First US presidential debate marred with interruptions

US President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the Democratic party nominee, held their first presidential debate at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University in what was characterized by interruptions and personal attacks, especially from Trump.

The debate, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, focused on the two presidents’ records in office, the Supreme Court, Covid-19 pandemic, the economy, integrity of the election, as well as race and violence.

 

Trump frequently interrupted Biden and Wallace, constantly throwing personal attacks and insults, and going beyond the allotted time of two minutes that was given to each candidate to address each topic.

 

At some point it prompted Biden to say to the US president at one point, “Will you shut up, man?” and called Trump “the worst president that America has ever had.”

 

Trump responded that in “47 years you’ve done nothing” and insulted the former vice president’s intelligence.

Supreme Court

America is now puzzled with selecting the Supreme Court justice who will replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away this month after battling pancreatic cancer.

Trump said during the debate that he expects the Supreme Court, including his not-yet-confirmed nominee Amy Coney Barrett, to settle any disputes that arise over mail-in ballots in the November election.

Wallace asked Trump: “Now that millions of mail-in ballots have gone out, what are you going to do about it? And are you counting on the Supreme Court, including Justice Barrett, to settle any dispute?”

Trump answered: “I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely. I don’t think we’ll — I hope we don’t need them in terms of the election itself. But for the ballots, I think so.”

Covid-19 pandemic

Both Trump and Biden were asked about their divergent views on the pandemic, and the two accused each other with Biden saying the President has failed to deal with the pandemic which has infected 7 million and claimed 200,000 of lives in America.

Biden said when Trump was presented with that number, he said “it is what it is, because you (Trump) are who you are,” pointing fingers to the President and insisting that Trump has no plan even when he knew back in February how serious the pandemic was.

Biden has always questioned the reopening strategy and emphasised the need for testing, while Trump has called for business and schools to reopen and downgraded testing.

Trump, on other hand, defended himself saying if America would have listened to Biden “nothing would have happened and millions of people would have died,” and went ahead to shifting blame to China over the outbreak.

“He could be speaking and shows up with the biggest mask,” Trump on Biden when he was asked about the importance of personal protective gear such as masks.

Biden responded saying that “masks are good, and his own CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) head said if we wore masks between now and January 100,000 lives would be saved.”

Climate change

The two candidates were asked about their climate plans late in Tuesday’s debate, but neither Trump nor Biden argued about who would do more to reduce emissions or slow global warming.

Both argued that on climate they would do more to protect the economy.

Trump said he wants “crystal clean water and air,” but quickly twisted to saying he hasn’t “destroyed our businesses.” He blamed the Democrats’ climate policies for making energy more expensive and for hurting businesses, and said Biden’s platform is too costly.

Biden said it is more costly dealing with the floods, hurricanes and rising seas fueled by climate change. “We are going to be in position where we can create hard, hard, good jobs by making sure the environment is clean and we all are in better shape”

Urging calm

In the final question of the night, both candidates were asked whether they would urge his supporters to stay calm while the vote was counted and to pledge not to declare victory until the election results have been certified.

“I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump replied. He said if there was a fair election, “I am 100 per cent on board” but that he would not go along with a “fraudulent election.”

Biden, asked the same question, responded: “Yes.” He said he would support the outcome whether he wins or not.

Trump drew attention last week after he didn't commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election and predicted the outcome would be decided by the Supreme Court.

In the coming days, all eyes will be on the two candidates to address some of the critical issues such as relations between the biggest super power country with the rest of the world, global trade and multilateralism, among others.

jbizimungu@newtimesrwanda.com

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