WASHINGTON, September 30 (FENA/DPA) – A bruising, chaotic 95-minute debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Joe Biden descended into bitter personal attacks, with both candidates seeming to talk over each other as much as they finished sentences uninterrupted.
The first of three debates was hosted on Tuesday by journalist Chris Wallace, who tried to focus on policy issues such as health care, the coronavirus, Supreme Court appointments and climate change.
However, he was repeatedly thwarted by the candidates, and disproportionately by Trump, who again and again attacked Biden’s mental faculties and the former vice president’s family, though both men interjected with biting insults. Biden called Trump a “clown.”
“Gentlemen,” Wallace exclaimed at one point. “I hate to raise my voice but why should I be any different than the two of you,” he said, in a paternalistic tone as the yelling on stage sunk into jejune asides and an overall sense of rudeness.
“Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting,” Wallace said to Trump, the Republican candidate. “Sir, please stop,” he pleaded repeatedly to the president, at one point conceding that it was becoming impossible to keep track of the discussion.
Biden said he was only holding back when it came to attacking Trump’s family, but pulled no punches regarding the man himself.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had, c’mon,” Biden said, blasting Trump for his handling of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the country, and the economy, which has haemorrhaged jobs because of the pandemic and lockdowns.
Biden went on to accuse the president of being a “puppy” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, among a slew of jabs, including insinuating that the real-estate-mogul-turned-president is a tax dodger, and calling the incumbent a “racist” who inflames divisions.
“This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division,” Biden said. “He just pours gasoline on the fire.”
The Dempocratic challenger said the Obama administration left Trump a “booming” economy, but now it is in recession. “Under this president we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided and more violent,” Biden said.
Trump repeatedly went after Biden’s son, Hunter, over complex business dealings in Russia and Ukraine, as well as the younger Biden’s drug problem.
On economic policy, Trump sought to differentiate himself as the leader who wants to get the economy running again after the lockdowns.
“He will shut it down again, he will destroy this country,” Trump said of Biden’s approach, without any hint that he was being hyperbolic, during the debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
The midwestern state, which has a strong manufacturing base, is seen as a so-called “swing state” which sometimes votes Democrat and sometimes Republican.
The debate over coronavirus was among the most intense, with Biden demanding that Trump get “smart” about his response or many more people will die.
“Don’t ever use the word smart with me… There is nothing smart about you, Joe,” said Trump.
The president insisted it was thanks to his policies that a vaccine would soon be developed, while Biden cast doubt on whether he could trust inoculations coming out of White House-led projects- a microcosm of the stark divides haunting the country.
The debate – which largely went down as expected, even if it was particularly heated – also saw Biden say that he would accept the election result, whatever it was, while Trump went on an extended diatribe about election fraud, never committing to accepting a loss.
Whereas Biden said: “If I win that will be accepted. If I lose that will be accepted,” expressing confidence that if voters turn out he would be elected.
On the other hand, Trump complained about the expansion of voting by mail and alleged that there was a possibility of a “fraudulent election” which would be stacked against him.
“I hope it will be a fair election,” Trump said, after commenting that if he sees ballots being manipulated that he “can’t go along with that.”
An instant poll of viewers by broadcaster CBS found that most felt the first presidential debate had a “negative” tone while only 17 per cent said they received a positive vibe from the face-to-face.
Specifically, 69 per cent of those surveyed saying they were “annoyed,” and only 17 per cent say they felt the discussion “informed” them.
The instant survey found 48 per cent of people thought Democratic nominee Joe Biden came out ahead, while 41 per cent thought President Donald Trump won. The remainder thought it was tied. CBS noted more people came into the debate supporting Biden.