Little policy, lots of conflict

Teresa Jones '24

On Tuesday, September 29, President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden went head to head in the first presidential debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The debate focused on six major topics including the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court, the economy, and the integrity of the election. However, this was far from any average presidential debate, though some would argue there is no such thing, as each presidential debate is unique and has its own set of circumstances. These ninety minutes will go down as one of the most chaotic and frustrating debates in the history of American politics, with hardly a minute without interruption or insult. 

The first question asked about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett, a conservative, is slated to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal. Biden argued that “the American people have a right to say,” asserting that Washington should wait to replace late Justice Ginsburg. Meanwhile, Trump fought back that “Elections have consequences,”  referring to the 2016 election that guaranteed him power for the full four-year term. The conversation quickly became bicker some, with candidates talking over each other and ignoring the agreed upon time limits. Chris Wallace, the moderator, quickly moved on to health care and the pandemic. 

Before Wallace could ask his full question about the president’s healthcare plan, Trump was disputing the question and telling him that he did indeed have a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. Biden then began criticizing Trump’s early response to the pandemic, speaking to the camera and asking the American people if “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?” The former vice president then went on to say, “A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter or a lot quicker.” Biden is referring to the recently reported New York Times story that revealed that Trump knew how dangerous the virus was in February, and yet did nothing. Biden is attacking Trump’s transparency, or lack thereof, with the coronavirus and the ongoing pandemic. 

The next segment was on the economy, as the candidates traded jabs over the worst recession since the Great Depression. Each candidate had a chance to say why they would be best equipped to navigate the US economy. The president cited tax cuts, while Biden talked about job creation during the Obama era. The two men moved from the American economy to trash-talking the other’s adult children. Wallace asked Trump about the economy and the president avoiding the question and brought up Hunter Biden. What a segue! Trump went after Biden’s son Hunter, saying that the wife of the mayor of Moscow gave Hunter $3.5 million. According to multiple sources, there is no evidence that Hunter was involved in said deal. After rounds of sparring in regards to the candidates’ families, Biden offered, “This is not about my family. It’s not about your family. It’s about the American people.” The subject was quickly changed. 

When asked to condemn white supremacy groups, Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” Something to note, both Facaebook and Twitter have removed pages associated with the Proud Boys in regards to hate and promoting violent activity.  

The debate wrapped up with questions about mail in voting and the election.  Trump warned people of “fraud like you’ve never seen,” in regards to mail in voting. While there have been a couple of incidents of mishaps with mail in ballots, the vast amount of early and mail in voting hasn’t been a problem. 

While early polling suggests that Trump lost the debate, it suffices to say that neither side was happy with the debate. Both Trump and Biden have declined a virtual second debate, so instead of three presidential debates, there will only be two this year.