CNN’s Dana Bash said it best, “I’m just going to say it like it is…that was a sh*tshow”. The first presidential debate of the 2020 election season was marred by insults, personal attacks, and inaccuracies. Characterized by most political pundits as “the worst presidential debate in history,” Donald Trump frequently ignored the debate’s rules, bullied the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Joe Biden with repeated interruptions. Trump boasted about how much he had helped the black community with repeated lies. He called racial sensitivity training “racist,” called history education that includes the stories of people of color in this country, unpatriotic and in one of the most insane and unbelievable moments of the debate, refused to denounce white supremacy. He even addressed a known racist group, The Proud Boys, saying, “Stand back and Stand By.”
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem” –Donald Trump.
In a tweet, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League called the President’s answer “astonishing.” In contrast, a post on the Proud Boys’ account on Telegram, The Proud Boys responded to the President with the following statement, “Standing down and standing by sir.”
In contrast, Joe Biden’s performance could be considered average at best, with many feeling that Biden did his best considering the circumstances in light of his opponent’s petulant nature. Frequently interrupted by Trump, at times, Biden almost lost his composure at one point, telling Trump, “Will you shut up, man?” and calling him a clown. In one of the lowest moments of the debate, Trump interrupted Biden again as he spoke of his son, Beau, who served in the Army and later died of brain cancer.
“My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He spent a year there. He got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot, and the people left behind there were heroes.”-Joe Biden.
As Biden spoke of his son and others who serve in the military, Trump began a personal attack aimed at Biden’s other son, Hunter, who has struggled with substance abuse. “Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use,” Trump said while Biden continuously repeated not true. While Hunter Biden was discharged from the military for failing a drug test, he was not dishonorably discharged. Biden passionately called out, “My Son! My Son! My Son! Until finally turning to the camera and addressing the American people directly.
“…Like a lot of people-my son had a drug problem. He has overtaken it, he has fixed it, he’s worked on it, and I am proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”-Joe Biden.
When not interrupting or attacking his opponent, Trump rarely offered clear stances on any of his positions or policies, often stating things that were immediately proven false by fact-checkers.
On his handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Trump praised himself and his administration on handling the Pandemic stating the death toll would have been in the millions of he had not taken early action when more than 7 million people in the US have been infected, and over 200,000, thousand have died. He promised a vaccine as early as next month when the CDC director testified that a vaccine might not be available until the middle of 2021.
On the upcoming presidential election
Trump repeated false claims about the integrity of the election stating mail-in voting will cause widespread fraud. “Don’t tell me about a free transition. This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen. This is not going to end well.” He also refused to say if he would accept the election results. “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully he said. He attempted to prove his claim by stating that mail carriers in West Virginia sell ballots, which was proven false. According to the Department of Justice, a mail carrier in the state altered absentee ballots for eight voters.
On the Economy
Trump boasted that he had built the “greatest economy in history” that was only disrupted because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and accused Biden of wanting to shut the country down again.
On his taxes
Despite the New York Times report that revealed Trump paying $750 in federal taxes for 2016 and 2017, Trump said he paid “millions” in taxes but used current tax laws and benefits to reduce taxes. He blamed Obama for the current tax laws that allowed him those benefits.
On Race in America
Trump attacked Biden on his involvement in the 1994 Crime Bill and stated Biden had treated the Black community as bad as anyone in this country. He never addressed the recent police brutality cases. Instead, He chose to switch to the subject of law and order, falsely stating Biden was in favor of defunding the police and accusing him of having no support by law enforcement. In this portion of the debate, Trump refused to denounce white supremacy and attacked racial sensitivity training and diversity in education.
During the topic of the protests and unrest happening in areas across the county, Trump again mentioned Chicago saying, if you look at Chicago — what is going on in Chicago, where 53 people were shot, and eight died. … It is crazy what is going on, and Biden does not want to say ‘law and order’ because he cannot because he will lose his radical left supporters. Mayor Lori Lightfoot quickly responded on twitter, “Keep Chicago out of your lying mouth.”
Biden attempted to offer his stance on the issues but was often forced to talk over Trump, who repeatedly interrupted him or mumbled under his breath. At times causing the moderator, Chris Wallace, to interject and remind Trump to follow the rules he agreed to.
On the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Biden was relentless in his attack on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, repeatedly stating the number of people infected and killed during the Pandemic. He also stressed that fixing the economy meant fixing the Coronavirus crisis. Portraying the President as an epic failure, he attacked Trump on his handling of the Pandemic, stating he panicked and had no plan, using the President’s own words.
You should get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap and … the golf course and go in the Oval Office and (put) together Democrats and Republicans, and fund what needs to be done now to save lives.”
The President has no plan. He has not laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this … was,” “You don’t panic. He panicked… “This is the same man who told you by Easter this would be gone away. By the warm weather, it’d be gone — like a miracle. And by the way, maybe you could inject some bleach into your arm,” By the way, maybe you can inject some bleach in your arm,” –Joe Biden.
On the upcoming presidential election
Biden was clear in his position regarding this year’s election results stating he would accept them whether he wins or loses. He encouraged Americans to vote in large numbers to prevent a contested election saying, “You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote. If you are able to vote early in your state, vote early. If you are able to vote in person, vote in person – whatever way is the best way for you. Because he cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election.”
On Race in America
Biden strongly called out the President and accused him of being a racist who has emboldened white supremacists and created division with his rhetoric. When accused by Trump of not supporting law enforcement and law and order, Biden responded that he supports “law and order with justice where people are treated fairly.”
“There is systemic injustice in this country, in education, in work, and in law enforcement,” Biden said. “But look, the vast majority of police officers are good, decent, honorable men and women; they risk their lives every day to take care of us. But there are some bad apples … and they have to be held accountable.”-Joe Biden.
You’re the worst President America has ever had”, an exasperated Joe Biden exclaimed. The first presidential debate was chaotic, unhinged, and combative but offered viewers a clear glimpse into two very different mentalities and personalities. In one of the most powerful statements of the night, Biden summed up Trump’s presidential failures.
“It is what it is because you are who you are.”
The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 15, and the first Vice Presidential debate is scheduled for October 7.
Contributing Writer, Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.