The First Debate: What You Missed in the Jumble of the Argument

By Emily Dewey

Whether you tuned into CNN, Fox news, or a local news station, people from all over the world gathered together on September 29th to watch the first presidential debate between current president Donald Trump, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Chris Wallace, most widely known as an anchor for FOX News, was the mediator for the night. The debate was organized into 6, 15-minute segments over varying questions and topics that Wallace picked himself. Each candidate was allotted 2 uninterrupted minutes to answer the directed questions and then an open discussion to respond to each other’s answers for the rest of the segment. It Is important to note that these questions were not shared with the candidates or their administration. I think we can all agree, that this debate was very jumbled, and it was hard to understand their political policies and views through all the arguments. Especially if you are a first-time voter, understanding each candidate and making an informed decision is key. Below you will find a in depth recap of everything that happened, and some commentary to clear up confusion.

Segment One: The Supreme Court and Healthcare

Once Trump and Biden entered the stage, it did not take long for the chaos to unfold. The first subject on the plate was the Supreme Court. Donald Trump has announced Amy Coney Barrett as a possible new supreme court justice; and establishes her credibility through credentials and statements from top ranking officials. The decision to replace Justice Ginsburg is very controversial with Biden saying its an abuse of power and a way for republicans to jam through and unequally level the courts. Trump responded noting that its under his constitutional right to appoint a new judge. He prefaces this by saying that “elections have consequences”. As a side comment, he adds that the democratic party would replace their own judge faster if they had the chance. In response, Biden explains that people are not going to get a say in the nomination because election season has already begun. It is clear that he feels the voice of the American people will be silenced because it is the end of Donald Trumps first term. Through the continuous interruption of both parties, Biden accuses Trump of only wanting Barrett to become a justice because she believes the affordable care act is unconstitutional; which, in turn, benefits Trumps agenda to get rid of the affordable care act. Biden is worried that by this act being abolished- that millions of lower-class individuals/ citizens with pre-existing medical conditions will not have viable healthcare.       

This segment quickly shifts into healthcare in general. Trump is widely known for discontinuing Obama Care and creating his own version of this. Although Biden disagrees with this doing, Trump relays the message that the former Vice President wants to make a move into socialism by getting into private healthcare. After Trumps two uninterrupted minutes, Biden explains his healthcare plan. He proposes that Obama care is expanded to support those without access to healthcare, all while allowing private healthcare to continue. Wallace directs the conversation towards the Trump administrations health care plan, beginning with facts that he has never created a comprehensive plan to repeal and replace Obama care. When questioned what the “Trump Healthcare Plan” actually is, he ignores it and brings up the fact that he is currently planning on cutting drug prices up to 80%. He relays this message by explaining that “insulin is so cheap…it’s like water”. Since Big Pharma is a hot topic in the United States, I did some research into President Trumps Statement. According to many credible sources, including people who have diabetes, a months’ worth of insulin can cost up to 40 dollars a day- with most diabetics going through 2-3 vials of insulin a month. Below you will see a graphic that depicts the point of view of a Type 1 diabetic. This graphic shows the growing price of insulin. Moving along, Wallace followed up with Biden establishing “it is said that you want to add a public option to Obama Care, and that it may end private insurance, and create a government takeover of healthcare”. He debunks this rumor by explaining that only people who qualify for Medicaid [under their state’s circumstances] would be enrolled into the public option. Skipping back to the supreme court, Biden refuses to speak on whether or not he would pack the Supreme Court and tells the President to “shut up, man” while calling him unpresidential.

Segment Two: COVID- 19

The discussion about the ongoing pandemic is kept relatively short, with both candidates expressing strong opinions about reopening plans and controversial statistics. The question, in context, is “based on what you have said and done so far, and what you will do in 2021, why should the public trust you over your opponent”. The floor is open to Biden as he slams Trump for responding to the mass amount of deaths and contraction of this virus with “it is what it is”. In addition, he suggests that the President was caught on tape in February stating how deadly the Coronavirus was going to be and the decision to not inform the American people in hopes it would not cause panic. He goes on to explain his own COVID plan, which includes providing protective gear if needed, helping people with small businesses prosper, and fund the different programs that help save lives. He is very reluctant of reopening and says it could contribute to even higher numbers in the U.S. He ends his two minutes with the statement that [the] “public can trust scientist but can’t trust President Trump”. Donald Trump starts out strong by addressing his opinion that the country would’ve been left wide open if Biden was still the Vice President. He continuously blames China for the virus and even brings Dr. Fauci’s name into it to support his decisions regarding Trumps procedure. As far as Trumps continuous reopening plan, he wants to keep the country open (with favor to the economy) because he believes more people will be hurt by shutting it down. The end of the segment discusses rallies and what the two candidates believe is safe. It is not biased to establish that Trump is holding larger rallies of upwards to 35,000 people and thinks it is safe because they are mostly outside. He states that there is no problem with holding them outside due to people wanting to hear what he has to stay; he ends with the incorrect fact that there have been no positive covid cases directly from his rally. In fact, Tulsa’s top health official said the rally likely contributed to a surge in cases after the rally. On the other hand, Joe Biden is announced to have smaller rallies because he believes Trumps rallies are irresponsible.

