It was already expected that the first election debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden would lead to fireworks in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. What no one foresaw was how toxic and chaotic the clash between the two rivals would be.
The content of the debate was not very uplifting
Already in the first minutes, Trump showed that he wanted to upset his opponent by constantly interrupting him, which sparked tensions with both Democratic candidate Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. “Shut up, man,” Biden said at one point plainly.
The ninety-minute debate degenerated into a series of messy and unprecedented hostile exchanges. “You are the worst president the US has ever had,” Biden told Trump. He fired back: “In 47 months I have achieved more than you have in 47 years.”
Moderator Wallace barely got a grip on Trump: he regularly clashed with the president when he interrupted Biden (which happened no fewer than 73 times), but left him largely alone. The candidates often spoke simultaneously. “I don’t like to raise my voice, but why should I do it differently than you guys?” The journalist sighed after one of his interventions.
The candidates were given questions in turn on six themes selected by Wallace – from COVID-19 to the risk of electoral fraud – and were allowed to discuss freely after each question. In practice, this structure offered little guidance.
With his many interruptions, Trump dominated the direction of the debate, but the messy progression left him little room to capitalize on it.
There were few surprises in terms of content, but there were some moments that will be used by both sides to criticize the opponent. President Trump declined white supremacists and right-wing militias and reiterated its unproven assertion that widespread fraud will take place during the elections by means of postal votes.
Biden, for his part, did not answer the question of whether the Democrats will use parliamentary reforms to overturn the conservative majority in the Supreme Court if they win election. The Republican majority in the Senate is expected to soon appoint the very conservative Amy Coney Barrett to replace the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away earlier this month.
Trump portrayed his opponent as a pawn of the far-left, while Biden blamed the president for his approach to the corona crisis and warned that Trump wants to destroy healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act (“ Obamacare ”).
Both candidates readily used personal insults: Trump aggressively questioned Biden’s intelligence, while Biden repeatedly called the president a “clown” and “liar.” The Democratic candidate showed a lot fiercer than last year during the debates around the Democratic primaries.
Due to the corona crisis, Biden has appeared in public less often in recent months than is usual for a presidential candidate. The Trump campaign took that opportunity to state that the 77-year-old former vice president is hiding because he suffers from dementia and is regularly confused. There was nothing to be seen during the debate: Biden is noticeably less sharp than in his heyday, but managed to hold his own under Trump’s attacks and avoid the painful slips of the tongue he is known for.