Presidential Debate


The first 2020 presidential debate was from 9:00 to 10:30 P.M on Tuesday, Sept. the 29. The debate was between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, and was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum the debate itself was an unquestionable disaster.

The debate was divided into six segments: “Trump’s and Biden’s records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, race and violence in cities, election integrity, and the economy”. Each was approximately 15 minutes in length; Wallace introduced each topic and gave each candidate two minutes to speak, followed by facilitated discussion between them. This was generally ignored. Trump repeatedly interrupted and insulted Biden during Biden’s answers to the initial questions as well as the facilitated discussion, and was chastised by Wallace several times for doing so. On several occasions, Wallace pleaded with Trump to respect the rules and norms of the debate.

During the debate, when Biden and Wallace pressed Trump to condemn white supremacy groups Trump asked “Give me a name…”, Biden responded by saying “The Proud Boys”. Trump then said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, 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.” This remark was interpreted by some members of that far-right group, as well as others, as a call to arms, while others claimed the statement was merely a wrong choice of words by the president.

Biden called for an increase in police funding. He explained such funds would be used to hire psychologists or psychiatrists who would accompany police officers during 9-1-1 calls in order to defuse situations and reduce the use of force. Trump also repeated the claim that he “got back” Seattle and Minneapolis from left-wing protesters, and continued to repeat conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Trump falsely said that the economy before the pandemic was “the greatest economy in the history of our country”. GDP growth was higher under Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton, and the unemployment rate was lower under Eisenhower.

In response to the failure of the debate and subsequent criticism, the Commission on Presidential Debates indicated that it would modify future debates to encourage a more civilized and orderly discussion. While Biden said that he was open to changes, Trump rejected the idea, suggesting that changes would erode his advantage.

In the days following the debate criticism was widespread. The debate was widely criticized by anchors on several television networks that had broadcast the debate, immediately after it finished airing. CNN’s Jake Tapper stated, “That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck”, and called the debate a “disgrace”; Dana Bash continued those criticisms, calling the debate a “shitshow”. ABC’s Martha Raddatz said, “This was not a presidential debate, it was mud-wrestling”, and co-anchor George Stephanopoulos also said that “as someone who’s watched presidential debates for 40 years […] that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life”. ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl followed by claiming that “Donald Trump came across as a bully”. Trump was criticized by Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade for not condemning white supremacy, saying that he “ruined the biggest layup in the history of debates”.