By Alyssa Vega
BU News Service
President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden fought for airtime in a highly combative presidential debate Tuesday night – six feet apart, of course.
In the run-up to November’s election, the first of three presidential debates was held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The debate was marked by near constant interruptions and personal attacks.
“It’s hard to get any word in with this clown,” Biden said as he tried to finish his answer without getting interrupted by President Trump.
There was clear frustration from moderator Chris Wallace as he struggled to control the chaos.
“I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that,” Wallace, a Fox News anchor, said to Trump.
“Well, and [Biden] too,” Trump replied.
“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting,” Wallace said.
With Election Day only 35 days away, Biden continues to lead Trump in national polls.
Wallace opened the debate with the topic of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The nomination came just three days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.
Biden said that this election would be a vote on healthcare, as the new Supreme Court justice could change the fate of the Affordable Care Act in a case due to be heard in November.
“[Trump] has no plan for healthcare,” Biden said.
Trump and Biden also argued over how many people in the U.S. have pre-existing conditions.
“There are 100 million people who have pre-existing conditions,” Biden said. Trump then interrupted, arguing that Biden’s number was inaccurate.
Early in the debate, Trump attacked Biden’s intelligence and questioned his performance in college.
“You said you went to Delaware State, but you forgot the name of your college,” Trump said, interrupting Biden. “You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class.”
About 20 minutes into the debate, Wallace brought up the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 200,000 Americans. Biden criticized Trump’s efforts to control the pandemic.
“[Trump] said by Easter, it would’ve gone away,” Biden said. “He knew back in February how serious this crisis was.”
“You’ll have a vaccine soon,” Trump replied.
Biden then called President Trump “the worst president America has ever had.”
Wallace turned the debate towards the economy, opening the discussion with Trump’s income taxes. Trump claimed that he “paid millions of dollars in taxes” and denied the recent New York Times investigation, which revealed that he only paid $750 in federal taxes the year he won the presidency and another $750 during his first year in the White House.
Hours before the presidential debate, Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris voluntarily released their 2019 tax returns. According to Biden’s tax returns, he and his wife paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes.
Just moments after he released his federal tax returns, Biden tweeted, “The American people deserve transparency from their leaders. It’s why as of today, I’ve released 22 years of my tax returns.”
One of the most divisive topics of the night was racial injustice and policing. Trump painted Biden as a threat to quiet suburbs and a sympathizer with violent rioters. But Biden used the question as an attempt to bring the chaotic debate back to his talking points of unity and cooperation.
“All [Trump] ever wants to do is divide people, not unite people at all,” Biden said. “This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist, hatred, racist division.”