Analysis: What happened at the first presidential debate?

Emily Burke’s Analysis:

For an hour and a half on Tuesday night, worried Americans and people outside the US tuned in to watch the first of three presidential debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden. 

The debate covered 6 general topics: the Coronavirus, US economy, nomination for the Supreme Court, race and violence in cities, each candidate’s records, and the risk of voter fraud. Chris Wallace, an anchor for Fox News, was moderating the debate.

The debate itself was, to say the least, chaotic. Trump defended his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Badger Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, said he created the best economy in the world, praised his handling of the Coronavirus, and attacked Democratic states for refusing to open their economy. Biden said that the Supreme Court nomination should wait until after the election because the voting process is how Americans get a say in the future of the Supreme Court. He also stated that Trump had no plans for healthcare despite wanting to repeal Obamacare, attacked Trump’s inconsistent Coronavirus response, and said that the economy could not be fixed until the pandemic was properly handled. 

Amidst the candidates’ more substantial points, both men made some unprecedented comments and accusations at each other. Biden told Trump to “shut up” and called him “the worst president America has ever had,” and Trump told Biden that there was “nothing smart about him” and that no one supported him. Trump also called Biden’s son a drug addict, and Biden called Trump a clown.

Chris Wallace seemed to be at his wit’s end by the end of the debate. He had to routinely tell Trump to stop speaking out of turn, and had to tell both men to be respectful. There was one point where Wallace told Trump that he was debating him instead of his opponent, and Trump agreed with him.

Overall, the first presidential debate left a lot to be desired. The beginning of the debate had potential when both candidates were talking somewhat civilly about the future of the Supreme Court, but the debate quickly fell apart afterwards. There were multiple periods where both candidates and the moderator were all talking at once for multiple minutes, which was painful to take in. The informal insults and personal digs that took away from the purpose of the debate made the whole experience seem unbelievable. Watching the debate was like watching a house go up in flames – you want to run but at the same time you can’t tear your eyes away.

Most news outlets covering the aftermath of the debate generally came to the same consensus that the debate was wildly unsettling. CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash called the debate a “dumpster fire” and “a ****show.” Biden himself called the debate an embarrassment due to Trump’s frequent interruptions, despite being the first candidate to interrupt the other during the debate.

The commissioners of the presidential debates are looking to modify the way the debate is structured to prevent a repeat of the first debate, which could include a way for the moderator to forcibly mute the microphones of each of the candidates.

Considering the chaos during and after the debate, it’s safe to say that Tuesday night set the US on a very strange path towards Election Day. If anything, the experience stressed the importance of registering to vote and making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Therese Osborn’s takeaways:

The first presidential debate of the 2020 election was on this past Tuesday, September 29. It was jam-packed full of interruptions, lies, and controversies. Here were the main takeaways:

The debate topics included Trump and Biden’s records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election.

Some of the stats from the debate are as follows: Trump interrupted Biden 57 times, and Biden interrupted Trump 29 times. Trump personally attacked Biden 12 times, while Biden personally attacked Trump 10 times. Trump argued with the moderator, Chris Wallace, 25 times, and the moderator asked him to stop talking 24 times. 

The biggest news from the debate included: Trump attacking Biden for having a son with a drug problem, Biden telling Trump to, “Shut up, man” and calling him a “Clown” and the “Worst president the United States has ever seen.” Trump also failed to denounce white supremacy, even going as far as to endorse the “Proud Boys,” a far-right extremist group. Later, on Thursday, he stated on Fox News that he condemns both the KKK and the Proud Boys. He stated that the Portland sheriff supported him, later the sheriff stated that he will never support President Trump.

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