A Complete Run Down of the First 2020 Presidential Debate

Jonathan Pham, News Editor

Sep. 29, the first presidential debate between candidates Donald Trump(R) and Joe Biden(D) took place at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The topics, ranging from COVID-19 to systemic racism, were selected by moderator Chris Wallace. Each of the six topics saw roughly 15 minutes discussion with two-minute answers from each candidate and then an open discussion for the remainder of the block.

The first topic was about the Supreme Court, where Trump nominated Amy Coney Barret, a conservative judge, to fill the vacancy left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

“We won the election, elections have consequences. Therefore, we have the right to choose her,” Trump said.  

“The American people have a right to say who the Supreme Court nominee is,” Biden responded. However, Trump interrupted for the first of several times throughout the evening.  The two candidates then went back and forth on the issue of government-subsidized health care during the open discussion.  

They argued and interrupted each other until Wallace moved the debate along to the next section: COVID-19.

“He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was,” Biden said of Trump’s coronavirus response.

“It’s China’s fault, it never should have happened,” Trump responded.  He then referred to the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic during the Obama-Biden administration, in which 14,000 people died.  However, the current US death count of the Coronavirus is 208,000, which is a little under 15 times the amount of deaths from Swine Flu.

The debate then moved into its segment about the economy which Trump began by summarizing how “the greatest economy in the history of the world” closed down because of the ongoing pandemic.  

“Our country is coming back incredibly well, setting records as it does. We don’t need somebody to come in and say let’s shut it down,” Trump said.

“The difference is that millionaires and billionaires like him, in the middle of the COVID crisis, have done very well.  The billionaire array has made another 300 billion.  They’ve done nothing to help small businesses, nothing,” Biden said.

According to Yelp, as of Aug 31, 163,735 businesses closed down due to the pandemic. Additionally, 60 percent of those closures are permanent.

“People want their schools open. They don’t want to be shut down. They don’t want their state shut down,” Trump argued. To which Biden responded that people would rather be safe.

Trump then went on to highlight his pro-business tax cuts. Biden referenced the substantial job growth during his time as vice president.

The two candidates then argued on the subject of their children, with Trump calling out Hunter Biden over his consulting business in Ukraine. Wallace eventually jumped in to change the subject to how each candidate would handle race relations.

“This man has done virtually nothing. You have to look at what he did. And what it did was disastrous for the African American community,” Biden said in reference to Trump.

“He did a crime bill, 1994, where he calls them super predators.  And I’m letting people out of jail now.  You’ve treated the black community about as bad as anybody in this country,” Trump responded. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, now known as the 1994 crime law, imposed stricter prison sentences at the federal level, funded 100,000 more police officers, and encouraged officers to carry out more drug arrests.  

Wallace asked the two nominees about their plans to tackle climate change. Trump responded, saying that he wants to have clean air and claimed there was a billion tree project in the works. He also stated that he believes humans contribute to climate change to an extent.  Biden endorsed his plan to bring the US net carbon to zero by 2035. He then claimed that he will accomplish this by switching to renewable energy and rejoining the Paris Climate Accords. Trump then falsely accused Biden of supporting the Green New Deal, which Biden shut down, claiming that the Green New Deal is not his plan.

The final segment of the debate surrounded election integrity in regards to mail-in ballots.

“This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not gonna be legitimate,” Biden said of Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting.

“As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster.  This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen. It’s a rigged election,” Trump said.

Throughout the evening, the two candidates interrupted each other with Wallace intervening several times. A poll conducted by CBS states that 69% of viewers found the debate annoying.

“Both candidates were completely incoherent and unpresidential.  Biden ignored police reform by saying some altruistic nonsense and was unable to make a coherent statement or commitment.  Trump was no better.  He was a nightmare to listen to.  I wouldn’t say anyone “lost” this debate besides Americans in need of real progressive policy,” junior Tom Inouye said.

A poll conducted by CNN found that 60% of viewers believed that Biden won while 28% thought that Trump won. Another poll done on the CSPAN Twitter account found that 69% thought Trump won while 18.7% believed Biden won.

“I like him [Trump] for his policies, not his ego. Trump undeniably did a terrible job. If you were to just have their points written out and compare them side by side, Trump would have won, no question. His downfall was his constant interruptions and inability to restrain himself,” junior George Destino said.