Segment Three: The Economy

This segment focuses mainly on the economy, with touches of the Corona Viruses affect on it. Let’s start out with the facts- in this rally, Trump establishes that the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.4% in the past month. He also accuses democratic states staying closed until after the election purely for political gain. Remaining Unbiased, I have to bring up that President Donald Trump refers to the Corona Virus as the China Plague multiple times throughout this debate and consistently blames China for everything to do with Covid-19. When it is Joe Biden’s turn, he brings up the valuable point that millionaires and billionaires have done phenomenally during this while the middle and lower class suffer. He supports this by mentioning the number of essential workers that have lost their jobs during this pandemic. He completely flips this topic back to Trumps recent scandal, using the accusation that he has only paid 750 dollars in taxes during his first year in presidency. He prefaces this by insinuating that Trump is taking advantage of the tax codes. Biden’s economic plan is pretty simple- he wants to create 7 million more jobs than President Trump has been able to in his presidency, he projects one million dollars in economic growth, and he wants to raise the corporate tax to 28%. When the same question was opened up to Trump, he addresses Biden’s concerns with his taxes stating, “it’s not true- I have paid millions and millions of dollars of income tax”. He goes off record a bit and demands that the American citizens want their schools and restaurants open. Providing an example, through New York, he describes it as a sad ghost town. He goes further into this piece by establishing that he’s the one who brought back Big-10 football. His economic plan is short and simple- continue the free market approach. Through the arguing and political and personal stabs, Trump brings up Joe Biden’s son (not clearly naming which one until later). He claims that his son has taken millions of dollars from foreign countries and different people. He uses the words dishonorable multiple times to describe the son in question. When Chris Wallace directs the attention towards Joe Biden, who is clearly shaken up by the statement about his son, he replies “hard to get any word in with this clown… I mean this president”.

Segment Four: Race

Up next is the discussion of race and systemic racism in society. This topic mostly focuses on todays protests, and the approaches of these protests. Wallace starts the conversation off saying “President Trumps response to Charlottesville violence is what led Biden to launch this run for presidency…President Trump, you have said you have done more for black Americans than any president, with a possible exception to President Lincoln… the question is why should voters trust you rather than your opponent in facing the race issues in this country over the next four years”. With this loaded and hefty question, Biden starts by confirming he joined the presidential race because of the Charlottesville violence. He moves on by disclosing information about George Floyds recent death. He states when Floyd was killed, President Trump made the military and secret service teargas the [peaceful] protesters in front of the white house. He then relates this back to Covid, claiming that if President Trump continues to do nothing, that 1 in 500 African Americans will be killed of COVID-19. When discussing the grand jury decision of Breonna Taylor, Biden mentioned the question of whether or not justice could be applied equally in America. He answers his own question with a no. He believes there is systemic injustice in jobs, such as education work and law enforcement.  He establishes the very important point that some police officers are decent human beings but the ton of bad apples that aren’t being dispersed of are ruining the force. He introduces the idea of a future group meeting at the White House with him, Civil Rights groups, and police chiefs. He ends his time by explaining that violence in response is never appropriate. On the topic of Law and Order, Biden is posed the question- “what does re-imaging policing mean, and do you support the Black Lives Matter call for community policing”. He clearly states that he is opposed to defunding the police but has thought of some procedures to create a strong relationship between the officers and the community. He proposes more local law enforcement assistance, officers responding to 911 calls to arrive with a psychologist to deescalate situations, and more community policing like before to ensure police are developing a relationship with the members of that community.

