Last night’s final presidential debate was filled with some facts, a little policy, and plenty of lies and tall tales. A more subdued Trump was on the defense most of the evening, hurling personal attacks and lies that sent fact-checkers into a tailspin. Very rarely was he clear on his policy or vision for America as President. Trump is behind in most polling, so his debate performance was critical as we head into the final days leading to the election. Joe Biden stumbled at parts but overall was more articulate about his plan, policies, and vision.
This was more of a debate than the previous one everyone referred to as a disaster; however, some moments left many voters in disbelief.
ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
While surges in coronavirus are occurring all over the country, the candidates had vastly different takes on the pandemic and the government’s handling of it.
“I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault that it came here. It’s China’s fault”-Trump.
Trump claimed his response to the pandemic saved 2 million people from dying. Still, just this week, both Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot have rolled back Illinois and Cook County due to spikes in coronavirus cases.
“We are rounding the corner. It’s going away…”There are some spikes and surges in other places. They will soon be gone,” Trump said.
According to the Center for Disease Control, they predict up to 240,000 coronavirus deaths in the county by November. The president downplayed the surge by using his own experience with the coronavirus. He claimed he was given a treatment that some would say was a cure and that the government already had a vaccine. According to fact-checkers, there is still no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
Trump also defended wanting to open the country up, saying, “We are learning to live with it,” to which Joe Biden angrily replied, “He says we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.”
ON THE ECONOMY, TAXES, AND WORLD RELATIONS
Trump stressed that the pandemic has affected the economy but said his team had done a great job. He said, shutting down the US again would drive the country into a “depression” unlike any the world has seen. “We can’t keep this country closed; the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, Trump said as he defended his administration’s actions. Joe Biden retorted that he is not opposed to more shutdowns to control the virus but strongly stated, “I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country.”
Trump touted gains on wall street as proof that the economy is improving, but Joe Biden rejected the notion that Wall Street is an indicator of how well every day American’s are doing.
“The idea that the stock market is booming is his only measure of what’s happening. Where I come from in Scranton … the people don’t live on the stock market.”-Biden.
Things got personal when speaking of relations with China, Ukraine, and Russia, with Trump accusing Biden and his family members of profiting from business dealings with China and Ukraine. The debate turned into finger-pointing, with each accusing the other of misdeeds and a lack of integrity. Biden challenged Trump on newly released information of his bank accounts in China to which Trump said, “I have many bank accounts, and they’re all listed and they’re all over the place.” Biden repeatedly stressed that none of his or his family’s business dealings was unethical, stating, “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source at any point in my life.”
Biden, who has released 22 years of his tax returns, took a well-aimed shot at Trump’s lack of transparency about his taxes, saying, what are you hiding?” “release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption.”. Trump responded by saying he “prepaid” millions of dollars in his taxes and that the $750 was a “filing fee.” He also reiterated statements he has made for the past four years, saying he’s under an audit and will release his returns as soon as he’s able to. Another false claim because the President may release his returns while under an audit. Biden continued his attack, saying, “Stop playing around; Show us.”
ON THE BLACK COMMUNITY
In one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the debate, President Trump touted his success with African Americans with a series of claims that left most Black Americans scratching their heads. Trump claimed he had done police reform, a criminal justice reform bill, opportunity zones, and “took care of Black Colleges and Universities.” He also claimed he was not racist, ironically saying to a Black moderator that he was “the least racist person I know.”
“Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump … with the exception of Abraham Lincoln – the possible exception – but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I’ve done.”
Biden attacked again, pointing at his previous comments on Mexican’s, Muslims, and White Supremacists. Sarcastically addressing him as “Ole Abe Lincoln over here,” he fired back,
“Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire. Every single one. He started off his campaign, coming down the escalator, saying he is getting rid of those Mexican rapists. He’s banned Muslims because they’re Muslims … This guy has a dog whistle as big as a foghorn.”
Trump pushed back by bringing up the 1994 Crime Bill that Biden co-sponsored, accusing him of calling Black People “super-predators.”
