Volunteer Callum Sayer speaks about the main take-aways (and insults) from the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

We are only a few weeks out from the US Presidential elections, and that inevitably means that the debates have started. However, given Trump’s contraction of COVID-19 and subsequent refusal to attend a virtual debate (instead opting for a Town Hall meeting much like Biden), the second debate has been cancelled, leaving the final debate on the 22nd October.

But, as I said, we are one debate down and sadly, I have to say that having watched the debate, I have to agree with Jake Tapper of CNN, who in summary said:

“That was like watching a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck”

I have summarised some of what I believe to be the key takeaways from the first of the US presidential debates in the 2020 US elections. I have drawn on commentary from news organisations and from my own personal opinions having watched the debate myself.

Takeaway Number 1: Chris Wallace lost control fast

My first takeaway is this, the moderator, Chris Wallace of FOX News lost control of the debate very quickly. Now, I don’t really want to say anything negative about Mr Wallace. He is a fine journalist, respected by the White House Press Corps and is well regarded by everyone in the community

Trump consistently interrupted Biden, and despite Wallace imploring both candidates to not interrupt each other, it was clear that Trump was not going to agree either with the format that the GOP (The US Republican Party or the Grand Old Party) or the Democratic Party agreed to. For example, and I quote from the transcript of the debate:

[crosstalk 00:25:02] Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but I- [crosstalk 00:25:05] Why should I be different than the two of you? So here’s the deal.

Vice President Joe Biden: (25:09)
That’s a good point.

Chris Wallace: (25:09)
We have six segments. We have ended that segment. We’re going to go to the next segment. In that segment, you each are going to have two uninterrupted moments. In those two interrupted minutes, Mr. President, you can say anything you want. I’m going to ask a question about race, but if you want to answer about something else, go ahead. But I think that the country would be better served, if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.

President Donald J. Trump: (25:37)
Well, and him too.

Chris Wallace: (25:38)
Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has.*

Honestly, I don’t think I need to go on. Commentators on both the left and the right agree that this debate was a disaster. Indeed, a snap CNN poll made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly stated that if that was the first time they had met the candidates, they would not vote for either candidate.

Takeaway Number 2: It got personal

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, everything can get dragged through the quagmire, and in Biden’s case, Trump made no case than to bring up something that affected Mr Biden during his time of Vice President, and that was death of his son Beau.

The context is this. Republicans and those close to Mr Trump allege that Hunter Biden profited off the back of his father when he was the Vice President of the United States by sitting on the board of a Ukraine gas firm and gaining contracts with the Chinese Government and Chinese Businesses.

I should note that Republican senators conducted an investigation into the ‘Hunter Biden’ affair and found no evidence of wrongdoing, but that didn’t stop Trump from bringing it up, prompting this sharp rebuke from Mr Biden:

‘And speaking of my son, the way you talk about the military, the way you talk about them being losers and being and just being suckers. My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He got the Brown Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a Patriot and the people left behind there were heroes.’

For context, Trump deferred the ‘draft’ to serve in Vietnam, has mocked war heroes, and even recently, is alleged to have questioned why he should pay tribute to those who died in conflict in the service of their country.

Takeaway number 3: Shut up man

If you were watching the debate hoping to learn a few new insults, then you were certainly in the right place. The amount of insults, hurled by both candidates, were staggering. On the Republican side, I counted 6 insults with regards to the coronavirus (I won’t repeat it because it’s a racist term) and 1 insult with regards to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and her Native American Heritage.

And on the Democratic side, well…. The most famous of those insults came in response to a statement from Mr Trump in response to his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barret to fill the seat vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsberg (may she rest in peace).

Again, I quote from the transcript:

Vice President Joe Biden: (18:17)
I’m not going to answer the question.

President Donald J. Trump: (18:18)
Why wouldn’t you answer that question? You want to put a lot of new Supreme Court Justices. Radical left.

Vice President Joe Biden: (18:18)
Will you shut up, man?*

*casually adds insult to my insult dictionary

Debate Summary

In summary, I’m not really sure why the debate occurred. It was clear from the get-go that Trump was not going to abide by the rules and as such, it was more watching two children squabbling over who had the toy truck next. Again, I defer to what Jake Tapper of CNN said, it was a car crash, and as such, I feel that the American people were not served well by this debate given what happened on stage.

There were no clear policies from either candidate and even when Biden did attempt to form his policy, there was so much cross talk that it was hard to discern what each candidate was saying on each point; that said the latest (at time of writing) NBC News/WSJ poll conducted by ComRes shows that despite that car crash, Biden leads with 53% of the electorate over Trump who is polling at 39%.

*All quotes are sourced from a transcript of the debate as quoted by the USA Today newspaper.


Header by volunteer designer Sofia Azcona

Article edited by Connor Wade – Label Political Editor


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