The first Presidential Debate took place Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University and quickly escalated to the point where moderator Chis Wallace lost control.
President Donald Trump attempted to bully and needle former Vice President Joe Biden, who, at times, took the bait, calling Trump a “clown” and telling the president to “shut up.” The coronavirus pandemic, economy, healthcare, and race were among the debated topics.
Here are a few of the takeaways from the debate:
Trump Refused To Condemn White Supremacists
In the most pivotal moment of the debate, Wallace asked Trump to condemn White supremacists and militia groups and to tell them to stand down in cities with protests.
Trump stuttered his way through an answer saying, “Everything I see is from the left, not from the right.” When Wallace again asked the question, Trump cut him off, saying, “I want to see peace.”
When Wallace asked the question a third time, Trump said, “Give me a name, any name,” before telling the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist, all-male organization, to “stand back and stand by.”
The group quickly pledged its allegiance to Trump on social media, updating its logo to include Trump’s comment. For many, the moment was a true indication that, for Trump, Black lives do not matter.
Biden Speaks To America
There were moments where Biden got into a back and forth with President Trump, calling him a clown, a racist, and telling him to shut up.
Unlike Trump, however, Biden took a few moments to look directly into the camera and talk to the American people about the coronavirus response, systemic racism, and climate change.
“I was able to bring down the cost of renewable energy to cheaper than or as cheap as gas and oil,” Biden said. “No one is going to build a coal-fired plant in America, no one is going to build an oil-fired plant in America.
“We’re going to take the federal fleet and make it run on electric vehicles, we’re also going to put 500,000 charging stations on the highways we’re going to be building in the future.”
Coronavirus Stays In The Background
The Coronavirus pandemic was a topic during the debate, but it was pushed into the background as Trump’s continued interruptions kept the situation from being discussed for more than a few minutes–which may have been Trump’s plan.
Trump praised his efforts, saying that if it was up to Biden the border to the U.S. would’ve stayed open and the virus would be worse. Trump also made it a point to blame the coronavirus on China again, calling it the “Chinese plague.”
Biden made it a point to talk about how Trump lied to Americans about the virus and how more than 200,000 people have died.
“How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone you know died of COVID?” Biden asked. “How many of you lost your mom or dad and couldn’t speak to them; you had a nurse holding a phone up so you could in fact say goodbye?”
This brought up another moment where Biden talked to the cameras saying, ” I don’t trust him with a vaccine and I know you don’t. What we trust is a scientist.”
When the topic of the election came up, Trump was quick to unleash a barrage of false and misleading claims related to mail-in voting.
“You’re going to see fraud like you’ve never seen before,” Trump said.
Trump also encouraged his supporters to go to polling stations and provide surveillance. A similar situation happened in Virginia last weekend when a Trump caravan pulled up to a polling station in Virginia and tried to intimate voters.
“I’m encouraging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump responded when asked what he would tell his followers in a post-November 3 world.
Biden was calm about the situation, encouraging everyone to vote in-person or by mail-in vote. The former vice president added that if Americans vote in large numbers on November 3, a contested election may be prevented.
The Debate Wasn’t Pretty
The U.S. news media largely blasted the participants and Wallace for the debate getting out of hand, noting a significant number of moments for both candidates that were unbecoming of politicians.
Jonathan Martin of the New York Times wrote on Twitter: “The president’s bulldozer-style tactics represented an extraordinary risk for an incumbent who’s trailing Mr. Biden in large part because voters, including some who supported him in 2016, are so fatigued by his near-daily attacks and outbursts.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is one of Trump’s debate advisors, told ABC “that was too hot. With all that heat, you lose the light. That potentially can be fixed. Maybe, maybe not.”
News media outside the U.S. were also critical of the debate. Ulrich Speck, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, offered his analysis to the Times.
“Of course, the ultimate arbiter will be the American voter,” Ulrich said. “But there is a consensus in Europe that this is getting out of hand, and this debate is an indicator of the bad shape of the American democracy.”
Others were more critical.
“The debate was a joke, a low point, a shame for the country,” Markus Feldenkirchen of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel posted on Twitter. “Roaring, insults, two over-70s who interrupt each other like 5-year-olds — and a moderator who loses all control. The trigger, of course: Trump’s uncouth, undignified behavior.” (The post has been translated from German to English.)