“He’s been in government 47 years, he never did a thing, except in 1994, when he did such harm to the Black community, and they were called, and he called them super predators, and he said that, super predators,” -Trump.
The truth is Biden never called Black American’s super-predators; Hillary Clinton did in 1994.
Trump again stated he had a healthcare plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act but offered no specifics, calling it a “beautiful alternative.” Currently, 20 million Americans are covered under the Affordable Care Act, but the Supreme Court is set to rule on whether it is unconstitutional nor not. When asked what he would do if the court struck down the ACA, Trump said he would like to “terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new, beautiful health care.”
In contrast, Biden said he would like to build on the Affordable Care act and have a public option for health care in addition to private insurance.
“The difference between the president and I, I think health care is not a privilege, it’s a right. Everyone should have the right to have affordable healthcare” -Biden.
Trump repeated false claims that Biden wanted a Medicare for all plan pushed by previous Democratic Presidential candidates, particularly Bernie Sanders. Biden stressed that he was against a Medicare for all plan and beat the other candidates who pushed for it.
“He’s a very confused guy. He thinks he’s running against someone else. He’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.” – Biden.
Biden and Trump clashed on immigration policies, particularly the handling of children separated from their parents at the border. A recent filing revealed that parents of 545 children had not been reunited. When asked by moderator Kristen Welker what he planned to do about it, the president did not answer the question but instead turned to a policy known as “catch and release.” With this policy, immigrants were released and allowed to await their court hearings. Trump called it a disaster repeating comments accusing immigrants of being rapists and murderers shortly after his election saying, “A murderer would come in, a rapist would come in, a very bad person would come in … We have to release them into our country.”
Even though Trump claimed that very few immigrants attended their court hearings, fact-checkers determined that more than 80% of immigrants came to their hearings. Trump also denied immigrant children were arriving in America with Family members. Trump also denied that migrant children were coming to the United States with family members.
“Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels. They used to use them to get into our country. We now have as strong a border as we’ve ever had.” – Trump.
Coyotes are people who smuggle immigrants from Mexico into the United States. It was a term widely unheard of, and the comment sent social media into a frenzy. Biden shot back and said it made us a “laughingstock” of the nation. Trump then attempted to turn the conversation back to the Obama administration, stating they built the cages that people are now held in. “Who built the cages, Joe?” Trump repeated. The truth is these holding facilities were built during the Obama administration to keep migrants for 72 hours before being released to agencies for placement. Under the Trump administration, families have been held for months.
ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The two candidates offered sharply different views on the environment and the subject of climate change. Biden repeated his position of moving away from oil to renewable energy to help the environment and bring well-paying jobs to Americans. In contrast, Trump accused Biden’s plan of being detrimental to the economy and killing the oil industry. Scientists have stated the importance of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to protect the earth from irreversible damage. Trump bragged about ending the Paris Climate Agreement, which Biden said the US would rejoin if he were elected.
The debate took an interesting turn when Biden mocked Trump for saying that wind power causes cancer as the candidates debated renewable energy. Trump retorted,
“We are energy independent. I know more about wind than you do, “It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds. It’s very intermittent, it’s got a lot of problems.”
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service and various fact-checkers, wind turbines do indeed kill birds but not at an exorbitantly large rate; in fact, cats and cell phone towers kill even more.
When asked by the moderator, Kristen Welker, how they would address voters who did not vote for them at their inauguration, the candidate’s character was on full display. Trump presented a “Gloom and Doom” scenario stating an economic depression would be imminent if Biden was elected and never answered the question. He said his administration would bring the economy back to better than before, with his overall response sounding more like a repeat of his campaign rally speeches.
Biden took a more dignified and positive approach stating he would be an “American President,” representing everyone, including those who did not vote for him. He reiterated his vision to improve the economy, create jobs, fight racism, and find an end to the pandemic by listening to science and the experts.
Joe Biden summed this election up by saying, “The character of the country is on the ballot. Our character is on the ballot. Look at us closely,”
Early voting has begun across the country, with the official election day approaching on Nov. 3, 2020.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.