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First presidential debate resembles a street brawl

By Ricky Browne

Anyone expecting a calm and sedate Presidential debate last night (read boring) with each candidate acting with decorum and treating the other with respect was in for a big surprise yesterday — and probably wasn’t paying much attention to the debates four years ago.

Instead the viewers got something more like the kind of backstreet brawl that the majority had been expecting. The event took place in Cleveland in the battleground state of Ohio, with only a few people in the audience, thanks to coronavirus measures. The debate was divided into six segments of 15 minutes each:

  • The Trump and Biden Records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and Violence in our Cities
  • The Integrity of the Election
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump was on the attack most of the time, interupting former Vice President Joe Biden every time he said something that Trump found objectionable — which was a lot of the time.

As a result Biden was kept off balance, stumbling a bit with his answers that did tend to meander a bit, usually starting with the phrase “Look, the deal is…”

Joe Biden

Even so, he did manage to land a few unseemly punches himself.

“Will you shut up man?” said Biden at one point, and then resorted to name calling with “You’re a clown”.

“I’ve done more in 47 months than you’ve done in 47 years Joe,” said Trump. “There’s nothing smart about you.”

Chris Wallace

Moderator Chris Wallace from Fox News had a hard time keeping the debate together and on more than one occasion asked President Trump to stop interrupting. On one occasion he practically pleaded with the President reminding him that the teams from both sides had agreed that each candidate would have two uninterrupted minutes of speaking for the start of each segment.

That seemed to have the desired effect for a bit, but not for long.

Meanwhile, many commentators noted that Wallace rarely if ever tried to to reign in Biden’s excesses, or to keep him on point.

At one point an exasperated Wallace said “Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why shouldn’t I be different from the two of you?”

But the stage for a disorderly debate was set from the beginning and basically continued to the end.


Early on, Biden was the first to avoid answering a question — in fact just flat out refusing to — when he was asked who he would have appointed to the Supreme Court to replace the deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg and whether or not he would stack the court with more judges if he became President.

Later Trump found it difficult to speak out against racist groups that might support him, eventually saying, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.”

Biden accused Trump of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, with some 200,000 dead Americans. Trump countered by saying that there would be two million people dead had Biden been President, as he had spoken against Trump’s decision to close the border to China and called it a racist one. And then he added that under Biden in the Obama administration some 300,000 veterans had died unnecessarily waiting for the promised free health care from Veterans Affairs.

President Trump

Later in the real world of social media both Trump and Biden tweeted what they thought was most important about the debate.

“Joe Biden could not name a single Law Enforcement group that supports his candidacy!” tweeted Trump, who during the debate had been stating that Biden was being pulled to the radical left and did not support law and order.

“You heard a lot come out of President Trump’s mouth. Can you name one thing he said to actually make your life better?” tweeted Biden.

One follower tweeted back at least one thing. “He did promise to take on the pharmaceutical industry. He won’t do it, but at least he brought it up” tweeted someone with the handle ”the US is a failed state’.

Another said “”Never Trump! Thank you Joe Biden for your calm tonight. You are exactly what this country needs right now. If you could spend 90 plus minutes with that unhinged maniac and not totally lose your cool, you can most certainly lead this country, You’ve got my vote,” said ‘Wear a Damn Mask Karen’.

Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013.

But given that the majority of the United States and the world know what a second Trump term will be like — assuming it is like the first — this was an opportunity for Joe Biden to make a case for what his policies would be like.

Not a lot of that came out. But some did. As Trump tried to paint Biden as being pulled to the ‘radical’ left, Biden said early on that he is now the Democratic Party, and policy comes from him, not from those to the left of him.

And on the subject of climate change — again under attack from Trump — Biden stated that he did not support the Green New Deal, which is quite radical in how it would stop the use and production of fossil fuel in an effort to protect the environment.

Trump appeared surprised at that statement. “Oh, you don’t? … Well, that’s a big statement,” he said.

In both of Biden’s statements, he attempted to show himself as a moderate at the political centre who could not be pulled to the left. How that will fly with more radical members of his party remains to be seen, but the bet must be that they will vote for him anyway, and that now Biden can try to get as many votes from the centre as possible.

First Lady Melania Trump

At the end of the debate, a mask-free Melania Trump was the first on stage to congratulate her husband, receiving an affectionate pat on the back. Biden’s wife was next, wearing a mask and receiving a warm embrace and kiss from her husband.

Jill Biden
Photo: Ralph Alswang

Meanwhile, according to a poll published by CNN, among debate watchers, 60 percent thought that Joe Biden had won, with 28 per cent thinking Trump had won.

The next debate will be on October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, between Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden’s running mate Kamla Harris.

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