President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off for the first time on Tuesday in a highly anticipated debate at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio
They sparred over everything from the Supreme Court nomination, coronavirus as well as Biden’s sons, with the moderator Chris Wallace, admonishing Trump several times for interrupting.
The first of three showdowns between Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, devolved into attacks on Hunter Biden, smarts and schoolyard name-calling. As Trump went on offense, Biden tried to shut him down by calling the president a “clown” and a “liar.” Wallace had to scold Trump repeatedly for not following the debate rules by interrupting and Wallace often had to play the role of a wrestling referee rather than a moderator. “Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why shouldn’t I be different than the two of you?” Wallace said
Trump came out swinging, but Biden held his own and didn’t fall into previous debate pitfalls where he cut his time short or struggled to get out responses. The two men often talked over each other in a brawl that got unsightly at times. The president touted his record in the White House on boosting the economy and how he handled the pandemic, proclaiming: “There has never been an administration or president who has done more than I’ve done in a period of three and a half years, and that’s despite the impeachment hoax.”
However, Biden disagreed. He said under Trump the country has become weaker, sicker, poorer and more violent. “You’re the worst president America has ever had,” Biden said at one point. He went on to define himself as the steady leader of the Democratic Party and distanced himself from Bernie Sanders’ health care plan and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. “You just lost the left,” Trump told Biden after he disassociated himself from the above mentioned.
Trump also accused Biden of failing to admonish violent rioters and stand up for law enforcement in Democratic-led cities that have been unraveling with racial unrest. “The people of this country want and demand law and order and you’re afraid to even say it,” Trump said.
Wallace asked Biden why he doesn’t call the mayor of Portland, Ore., to bring in the National Guard to stop the violence. “I don’t hold public office now,” Biden said, adding that “the violence should be prosecuted.”
Wallace turned to Trump and asked him: “Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?” Trump responded that he’d be willing to do it, but then 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.” “Antifa is an idea, not an organization,” Biden responded, referencing FBI Director Christopher Wray’s claim that Antifa was more of a movement or ideology. Proud Boys, the conservative group, celebrated Trump’s comments and started pitching merchandise with Trump’s “stand by” words.
The debate in Cleveland kicked off with Trump standing by his Supreme Court pick of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and his push to get her confirmed by the Senate before the Nov. 3 election. “We won the election. Elections have consequences,” Trump said, justifying why he appointed a nominee in an election year. Biden, who declined to say whether he supports packing the court or ending the Senate filibuster, said the American people should decide who succeeds the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. “We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is because that’s the only way the American people get to express their view,” Biden said.
Trump again went after Biden, this time for his son Hunter’s dealings at Burmisa in Ukraine, which served as the origin for Trump’s impeachment. Biden defended his son as doing nothing wrong and said he’s proud of his son for overcoming drug addiction. Biden went on to talk passionately about his late son, Beau, and his service to the country before his death from cancer in 2015. Biden went ahead to mention the disparaging comments Trump reportedly made about veterans, as reported by The Atlantic. “My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He was not a loser. He was a patriot. And the people left behind there were heroes,” Biden said.
The next Biden-Trump debate is slated for Oct. 15 and the final one is Oct. 22. Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will face off next in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7.