots and tampering of those ballots. Biden threw some shots at the president stating that Trump is “afraid to count the votes,” but Trump kept encouraging his voters to watch their ballots.

In what many Americans are calling the most chaotic debate of all time, both sides seemed to land blows to their opponent while also losing their cool.

“I thought it was the most unprofessional debate in presidential history,” said Minot State University student Matthew Sartwell. “I’ve had friends across the world, from the U.S. all the way to Australia, tell me how miserable it was to watch. It honestly felt like reality TV, and that’s not how American politics should be.”

Most polls after the first debate have Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead of President Trump heading into the second debate, which was scheduled for Oct. 15. However, after Trump contracted COVID-19 on Sept. 30, the Presidential Debate Commission announced that they would hold the second debate virtually. Trump stated in a tweet Oct. 6 that he would not attend a virtual debate.

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