Credit: Evan Sharrard, 42Fifty

On September 29, 2020, the first presidential debate, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, took place in Ohio between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Oh, boy was it atrocious. Everybody deserves better than what we were forced to watch. People like to watch the political debates for many reasons, one of them is for the entertainment factor of: it’s so bad it’s good. This debate was so bad it was ugly; it was easily the worst experience an American political debate has ever delivered to the public.

Trump did as I expected: he put together a typical Trump barrage of insults in an attempt to get Biden to slip up and say something silly as he has in the past. Trump’s fleet of insults was injected into the debate by frequently interrupting Biden while he was answering questions asked by Wallace. Trump was often told to stop interrupting by Wallace and he regularly ignored Wallace and continued on his tirades. While I feel Wallace did a poor job of controlling the debate, Trump was highly unprofessional in his conduct and his frequent flippant disregard for the rules of the debate as agreed upon by both campaigns was unacceptable. The worst thing of “substance” Trump did was continue to spread ridiculous misinformation about how mail-in ballots will lead to a crooked election. We cannot have a president spread misinformation; it’s un-American, it’s undemocratic, it’s unprofessional, and it’s unfair to the American public. 

On the other hand, Biden had a fairly good debate in terms of not cracking under Trump’s pressure; he was able to discuss multiple ideas he has without making mistakes. I would claim that one of Biden’s best moments—if you want to claim there were any good moments in this debate—was when he was able to express his “Biden Plan for Climate Change.” Biden was able to detail what his vision was for the future of the United States’ energy consumption and claimed that if his plan were carried out to the fullest extent, the U.S. could be “net zero” by 2035. While Trump used a figure to dispel the Green New Deal—a plan that Biden does not support—claiming it would cost north of one-hundred trillion dollars, he did sprout a question in my head: how much is the Biden Plan for Climate Change going to cost? Biden’s answer to the question is available on his website, but it’s something that he likely kept out of his response on purpose. To me, Biden’s omission of plan cost was his weakest moment in the debate as it could keep undecided voters concerned about economics from voting for him. I don’t particularly like Biden as a candidate—I thought there were many better candidates, and he doesn’t have a clean historical record when it comes to racism (He worked with segregationist senators to overhaul criminal laws that resulted in more blacks being incarcerated). Even with Biden’s indefensible history, he still makes a far better figurehead and diplomat than Trump, who once again—as I will detail later—proved how unfit for office he is.

Now the worst of the worst: Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists when asked and the constant interruptions and lack of professionalism. When asked whether or not he would condemn white supremacists, Trump responded with, “Sure… give me a name.” Wallace and Biden both interjected “Proud Boys”– a male-only radical right political group that uses violence against those who disagree with them and has been associated with racially charged violence. Trump then told the Proud Boys to “Stand back, and stand by,” a murky statement at best, that can be interpreted as Trump not saying what he meant or at worst, Trump refusing to condemn the Proud Boys and rather telling them to stand by, which may mean to continue at a future time. Trump did however condemn the ANTIFA movement–an anti-fascist movement that, in the U.S., has been claimed to be tied to rioters who have destroyed property and escalated otherwise peaceful protests. While Trump possibly has a point with rioters who claim their cause is ANTIFA, rather than condemning white supremacists as the question asked him to, he diverted the attention of violence in the U.S. towards the opposite side of the political spectrum: the radical left who are anti-racism. If anything, this tells me nothing more about Trump than I already knew: he has always had a cryptic way of speaking about white supremacists. In the past, he condemned them publicly after Charlottesville but he’s also complemented people in white supremacist groups during press conferences. Frankly, I think Trump’s a racist: if he wasn’t, why wouldn’t he denounce white supremacists live on television as he was asked to. Oh wait, Trump knows he has the white supremacist vote and if he were to denounce them, he could risk losing their vote. I seriously can’t find a way to justify such a repugnant response. Trump blew the easiest layup in the world and instead of slamming white supremacsists, he gave a response that makes him seem like a potential sympathiser. “Stand back and stand by,” oh please.

If Trump’s heinous crypticism wasn’t enough, there is still constant banter and a lack of professionalism to sift through. Trump came out of the gates interrupting Biden to the extent where it was as if one were watching a toddler throw a tantrum over a bad bite of broccoli. It was unacceptable, Trump and Biden both threw shots at one another but Biden did it as would be expected by a candidate debating another: he attacked Trump’s policies and his actions as president. Trump attacked Biden’s son, Hunter, for having an opioid addiction that has nothing to do with Biden’s competency as a president, he disregarded Biden’s two-minute speaking time and Trump taunted Biden constantly by interrupting with other insults that were mostly conjecture–such as attacking Hunter again for potentially colluding with a corrupt Ukrainian gas company. While Trump may be right in alleging Hunter colluded with a corrupt Ukrainian gas company, it hasn’t been proven, so Trump’s jab at Biden’s son is relatively baseless and focuses on the possibility that Biden helped cover up Hunter’s involvement rather than a proven fact. Because of this, I think Trump’s strategy is disgusting: Attacking someone’s family rather than his or her policies is completely unprofessional and childish. It’s been said so many times, but for whatever reason, Trump is still able to get people to look past his horrible personality and support the guy.  

Frequent interruptions and ugly policy-free discourse led to Wallace attempting to maintain order. Trump ignored Wallace and Wallace did nothing to stop it besides reminding the candidates of the rules. For the most part, Biden stopped talking when asked by Wallace and Biden was far less barbaric and long-winded in his interruptions. These frequent interruptions and constant banter about nothing led to little policy discussion, which was utterly pathetic to say the least. Thankfully, there will be extra measures taken in the next debate to prevent what happened on Sept. 28 from happening again.The second presidential debate will be on Oct. 15 at 8:00 PM on ABC, CBS, C-SPAN, Fox, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, and will be moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully. Here’s to a more civil second debate. Anything can be better than the first one, right?

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