Trump, Biden face off in first debate

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Trump and Biden have their first of three debates before the Nov. 3 election.

Chris Wallace serves as moderator for Biden-Trump debate

The 2020 presidential debate season kicked off on Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. The first debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden looked different than past debates. Following pandemic guidelines, there was no large audience, the podiums were six feet apart and the two opponents did not shake hands.

The first of three presidential debates was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wallace began the night by welcoming viewers and the small audience in-person.

“This debate is sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commission has designed the format: six roughly-15 minute segments with two-minute answers to each candidate for the first question, then open discussion for the rest of each segment. Both campaigns agreed to these rules,” Wallace said.


However, neither candidate seemed to follow these rules. There were numerous interruptions on all parts, but the majority of these came from Trump. Trump interrupted Biden and Wallace at least 128 times during questions, answers and other comments. Wallace had asked the president over 20 times to stop his interruptions and to abide by the debate rules.

Biden, although not nearly as obtrusive as his opponent, was not clean from cutting Trump’s comments short while he chimed in with a not-so-orderly rebuttal. Biden interrupted Trump dozens of times, but nowhere near as many times as Trump. 

Despite numerous interruptions from both sides, Wallace was able to keep the amount of speaking time for each candidate relatively equal. According to CNN, Trump spoke for just over 39 minutes while Biden spoke for almost 38 minutes. 

Wallace asked questions on important topics including healthcare, COVID-19, the economy, race issues, crime issues, climate change and fair elections.

Healthcare and Coronavirus

On the topic of healthcare, Trump criticized Biden for his support of the Affordable Care Act and for the Medicare for All plan co-sponsored by VT Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden promptly denounced support for the Medicare for All plan (to which Trump commented, “You just lost the left.”) and instead turned the attack on Trump.

“He’s cost 10 million people their healthcare through his recession,” Biden said. “He’s been promising a healthcare plan…he doesn’t have a plan.”

The debate then turned to questions on the coronavirus and the future of the vaccine. 

“40,000 people a day are contracting Covid,” Biden said.

Biden said that the country needs to fund what needs to be done now to save lives. Trump counter-argued Biden’s statements by speaking on the uncertainty of COVID-19 numbers from other countries such as China, Russia and India.

“More people will be hurt by continuing [to be shut down],” Trump said. “Those states are not doing well, the ones that are shut down.”

There was a brief argument over Trump’s unwillingness to encourage the use of masks. “I put a mask on when I think I need it,” Trump said, at one point pulling a mask from his pocket to show the audience.

Biden cited Trump’s health advisor’s statement that if everyone wore a mask between now and January, that 100,000 lives could be saved. 

“He disagrees with his own scientists,” Biden said. “Do you believe him for a moment?”

The debate then turned to the economy and the different recovery strategies for both parties. Trump stands for a “V-shaped” recovery while Biden believes in a “K-shaped” recovery. 

“You can’t fix the economy until you fix the Covid crisis,” Biden said.

Biden commented on the large costs to open schools safely and is wary for schools that are currently open amid the growing pandemic.

“He’s going to be the first president in American history who is going to have less jobs when he comes out of his administration,” Biden said.

Trump argued that shutting states down is not the answer, and that the governors who have done this “are under siege.” 

“It’s like being in prison,” Trump said on states that have shut down. “We closed it down because of the China plague. It should have never happened from China.”


Wallace confronted Trump on the recent New York Times publication of Trump’s alleged taxes for the past 15 years. When asked if he paid the $750 in 2016 and 2017, as cited in the tax documents, Trump responded that he paid millions of dollars in taxes those years. “And you’ll get to see it,” he said.

Trump claims that his taxes are being audited right now and that they will be released when they are finished. 

Biden attacked Trump for allegedly paying less in taxes than a school teacher, to which Trump responded, “In 47 months, I’ve done more than you have in 47 years,” touting both candidates’ political records. 

Crime and Race

The next debate topics were regarding race issues and crime issues. Biden expressed that there is systemic injustice in this country, in education and in law enforcement. He said that there are some “bad apples” that need to be held accountable and that we need to have more transparency in law enforcement. 

Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups, to which he replied: “Sure, I will do that.” Biden then pressured him to denounce the white supremacist group Proud Boys, who had recently endorsed Trump.

“Proud Boys – stand back and stand by,” Trump said.

Trump reclaimed his cry for “law and order” and changed the topic to ANTIFA and BLM protests. 

“Almost everything I see is from the left-wing,” Trump said. “ANTIFA is a dangerous, radical group.”

“ANTIFA is an idea, not an organization,” Biden said.

Climate Change

After some debate, Wallace changed the topic to talk about climate change. Biden, renouncing the Green New Deal, said that the ‘Biden plan’ would allow us to reach net-zero in terms of energy production by 2035. Biden also said that he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

“I believe we have to do everything we can to have clean waters and clean air,” Trump said, citing his project to plant a billion trees. 

In total, the debate lasted a little over 94 minutes. There are two more presidential debates scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. The vice presidential debate between VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will be on Oct. 7.

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