2020 Presidential Debates Kick-off to a Fiery Start


Hana Beaty

The first presidential debate hosted topics such as the pandemic, Supreme Court nominations and the economy.

President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in the first debate for the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday, exceeding the already expected level of contention. There will be two more presidential debates before election day. 

As compared to debates for previous elections, Tuesday night was unprecedented, characterized by clashing political ideologies, personal attacks and shouting. 

Moderator Chris Wallace brought up the COVID-19 pandemic and reopening plans early in the debate.

Biden responded with the number of infected and dead Americans, indicating that America has been hit hard by the virus, before moving to criticize the president’s actions regarding the outbreak.

“The president has no plan.” Biden said. “He hasn’t laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was. He knew it was a deadly disease. What did he do? He said he didn’t tell us or give people a warning of it because he didn’t want to panic the American people. You don’t panic. He panicked.” 

Biden continued to emphasize that by using funding to provide protective gear to Americans, the government could help small businesses and save lives. 

Trump responded, first criticizing Biden’s stance on addressing the pandemic, before moving on to blame China for the virus.   

“If we would have listened to you, the country would have been left wide open,” Trump said. “Millions of people would have died, not 200,000 and one person is too much. It’s China’s fault, it should have never happened.”

Trump indicated that he had already proven his ability to provide masks, ventilators and other related protective or medical equipment—something which he commented that his opponent couldn’t have accomplished. 

The discussion turned to policing—including the violence in recent protests related to race, law enforcement and white supremacy.

Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists and say that they need to stand down to avoid causing more violence. 

Trump agreed, but ultimately sidestepped the question, diverting the discussion back to Antifa instead. 

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said, “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right wing problem.” 

Prior to this moment, Biden too was criticized by his opponent for his history regarding racially discriminatory legislation.

“(Biden) did a crime bill: 1994, where (he) called (African Americans) super predators and they’ve never forgotten it … you have treated the Black community as about as bad as anybody in this country,” Trump said. “You called them super predators and you called them worse than that.”

As the segment topics became intertwined, the discussion moved to law enforcement specifically. Wallace asked Biden for his plans to reimagine policing.

“What I support is the police having the opportunity to deal with the problems they face and I’m totally opposed to defunding the police officers … They need more assistance. they need when they show up for a 911 call to have someone with them as a psychologist or psychiatrist to keep them from having to use force,” Biden said.

Trump interjected, saying that Biden actually wants to defund the police and doesn’t have support from law enforcement agencies. 

“That’s not what they’re talking about,” Trump said, “He has no law enforcement support, almost nothing.”

Biden refrained from answering, and the moderator moved the discussion along to climate change.

Trump emphasized that clean air and water are a top priority for his administration, noting that he had already made great strides in combating climate change while also helping enterprise. 

“If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally, but I haven’t destroyed our businesses,” Trump said. “I believe that we have to do everything we can to have immaculate air, immaculate water and do whatever else we can that’s good.”

Biden emphasized that he’s seeking to create jobs while addressing climate change, aiming to reduce emissions and produce net-zero infrastructure, meaning buildings will generate as much power as they consume.  

“There’s so many things that we can do now to create thousands and thousands of jobs,” Biden said. “We can get to net-zero in terms of energy production by 2035 … Creating millions of good paying jobs.” 

The last discussion in the debate concerned voter fraud. The moderator asked candidates how they will ensure that the winner of this election is chosen accurately. 

Biden said that Americans need to be prepared to vote, whether that be by mail or in person. He indicated that his administration will ensure voting in person will be safe and accessible, and that voting by mail will not compromise the integrity of the election. 

Trump said that unsolicited ballots will cause a disaster in this election and that the results of the election may not be available for months as a result. Trump used the ballot loss rates of other states to exemplify this point, calling the system fraudulent. 

The vice presidential debate is on Oct. 7 and will be followed by another presidential debate on Oct. 15. 

Joel Moret can be reached at [email protected] or @JoelMTheOrion on Twitter.