President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden went head to head on Tuesday night, and moderator Chris Wallace got knocked out. Wallace seemed to push left-wing talking points to help Biden and hurt Trump, but both candidates talked over him. Trump and Biden brought out the fisticuffs and both got in a few good hits. Biden stumbled but he did not come across as a bumbling fool.
While Trump and Biden both went on the offensive, Trump got in more clear statements and Biden came across as shifty, especially on packing the Supreme Court.
Wallace asked Biden if he would support expanding the Supreme Court to more than nine justices, noting that Democrats brought up the issue first. Biden refused to answer the question, and Trump pressed him.
When Trump asked, “Why aren’t you going to answer that question?” Biden shot back, “Would you shut up, man?”
After Trump pressed, “Who is on your list, Joe?” Biden responded by saying, “This is so unpresidential.”
Not only did Biden dodge the question, but he lost his cool about the issue, and then accused his opponent of being unpresidential right after he said, “Would you shut up, man?”
Joe won't answer whether he'd pack the court and end the filibuster. Candidates are candidates and they're supposed to, you know, take positions on things. Him ducking this shows how he is not "the Democratic Party"#Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/HK2TPokq2m
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 30, 2020
On the issue of nominating Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement to the Supreme Court, Trump insisted, “I’m not elected for three years, I’m elected for four years.” He suggested that Biden’s call for delaying the nomination and confirmation until after the election would essentially deny Trump’s presidency — an effective counter.
When Trump tried to catch Biden on the extreme measures of the far left, the Democrat responded, “I am the Democratic Party right now.” We’ll see what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has to say about that.
Biden: "I AM THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY right now."
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) September 30, 2020
On the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Biden claimed that the U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population but 20 percent of coronavirus deaths. Trump rightly called him out on this, noting that countries like China are likely undercounting their deaths. (He should have mentioned Iran and Russia, but he did mention China and India.)
Biden repeated the false claim that Trump suggested injecting “bleach into your arm.” In reality, Trump asked the experts a question about using a disinfectant to fight the virus, and he suggested that people should not try this without medical doctors.
In response to Pres. Trump's vaccine claims, Joe Biden says, "This is the same man who told you by Easter this would be gone away. By the warm weather, it'd be gone, miraculously…And by the way, maybe you can inject some bleach into your arm." https://t.co/5Bl4Ob3O2t pic.twitter.com/h1xM8EH98L
— ABC News (@ABC) September 30, 2020
When Trump brought up Hunter Biden’s notorious corruption, Joe Biden insisted, “My son did nothing wrong at Burisma.” The president countered, “Why did he deserve three and a half million from Moscow?!”
Biden noted that black Americans have died from COVID-19 at higher rates, insisting that Trump’s presidency has “been disastrous for the African American community.” Yet Trump rightly countered by citing the 1994 crime bill and Trump’s criminal justice reform. “I’m letting people out of jail now.” Trump accused Biden of using the term “super-predators.” Biden did condemn “predators,” but Hillary Clinton was the one to call criminals “super-predators.” Clinton was defending the bill Biden championed, however.
Trump championed law and order, noting that 250 military leaders and generals have endorsed him, along with a long list of law enforcement organizations, including the national Fraternal Order of Police. The president challenged Biden to name a single law enforcement group that supports him and the Democrat could not.
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) September 30, 2020
When Wallace asked Trump about his decision to end “white privilege” trainings in the federal government, the president explained, “I ended it because it’s racist.” He noted that the trainings, many of which follow Marxist critical race theory, “were teaching people to hate our country,” claiming that America is fundamentally racist. Biden countered by saying that “there is racial insensitivity.”
Trump rightly noted that Biden’s policy would destroy the suburbs by getting rid of local control over zoning. Biden responded by saying, “all these dog whistles on racism don’t work anymore.” The Democrat is correct — dog whistles don’t work, because Trump’s argument isn’t a dog whistle. Biden supports the Obama administration’s radical AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation which gets rid of single-family zoning in the name of diversity. This would end local control, which is the real issue.
President Trump touted that he will have nominated and the Senate will have confirmed approximately 300 federal judges, along with at least two — and likely three — Supreme Court justices.
Biden countered by claiming that Trump is “Putin’s puppy” and accusing the president of “causing the recession” associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
As Reason’s Robby Soave pointed out, Trump painted Biden as the candidate of lockdowns and Biden did little to rebut the idea. The Democrat has suggested he would shut down the country again if he wins in November.
Trump is painting Biden as the candidate of lockdowns and lockdown-related pain, and Biden is making little effort to rebut this.
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) September 30, 2020
Wallace pulled a fast one toward the end of the debate, bringing up the issue of climate change. President Trump condemned the Paris Climate Accord, noted that the environment has gotten better, touted the project to plant a billion trees, and emphasized the importance of forest management in states like California that have been overwhelmed by forest fires.
“If you had forest management, good forest management, you wouldn’t be getting those calls,” Trump said, explaining that dead leaves on the forest floor contribute to wildfires. I grew up in dry rural Colorado and I spent my summers clearing up the forest floor in the mountains. My father is a volunteer firefighter and I did my Eagle Project in wildland fire mitigation. Forest management is far more critical to preventing forest fires than the unproven claims about climate change increasing the temperature by a degree or two.
President Trump points to forest management as the cause of the wildfires in the West, but avoids specifics on his climate change beliefs. #Debates2020 https://t.co/McrHYPnMbj pic.twitter.com/EIBsZYXZ1W
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 30, 2020
In one of the more memorable events of the night, President Trump called on the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” while Joe Biden refused to even address the instigators in antifa. Instead, Biden cited FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has called antifa an ideology, not a group. “Antifa’s an idea, not an organization,” the Democrat said, supposedly quoting Wray.
Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups…?"
President Trump: "Sure, I'm willing to do that…Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what…somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left." pic.twitter.com/9gJ8qyO4hL
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 30, 2020
While Wallace took Trump to task for interrupting Biden, Wallace himself interrupted Trump.
Moderator Chris Wallace to Trump as he repeatedly interrupts Biden: “Your campaign agreed that both sides would get 2 minute answers uninterrupted … why don’t you observe what your campaign agreed to?”
— ABC News (@ABC) September 30, 2020
Chris Wallace interrupted Trump 35 times tonight.
He did not interrupt Biden once.
— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) September 30, 2020
“Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be different than the two of you?” Wallace said. Wallace suggested that Trump had interrupted more than Biden, but Biden also interrupted both Trump and Wallace throughout the debate.
Chris Wallace jumps in after Trump and Biden have continuously interrupted each other: "Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why shouldn't I be different than the two of you?"
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 30, 2020
CNN’s Jake Tapper called the debate “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”
"That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” says @JakeTapper about the first presidential debate between Pres. Trump and Joe Biden. “We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate … One thing for sure, the American people lost.” #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/ATsne4ldB8
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) September 30, 2020
President Trump got in more good jabs at Biden than the Democrat got in at him, but Biden did not prove the stuttering fool that many on the Right expected. I would say Trump won the debate, but it was grating to hear three people talk at once so many times.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.