By Nora Hogan
I have to give The Donald some credit. At least he’s consistent. And by consistent, I mean a complete and utter asshole. I mean, seriously. Last Tuesday’s presidential debate between the incumbent, President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Joe Biden was nothing less than a mess. Within the first five minutes, Trump went completely off the rails, ignoring the rules of the debate and engaging Biden in personal attacks and divisive side talk. Moderator Chris Wallace was unable to reign in both of the candidates and even began fighting with Trump himself at one point.
The first question of the night pertained to the possibility of the Supreme Court overruling the Affordable Care Act. Biden argued that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice would result in 100 million people with pre-existing conditions losing their coverage. Trump shot back, stating that Biden’s argument simply wasn’t true. He continued, arguing that Biden’s current health care plan would terminate the care of 180 million people with private health care insurance.
Later, the debate turned into an intelligence measuring contest. Biden stated that many more Americans would die from Covid-19 unless Trump gets “a lot smarter, a lot quicker.” Trump evidently took this statement to heart and retorted back, stating “He said he went to Delaware State, but you forgot the name of your college. You didn’t go to Delaware State.” He continued, “He graduated the lowest or almost lowest in your class. Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me.” According to the Delaware News Journal, Biden’s comments about “his start” at Delaware State were about him announcing his first run for U.S. Senate on the campus.
Trump claimed that he paid “millions of dollars” in income tax, refuting the NYT report that the president had paid just $750 in 2016 and 2017 and no income tax in 11 of the 18 years the paper had investigated. Biden asked why the president hadn’t released his taxes yet, to which Trump responded by saying that he would once they are no longer under audit. Trump’s own IRS commissioner had denied this very claim. During this segment of the debate, Biden called Trump “the worst president America has ever had.” He continued to attack Trump for taking advantage of the U.S. tax code. Biden then vowed to end Trump’s tax law. Trump quickly turned the conversation around and attacked Biden for not doing more in his years of holding public office. He stated: “I’ve done more in 47 months than you’ve done in 47 years.”
During the debate, Trump bashed mail-in voting and reinforced his previous unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. He stated, “There is fraud; they found them in creeks, they found them with the name ‘Trump’ in a wastepaper basket. This will be a fraud like you have never seen.” Biden argued back, urging Americans to vote by any means possible. Trump questioned the legitimacy of the election results, even after Biden quoted the president’s Homeland Security and FBI directors’ analyses that there is “no evidence” that mail-in ballots contribute to voter fraud. When asked if he would urge his supporters to not engage in civil unrest if election results were delayed, Trump refused to comment and instead continued ranting about voter fraud.
One of the most notable moments from the debate was when Trump refused to condemn white supremacists on live television. He avoided both Biden’s and Wallace’s requests for him to condemn white nationalism. When he finally responded to the question, he stated: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.” The “Proud Boys” that he referenced is a far-right neo-fascist male-only group that promotes political violence. Trump then pivoted to blaming recent unrest on “far-left” extremists instead. He spotlighted Antifa, calling it a “dangerous, radical group.” Biden correctly pointed out that Antifa is a political ideology calling for the end of fascism, not an organization like white supremacy groups.
Another gut-wrenching moment occurred when Trump interrupted Biden speaking about his late son Beau’s military career. Biden was reprimanding President Trump’s comments about members of the military who were killed in action. Trump had referred to these heroes as “losers.” Biden stated, “My son [Beau] was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He got the Bronze Star . . . . He was not a loser. He was a patriot, and the people left behind there were heroes. And I resent . . .” Trump interjected, “Are you talking about Hunter?” Biden was in fact speaking about his older son who died in 2015 from a brain tumor. Trump continued to steamroll over Biden’s time, talking about Hunter Biden’s discharge from the military over a drug problem. Biden collected himself and insisted that his son had received the help he needed in rehab.
This first presidential debate really had no winner. However, Trump’s apathetic and cruel performance certainly did not gain him any supporters who had qualms about his morals.