No Love Lost in Nashville: Trump and Biden Spar in Final Presidential Debate
By: Hannah Langley ’21
On Thursday, Oct. 22, the United States waited in anticipation for the final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Compared to the first debate, which CBS News called “a chaotic series of bitter exchanges and name-calling,” this debate actually presented arguments and was “civil, calm, sedate, substantive (at times) and, almost, even normal,” as stated in the New York Times.
Shannon Sullivan ’21, co-president of PC Democrats, stated her concerns for the final debate, saying, “I really do hope that this debate is productive and engaging. However, I feel discouraged after watching the first debate because it felt more like a reality TV show than a presidential debate.”
Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated the debate, making her just the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate alone. Many praised Welker’s handling of the debate as she was able to control the conversation well, despite initial fears of a repeated presidential shouting match. In addition to Welker having good control over the conversation, Trump and Biden’s microphones could also be muted during their opponent’s responses to avoid frequent interruption.
Welker began the debate on the topic of COVID-19. Trump emphasized that the country’s mortality rate has gone down drastically since the beginning of the virus’s spread in the U.S. He believes the actions he took early on in the pandemic, such as closing America’s borders to China and other countries, as well as closing the economy, helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. He also stated there will be a vaccine released very soon, even as shortly as in the next few weeks, claiming, “We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away soon.”
Biden refuted these claims, arguing, “Anyone who’s responsible for [the deaths of 220,000 Americans] should not remain as President.” He also argued against Trump’s claim that the virus will go away soon, saying that an estimated 200,000 additional people will die of the virus by the end of this year. “There’s not another serious scientist that believes this is going to end soon,” said Biden.
Trump also claimed that Americans are learning to live with the virus at this point, while Biden refuted, saying that people are not learning to live with the virus, but die with it, and encouraged the American people to continue wearing masks in order to prevent a greater spread.
The second topic of the debate was foreign relations, and specifically foreign interference with the current upcoming election. Biden stated, “Any country that interferes with American elections will pay the price.” Trump said that Russian interference would not be tolerated and that “there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”
The conversation then shifted to both Trump and Biden’s own personal relationships with countries such as Russia, China, and the Ukraine, to which both men accused one another of embezzling money secretly. Trump admitted to having foreign bank accounts from before his presidency, but claimed that these accounts were closed. He also stated that the records of his tax returns would be released soon, and that the search for them has been a “phony witch hunt.”
Trump also spoke about the United States’ relationship with North Korea. While Trump argued that the Obama administration has an unstable relationship with the North Koreans, he said the United States’ relationship with North Korea is now very good and clearly there is no war, while Biden argued that Trump has been “pok[ing] his finger in the eye of all our friends” around the world.
Following this conversation, Welker shifted the debate towards health care. Trump claimed that the Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare, needs to be remodeled, which is what he has been doing for the past four years. Although Trump has not been able to terminate Obamacare, he has been able to do several things, such as eliminate individual mandates for those who pay for health care. Trump also claimed that no one with pre-existing conditions would lose their health care.
Trump called Biden’s plan for healthcare a socialized program that would cause the stock market to crash, but Biden argued against this claim. He stated that everyone should have the right to affordable health care.
Biden also stated, “I don’t see red states and blue states. What I see is American, United States.”
In their discussion about immigration and deportation, Trump made the argument that undocumented immigrants enter the country through illegal drug cartels, coyotes, and gangs, and only about 1% of those who are supposed to return to the border actually do so. Trump claimed that Biden did nothing to help immigrants except for building cages during the Obama Administration, but Biden promised to build a better immigration system, reminding viewers, “I’ll be president of the United States, not vice president of the United States.”
On the topic of race, Trump claimed, “Not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I’ve done for the Black community” and that he was probably “the least racist person in the room.” He cited how he has invested a “tremendous” amount in the Black and Hispanic communities and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Biden, on the other hand, discussed how he recognized his white privilege, saying he never had to teach his children that they are “the victim no matter what.” He also stated that the infamous 1994 crime bill was a mistake. While Trump argued that Biden did not do anything to fix the bill during his eight years as vice president, Biden gave his thoughts on punishment: “No one should be going to jail for a drug problem, they should be going to rehabilitation.”
In regards to climate change, Trump claimed the U.S. has “done an incredible job environmentally” and that Biden’s plan is “an economic disaster.” Trump stated that Americans, especially Blacks and Hispanics, are “employed heavily” in the oil industry and removing these jobs, as Biden wants to do, would hurt the economy. Biden refuted this claim, however, saying his environmental plan has been backed by several environmental and labor groups, and his plan would create millions of jobs and trillions of dollars.
To conclude the debate, Trump stated that Biden’s election would cause “a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.” Biden stated, “I represent all of you, whether you voted for or against me.”
Both Sullivan and Charlie Dumon ’21, president of PC Republicans, agreed that this debate went much more smoothly than the first one held back in September. “The President did a great job in Thursday’s debate, and I think the moderator was much better as well,” said Dumon.
Sullivan was also happy with the outcome of the debate, saying, “I think this debate was a lot better than the first in all aspects.” She continued, saying, “I think I got much more out of this one and actually learned something about the candidates.”
While this was the final debate before the official election on Nov. 3, Americans still have time to decide whether they will vote for Trump or Biden, either in-person or by mail-in ballot.