President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden, took the stage tonight at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace moderated the debate, the first of three that have been scheduled.
The main issues they debated were the Supreme Court nomination, the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, racial justice, climate change, the candidates’ records and the integrity of the election.
Throughout a chaotic 90-minute debate, Wallace struggled to control Trump’s constant interrupting. Trump also personally attacked Biden, mentioning his son Hunter and Biden’s poor education.
At one point, Wallace addressed Trump’s outbursts, asking Trump “should I take back the role of moderator?”
Wallace opened the debate with the issue of approving a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump said he has the power to choose a Supreme Court justice before the election; however, Biden said it would be better to wait until after the election when the presidency will be decided.
Two important issues that likely will come before the Supreme Court are Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act.
Both candidates discussed health care. Trump opposed the Affordable Care Act, and said he could make a better healthcare plan, whereas Biden supported the act.
He went further to say Trump has no plans for healthcare.
“He sends out wishful thinking. He has a negative power and hasn’t lowered drug costs for anyone. This man doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Biden said.
Biden disapproved of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
“The president has no plan,” Biden said. “He knew in February that it was dangerous. He didn’t want to panic the American people.”
Trump responded by saying Biden couldn’t have done a better job. He added that many government officials (even those who don’t support him) and professionals agree that he saved thousands of lives.
Trump said he believes a COVID-19 vaccine would be available to the general public soon, but Biden said he heard from thousands of scientists that a vaccine wouldn’t be released until next summer.
The two candidates also disputed the state of the American economy and its recovery.
Trump said he has created the “greatest economy in history.” But, Biden said Trump would be leaving office having created fewer jobs than there were when he took office.
Trump said the shutdown caused by the pandemic was worsening the economy. He supported opening states and trusting people to follow social distancing guidelines. Talking about New York, Trump said, “It’s almost a ghost town. I’m not sure it’ll ever recover. The people want their state reopened.”
While Trump was more concerned about businesses during the pandemic, Biden was worried about public health.
Wallace questioned Trump about the New York Times report claiming that he had paid only $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017. Trump evaded the question and said he has paid millions of dollars in income tax.
Biden said Trump has done little for African-Americans and offered his view on the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There’s systemic injustice in this country, in education, in work and in law enforcement, but violence is never appropriate,” he said.
Trump accused Biden of calling African-Americans “superpredators,” a term Hilary Clinton most famously used. Additionally, he said Biden didn’t want law and order, saying Biden is too afraid to do anything that would displease the “radical left.”
He continued to say the crime rate was higher during Biden’s term as vice president than it is now under the Trump administration. He added that something needs to be done about Antifa, an anti-fascist left-wing political movement. While he blamed the violence plaguing the nation on liberals, he avoided blaming the right-wing White supremacists.
“There’s never been a president who has done more than I have done in 3 and a half years, even after the impeachment hoax,” Trump said to bolster his case to voters.
However, Biden said under Trump’s presidency, the nation has only become more divided.
Biden said he handled the 2008 recession well and handed Trump a “booming” economy, which Trump ruined.
But Trump maintained the economy was at its best under his administration until COVID-19, and says that the country’s doing “incredibly well” and is “setting records.”
Trump said he believes fossil fuel emissions are a factor in climate change, but his focus was on forest management.
“We need to clean up our forests,” Trump said.
Biden doubled down on global warming.
“We can create more jobs by making sure we have a green economy,” Biden said.
He said he would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord after becoming president and would focus on turning the government fleet into electric vehicles to help slow global warming.
“We spend so much money on natural disasters caused by global warming,” he said.
Additionally, Trump criticized the Green New Deal. Biden clarified that his climate change response was separate, referring to it as the “Biden Plan.”
Integrity of the election
The final topic of the night was the integrity of the election. Both candidates focused on voting, encouraging their supporters to vote. However, Trump complained that the mail-in ballots are “all over the place” and claimed they are subject to fraud.
For their final statements, Trump urged his supporters to participate in vote watching and said it’s a “completely friendly thing.”
Biden said, “I’ll support the outcome. I’ll not only be a president for Democrats, but also a president for the Republicans.”
The next election debate is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7, between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Nominee Sen. Kamala Harris.
— By Sanjana Anand, Ethan Monasa, Arijit Trivedi and Ming Zhu