by N. Peter Kramer
President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden clashed in the first (of the three) presidential debates over the Supreme Court, the coronavirus, the economy and the race-issue. The Republican leader told his rival that for ’47 years you’ve done nothing’ and the Democratic challenger calling his opponent ‘the worst president that America ever had’. The two candidates constantly spoke over each other in a number of contentious exchanges, more notable for rancour than policy nuance. The event was a spectacle of insults, interruptions, endless cross talk and exaggerations. Biden was not much better than Trump, interrupting nearly as much.
Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and questioned his accomplishments during nearly 50 years in public life. The president also deflected a question about whether he would condemn white supremacists groups, saying most violence stemming from civil unrest came from the ‘left wing’. Biden, who at one point told the resident to ‘shut up’, found fault in the Republican’s stewardship of the economy and his coronavirus response. For roughly ninety minutes from a socially distanced hall in Cleveland, Ohio, the candidates were vying for a narrow slice of persuadable voters amid a global pandemic, a polarising fight over the Supreme Court and fresh revelations about the president’s taxes.
Moderator Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor who had said before the debate he would try to be an invisible presence on stage , struggled to control bickering, repeatedly calling on the candidates to stop speaking over each other. Amid Trump’s repeated interruptions, Biden appeared unsettled at times, shaking his head incredulously.
On why voters should trust him to deal with race issues facing the country, Biden said, ‘We have never walked away from trying to require equity for everyone, equality for the whole of America. We have never accomplished it’. Trump suggested the former vice-president was not supportive enough of law enforcement. ‘You can’t even say the word law enforcement because if you say the words, you’re going to lose all of your radical left supporters.’
Looking forward to the vice-presidential debate next week, maybe one of them will act like a President.