Constant interruptions, insults, obscure substantive discussion at first presidential debate in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio – If voters were hoping for a productive conversation during Tuesday night’s debate, they were probably very disappointed.

Tuesday marked the first time Republican President Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden faced each other directly this electoral cycle, on stage at the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion during the 90-minute forum co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic. With Fox News presenter Chris Wallace moderating – or at least attempting to do so at times – any semblance of political discussion was rendered moot within minutes.

The debate was supposed to mark a bigger turning point in the presidential race which was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. With limited in-person campaigns, Trump and Biden have been largely relegated to campaigning on the air, either through media appearances or in television commercials.

Instead, Tuesday night’s contest was more of a continuation of the race Americans had been watching at home for months. And it came at a time when racing in Ohio changed.

Trump, seeking to lift what appear to be waning re-election prospects, was looking for a boost, with advisers previously saying he was taking preparations for the debate seriously. Instead, the audience was greeted by Trump largely reverting to his normal routine – interrupting, insulting, and outright ignoring the topics at hand.

In fact, the debate got so bad that Wallace was forced to speak harshly to Trump.

“I think the country would be better served if we let the two people talk without interrupting,” Wallace told Trump, after nearly an hour of seemingly endless discussions.

“Him too?” Trump asked Biden.

“Well, frankly, you made more interruption,” Wallace said.

Biden has tried to stay on topic for the most part, only engaging in back-and-forthing only when coached by Trump, presumably in an attempt to appear presidential and win over voters who dislike the abrasive style. of Trump to switch sides.

But even he was not immune to getting drawn into what will likely be seen as a low point in the history of the presidential debate, repeatedly silencing Trump and even bluntly telling the president to shut up.

“You are the worst president America has ever had,” Biden said in an exchange. “Go on.”

‘Sir. President, just stop ‘

Fox News moderator Chris Wallace gestures to President Donald Trump during the first presidential debate on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at Case Western University and the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery / Swimming pool vi AP)PA

The debate actually started off fairly normally, with the start of the hour focusing on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearings of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s choice to replace the recently deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Trump said that despite Republicans blocking Democratic President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland in 2016, the election had consequences and he had the right to nominate a candidate.

Biden said the nomination would have to wait until after the election, given the proximity of a vote that could decide which party controls both the White House and the Senate.

From there, any semblance of normal debate quickly unfolded.

The conversation quickly turned to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and Trump retreated on his biggest hits, trying to connect Biden – a more moderate liberal – with “socialism.”

No subject has arisen afterwards where Trump has not interrupted Biden’s time or has not squarely discussed with Wallace, who has lost control and will bear much of the blame for Tuesday night’s fiasco.

Biden, an institutionalist with more than four decades of experience in Washington, was visibly disbelieving the display, choosing instead to consistently look straight into the camera and address the audience.

“He doesn’t want to talk about what you need,” Biden said. ” The American people. It’s about you. “

Wallace, a veteran political journalist who hosted a presidential debate in 2016, regained control about an hour after berating the president for breaking the rules he had agreed to.

Mr. President, stop, ”Wallace said.

The number of viewers – estimated at potentially 100 million viewers by Tuesday – has remained throughout the shouting match will not be known until the odds are released on Wednesday.


Perhaps what should have been the most serious talking point of the night in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was quickly derailed by Trump, who largely dodged questions about the more than 200,000 people who have died, claiming that more people would have died if Biden had been in office.

Trump also questioned data that the United States is the world leader in coronavirus deaths.

“You don’t know how many people have died in China. You don’t know how many people died in Russia. You don’t know how many people have died in India, ”Trump said. “They’re not giving you exactly the best numbers.”

Biden said Trump was unable to take responsibility for his failures.

“He still didn’t acknowledge that he knew this was happening, knew how dangerous it was going to be in February and he didn’t tell you,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s taped conversations saying that he had deliberately withheld information about the pandemic from the public so as not to incite panic. “He panicked and he just looked at the stock market. Guess what? A lot of people are dead and a lot more people are going to die unless he’s smart. “

At this point – about 15 minutes into the night – Trump was growing increasingly irritated.

“Don’t use the word smart with me,” Trump said. “You ain’t nothing smart, Joe.”

Become personal

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate with President <a class=Donald Trump on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at Case Western University and the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio . (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)” class=”article__image-content” height=”600″ width=”300″/>

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at Case Western University and the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio . (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)PA

Trump, as anyone familiar with his gatherings will know, has also insisted on voicing his personal grievances. Whenever he was challenged by Biden or Wallace on any of the topics, he immediately deemed it unfair.

In fact, at some point in the coronavirus discussion, he clearly lost his train of thought when berating the media.

“The only thing I haven’t done a good job of (on the coronavirus) – and that’s because of the fake news,” Trump said. “They give you good press. They give me bad press. I do not care. I got used to it.

He never finished thinking.

Trump has also been keen to attack Biden’s family, especially his son, Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, alleging corruption of the elder Biden. Trump’s attempt to solicit filth on young Biden from a foreign country was the basis for his impeachment.

Biden avoided talking about his family, but raised his son, Beau, a veteran who died of cancer in 2015. As Biden mourned his late son, Trump interrupted that he didn’t know Beau. Biden, but that he knew Hunter Biden as a drug addict and dirty dealer.

It was one of the few times that night that Biden seemed legitimately caught off guard. The former vice president has been very open about the emotional trauma he suffered following the death of his son.

Trump refuses (again) to condemn white supremacy

Trump has made concerted efforts to attract black voters, for example by opening Black Voices for Trump offices in cities across America, including Cleveland.

But he and the campaign have occasionally flirted with our outright coverage of white supremacists across the country.

When Wallace asked him to condemn white supremacists, Trump obscured and said all the violence he had seen came from leftist groups.

“Of course I’m ready to do it,” Trump began after being invited by Wallace.

“Do it,” Biden said.

“I would say almost everything I see is coming from the left wing, not the right wing,” Trump said. “I am ready for anything, I want to see peace.”

“Well then do it, sir,” Wallace said.

“What do you want to call them? Give me a name? Give me a name. Go ahead. Who would you like me to condemn?

Biden responded with Proud Boys, a group of far-right white supremacists known for instigating brawls at Black Lives Matters rallies.

“Proud boys? Trump said. “Rest and wait. But I’m going to tell you something, someone has to do something against antifa and the left because it’s not a right-wing issue, it’s a left-wing issue.


It won’t be known how the polls might play out after the debate for at least a few days, although the quick responses were fairly uniform in their disgust.

A CBS News poll of debate observers in battlefield states found that 48% of respondents believed Biden won while only 41% believed Trump won. Ten percent called it a tie.

That same poll found that 83% of viewers believed the the tone of the debate was negative. Almost 70% said they were bored watching.

Running in Ohio

Once largely ignored by Democrats instead of other states that offered a clearer path to the White House, Ohio has been at the center of both Trump and Biden’s concerns for the past two weeks.

Trump held rallies in Dayton and Toledo last week, a sign the campaign still believes it needs to stay in a state it won by 8 percentage points in 2016.

Following a trio of strong polls for Biden, including one from Fox News he led, the former vice president bombed the state this week, calling on two residents of northeastern Ohio to stand down. join him as guests in the small audience, with Senator Sherrod Brown on his national press briefing ahead of the debate and the kicking off of his train tour Wednesday in Cleveland, with another stop at Alliance.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and one of his main substitutes, will also be in Ohio on Wednesday in Tipp City.

There are still two presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate before the November 3 elections. The Vice Presidential Debate between Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris will take place on October 7 in Salt Lake City.

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