Five important moments from the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden

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The personal attack on Biden’s children, a disturbing response from Trump on supremacist groups, a slip by Biden … These are some moments that may transcend the most muddy debate in memory

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was surely the most chaotic and least edifying spectacle of political theater ever produced on American television. It is difficult to convey the degree of interruptions, slights and lack of content that occurred over 90 minutes, allowed by the moderator, Chris Wallace. Under the mud, there were some moments that may transcend the rest of the campaign because they are especially revealing of certain aspects of the candidates. These are the clearest:

If anyone thought that Trump would have changed the way he debated in his three years in the White House, he got out of his mistake in the first two minutes. Trump constantly rolled over Joe Biden’s responses, speaking over him. It made him lose the thread several times. On the positive side for his followers, Biden silenced Trump. This is probably the first time this has happened. “It’s hard to say anything with this clown,” he said at one point. “Shut up, buddy,” he said at another time. And, making a gesture with his hands: “Keep chattering.” It was Biden’s attempt not to evade melee while maintaining some composure.

Perhaps the lowest point of the debate was when Trump personally attacked Joe Biden’s children. Surprisingly, it was Biden himself who opened that line when speaking of his son Beau’s service in the Army. He wanted to attack Trump for allegedly saying privately that soldiers are “suckers” and “losers.” Biden defended his son, who died of cancer in 2015, when Trump began to interrupt him and ask about his son Hunter, criticized by Trump for alleged corruption in Ukraine. “Hunter was dishonorably discharged from the Army and didn’t have a job until you were made vice president.” Biden only managed to say that “none of that is true” and added that his son Hunter had “a drug problem, as in many families.” Seeing Biden defend his children against Trump was the most unpleasant moment of the debate.

The last Sunday, The New York Times published the Holy Grail of North American journalism: Trump’s taxes of the last 20 years, which the president has refused to make public. The United States has found that Trump did not pay taxes in 10 of the last 15 years and in his first two years as president he paid $ 750, much less than what a professor pays. Chris Wallace asked him directly. Trump dodged the answer. Biden completely missed the opportunity by talking about his own tax plan. In the end, Trump had the last word to say: “I have paid millions in taxes.”

Wallace decided that one of the blocks of the debate was going to be violence and race relations in the United States, a topic that seemed designed for Trump’s speech on chaos in cities. But Wallace asked him directly if he was willing to condemn white supremacist groups that have moved from the dark corners of the internet to demonstrating on the streets. Trump did not. “Almost everything I see is from the left, not from the right,” he said, making it clear that he sees two sides in the streets and that one of them is his. So, going further than anyone could have imagined, he addressed himself directly to a violent far-right group called the Proud Boys: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” The president spoke directly to a pseudo-Nazi group.

One of the things the public wanted to see was Biden’s physical stamina. As for energy, there was no color with Trump. Biden seemed fragile next to the president, although he maintained his composure. But he left one of those moments where he seems to confuse things. When asked about his plan against climate change, he said that “the Green New Deal is going to pay for itself.” The Green New Deal is a very ambitious framework for the transition to the green economy proposed by the Democratic left, which does not convince the center of the party. Whether or not to support this plan is in fact one of the issues that divide the Democrats. Wallace asked if he supported him. “I don’t support the Green New Deal,” Biden said then.

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