Last night, President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden, faced off in Cleveland Ohio for an uninterrupted 90-minute debate that was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. The debate was broadcast from the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic. A transcript for the debate can be found here.
At times, Wallace struggled to maintain control over the two fiery debaters. Trump interrupted frequently, particularly in the first half, and there was a good deal of cross-talk between the two candidates that made it tough at times to hear everything they were saying. Wallace posed questions that focused on 6 major topics:
- Timing of the Supreme Court Justice appointment
- The Covid-19 Pandemic and handling of it
- Healthcare plan for the country
- The Economy
- Climate Change
- Election Integrity
HIGHLIGHTS: Within each of those topic headings, other issues were raised. Wallace broached race relations as a sub-heading of his topic on the economy. At one point in the discussion, he asked VP Biden about Charlottesville,“Vice-President Biden, you say that President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville three years ago, when he talked about very fine people on both sides, was what directly led you to launch this run for president.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Wallace did not mention the fact that the comment by Trump was taken out of context and has been since been debunked. During the debate, when asked whether he would be willing to condemn White Supremacists, he said, “Sure I am willing to do that.”
On the topic of race, both candidates contributed meaningfully to the discussion. President Trump spoke about his track record with the Black community, mentioning his groundbreaking criminal justice reform known as the First Step Act.
Trump also mentioned his wish to help inner cities with his push for law and order, referring to cities like Chicago “where 53 people were shot and eight died.” Referring to New York’s crime rate he added, “The numbers are going up a 100%, 150%, 200%, it is crazy what’s going on and he doesn’t want to say law and order because he can’t because he’ll lose his radical left supporters and once he does that, it’s over with.” The President also spoke about the risks of defunding the police.
It could be argued that where former VP Biden was more avoidant of actual policy statements during his discussion of race, he was very strong in the area of emotional connection with his constituents. This “tug on the heartstrings” approach to debate can be an effective way to be memorable in a debate. His style of communication last night was a strength when it comes to Biden’s base.
“The fact is that there is racial insensitivity. People have to be made aware of what other people feel like, what insults them, what is demeaning to them. It’s important people know. Many people don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings, but it makes a big difference. It makes a gigantic difference in the way a child is able to grow up and have a sense of self-esteem. It’s a little bit like how this guy and his friends look down on so many people. They look down their nose on people like Irish Catholics, like me, who grow up in Scranton. They look down on people who don’t have money. They look down on people who are of a different faith. They looked down on people who are a different color. In fact, we’re all Americans. The only way we’re going to bring this country together is bring everybody together. There’s nothing we cannot do, if we do it together. We can take this on and we can defeat racism in American.”
President Trump was often forceful and combative. He frequently sought to set the record straight and, at times, he appeared to be debating with Chris Wallace. Sometimes it was because Wallace himself seemed to be initiating the debate. Trump himself highlighted it at one point, saying, “first of all, I guess I’m debating you, not him, but that’s okay. I’m not surprised.” He also attacked Biden on several occasions. He took on Biden’s son Hunter by talking about his drug abuse and his lucrative dealings with Ukraine. And at one point he remarked that “in 47 years, [Biden] had done nothing.”
Biden, however, was no angel. He called Trump a clown, a racist, unpresidential, worst president ever, and told him to “shush” and shut up. He also called Trump “Putin’s puppy” for not confronting Russia for allegedly putting bounties on US soldiers.
One of Trump’s goals in the debate was to connect Joe with the more radical wing of the Democrat party. In his discussion of climate change, Trump referred to the Biden platform as a “Manifesto”. When referring to the platform, he discussed content resembling the Green New Deal, clearly referring to the leftist leanings of the platform.
Chris Wallace called out Biden on the cost of his climate change proposal remarking, “you propose $2 trillion in green jobs. You talk about new limits, not abolishing, but new limits on fracking. Ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035 and zero none admission of greenhouse gases by 2050. The president says a lot of these things would tank the economy and cost millions of jobs.”
Throughout the debate, Biden seemed to be conflicted about whether to tether himself to or distance himself from the radical wing of his party. Biden even exclaimed at one point, ” I am the Democratic party now,” while referencing his earlier primary debate question about Obamacare.
The night ended with a final question about the willingness to accept the results of the upcoming election on the parts of each candidate. President Trump urged voters to watch closely for fraud, vote in person, use “solicited ballots”, adding that “if it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent onboard.”
Biden seemed to deny that mail-in ballots are a big deal, “No one has established at all that there is fraud related to mail-in ballots, that somehow it’s a fraudulent process.” He ended by saying, “once the winner is declared after all the ballots are counted, all the votes are counted, that’ll be the end of it. That’ll be the end of it. And if it’s me, in fact, fine. If it’s not me, I’ll support the outcome.”
There is no doubt, November 3rd, 2020 will be an election to remember, regardless of who you vote for.