/Candidates flop initial debate, Biden pulls ahead
Graphic by Bell Jackson.

Candidates flop initial debate, Biden pulls ahead

The first presidential debate took place Tuesday, Sept 29. Millions of voters were finally able to see Donald Trump in his first debate since taking office and compare the two nominees’ policies and personalities.  

The debate was 90 minutes and allowed for 15-minute segments for each topic. Both nominees were allowed 2 minutes to respond to the initial question followed by open discussion. 

Moderated by Chris Wallace, Fox News anchor, the debate focused on topics chosen by Wallace. Topics included Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy race and violence in our cities and the integrity of the election. 

The first question of the debate was about the Supreme Court, and the surrounding controversy of rushing a nominee through the Senate with such little time left in Trump’s term. Trump said, “We won the (2016) election… Elections have consequences.” Biden responded with “The American people have a right to say,” in regard to the Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.  

Biden believes that America should wait until the results of the election to nominate in a new justice. The controversy comes because of the Republican led Senate denying numerous Supreme Court nominees from Obama, because his term was months from ending. The now Republican lead Senate is showing complete hypocrisy in their efforts to rush their nominee to the Court.  

The next segment was COVID-19, and the first question by Wallace wasn’t even finished before Trump interrupted. The question was in regard to Trump’s specific policy plan for healthcare if he were re-elected. All he had to say was that he would cut drug prices, and already has, which he has not. After some crossfire between the three men on television, Wallace asked Biden if a public option would end private healthcare. Biden simply responded, “No it will not…” Trump immediately interjected and once again started the bickering.  

Wallace continued the segment with Trump’s response to COVID-19 and the 200,000 deaths due to the virus. Biden claimed that the Trump Administration only began to seriously respond to the pandemic when it started to hit the stock market.  

Biden asked in reference to the American public, “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to COVID?…He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening — knew how dangerous it would be back in February — and he didn’t even tell you.” 

The entire segment on COVID-19 revolved around the claims from both nominees of their qualifications to lead the public and economy through the pandemic. Trump continued to claim that if Biden were president America would have been worse off, not what he would continue to do. His only accomplishment he boasted about was “I got football back.”  

American football is pointless when 200,000 Americans have needlessly died. While Biden tried to state what we should have done, and what we should be doing, Trump interrupted him continuously.  

At one-point Trump tried to play a gotcha moment at Biden by stating, “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”  

A president who only “wears a mask when [he] needs to,” is despicable. The head of the CDC himself said that if we were to just wear masks, we could save up to 100,000 people. Masks should be mandatory. Trump in general has put the American public at risk with large rallies. He claimed “we have had no problem whatsoever” in regard to the rallies.  

On the contrary, Herman Cain contracted and died from COVID-19 shortly after attending a Trump rally in Tulsa, Okla. Oklahoma has seen a recent surge in COVID cases following several large events, including the Trump rally, according to Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa Health Department. The rally continued even after the state’s former epidemiologist warned it could cause as many as nine deaths and 228 new COVID cases.  

The next segment, the economy, followed suit from the rest of the debate: continuous interruptions, false claims, gibberish and half-truths. The hot topic of the economy right now is the effects that COVID-19 has had on it. Biden couldn’t go 13 seconds without being interrupted by Trump in his position on reopening businesses.  

Trump would only say that America’s businesses should be completely open. Biden, despite Trump’s claim of wanting to shut down business, has stated that he would follow the science; if a shutdown was necessary, he would close businesses, but if not, he would continue to follow COVID guidelines. 

Following the economy, Wallace moved the debate to the topic of “race and violence in our cities.” Biden began with referencing Trump’s statement of calling those involved in the white supremacist march of Charlottesville “very fine people.” He then also referenced the secret service and various law enforcement agencies using tear gas on peaceful protestors to clear an area so that Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.  

Trump fired back with Biden’s support of the Crime Bill, and how he called African Americans, “super-predators.” Biden did not call anyone “super-predators,” it was Hillary Clinton. Trump continued to claim he had the support of every law enforcement group, even citing the sheriff of Portland.  

The sheriff, Mike Reese, came out publicly to say, “I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him.” 

The segment of race and violence seemed to continue forever, but possibly the most distinct takeaway from it was Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy. In reference to the Proud Boys, a nationally known white supremacist organization, Trump said, “stand back and stand by.”  

Following the shocking refusal to condemn white supremacy, was the “Trump and Biden records.” The biggest outcome from this segment was each nominee’s approach to climate change. Trump was hesitant to address the effects of climate change, stating in reference to the California wildfires that we only need better forest management.  

On the contrary, climate scientist Daniel Swain stated that climate change “…is acting as a pervasive force across the landscape and is increasing the severity of wildfire across a wide range of vegetation types.” 

The last segment of the debate was the concern over the integrity of the election. Two important takeaways being election fraud, and Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transition if he were to lose.  

Trump’s obsession of election fraud and mail-in ballots is based little to no evidence. He used anecdotes to support his argument and did not state any reliable statistics or proof. In general, voter fraud is limited to allegations and is hardly found. In the past, mail-in ballots haven’t led to voter fraud, but ballots being thrown out and not counted, according to multiple sources.  

Trump, instead of urging his supporters to wait until the election to wait for the results of the election to be verified, urged them to go to the polls and watch for fraud. He refused to wait for the election results before declaring victory, citing election fraud and a “fraudulent process.” 

Biden stated, “I will accept it.” He said he will support the election results and trusts the process. Referencing the process of mail-in votes, he stated, “No one has established at all that there is fraud related to mail-in ballots.”  Biden encouraged the American public to go out and vote, and that if he is president he will “…be president for both Democrats and Republicans.” 

In the first presidential debate, the American public witnessed an hour and a half full of interruptions and a disrespect for the democratic process of this country. The American public saw a clear difference between the way the two nominees held themselves, Trump being abrasive and intolerant while Biden at times seemed to drift from the discussion, maintained the appearance to be knowledgeable, assertive and well put together.  

The entire debate showcased how much Trump lacks in policy and makes up for with weak anecdotes, and repeated allegations. Biden demonstrated his ability to persevere through ridicule and overcome the interruptions thrown at him, while proving to the American public he is ready, and has a plan. The next presidential debate will be scheduled for October 22.  

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Xander Swain is the copy editor for The Alabamian. He is majoring in political science, environmental studies, and sociology and wants to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in sociology. He enjoys cooking for his friends, listening to music and taking long walks on the beach.