Trump starts out strong, saying that he has gained the support of 250 military leaders and generals, and all law enforcement groups have chosen to support him. In addition, he conveys a statement that the Sheriff of Portland, Oregon has his support, when in fact it was later tweeted that he has never and never will endorse President Trump. Chris Wallace changes the subject and asks, “this month your administration directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training that addressed white privilege or critical race theory… why did you decide to end this training, and do you believe there is systemic racism in this country?” Trump claims to have ended this program because it is racist, and a lot of people were complaining. He states that he is not going to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach racism and bad ideas that convey that America is a terrible place to be. On the topic of Law and Order, he blames it on the democrats and claims it to not be a party issue. When speaking on the protests, the question “are you willing tonight to condemn militia and white supremacy groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence”, is proposed, where he finishes his sentences by blaming it on the left wing. When asked again, he redirected it to Antifa and the left and told these white supremacy and militia groups to stand back and stand by.  

Segment Five- Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s Records

The question in play during this entire section was extremely open ended. This allowed the candidates to respond in any way they saw fit. “Why should voters elect you president over your opponent”. Starting out with President Trump, he discloses that there has never been an administration that has done more in the 3 and ½ years he has been in office. He backs this up by adding that he is the founder of the greatest economy, the lowest unemployment, the unity of the U.S., the rebuilding of the military, and the fixing of the VA (Veterans Affairs). He builds on this by expressing the 91% approval rating among veterans and staff at the facilities.

Joe Biden’s first sentence sets the tone for his portion of the segment. He exemplifies that America becomes weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent under the leadership of Trump. He establishes his credibility further by declaring Obama and himself fixed recession and left Trump a booming economy. He assures the public by stating he has gone head to head with Putin and won’t put up with his feedback. He then switches over to addressing how President Trump addressed the military. He claims Trump has called the military losers and suckers. He personalizes this through connecting to the audience. He explains that his son was in Iraq and received both a bronze star and a service award. Trump is clearly confused when he harshly talks about Beau Biden, who passed away from cancer. He seems to have gotten the children of Biden mixed up, but still has said this statement by comparing the two sons.

Segment Six- Climate Change and Mail- in Ballots

On the topic of California Forest Fires and climate change, the question is asked “What will you do in the next 4 years to confront it”. Trump takes the lead with this question, entailing that he has lowered carbon emissions without putting businesses out. He proposes an idea of forest management to deal with the wild fires. The President presents the observation that the floors of the forest are loaded with billions of dead trees. He suggests that we need forest cities- with people who live and maintain the tree floors. Wallace brings up the fact that Trump has rolled back Obamas clean power plan which has limited carbon emissions. He responds with it is driving energy prices through the sky and it is his job to balance environmental and economic interests.

When Joe Biden gets the chance to speak, he discusses his plans to have the environment less affected by 2035. He proposed 2 trillion dollars in green jobs, wanting to end the use of fossil fuels to get energy, and that in turn it will bring more jobs and limit coal and oil costs. In the community, the former Vice President wants to enable 4 million normal buildings to be weatherized to emit less gas and oil by keeping heat in. In addition, although he does not support the Green New Deal, he wants to rejoin the Paris Accord.

Segment Six, part Two- Election Integrity

With the upcoming election, and controversy around a rigged or unfair election, Wallace asks “How confident should we be that this will be a fair election and what are you prepared to do over the next 5+ weeks to reassure the American people that the next president will be the legitimate winner of this election”. Biden stresses that he wants to let people vote. He goes on to say that there is no evidence mail- in- ballots are being manipulated. He wants everybody to vote, no matter what way makes the citizen comfortable. Trump, on the other hand, says that mail- in- ballots are a disaster, with the exception being to solicit (request) ballots. From his point of view, unsolicited ballots create fraud because they are being unfairly sent. For example, some democratic areas are being sent two ballots a piece, and some military ballots have even been found in waste baskets with Trumps name on it.

Finally, the last question that is asked during this 1 and ½ hour debate is “Will you urge supporters to stay calm and not engage in civil unrest? Will you pledge tonight not to declare victory until the election has been independently certified”. While it seems that both parties would agree to this very basic request, only former Vice President Joe Biden does. He says that he is willing to wait for every single ballot to be counted, and that a mail-in-ballot cannot be fraudulent for citizens but not for the military who have been voting this way since the end of the civil war. Trump expresses his opinion by urging his supporters to go into the polls and watch carefully and ends with the statement that he certainly cannot go along with a fraudulent election.

This debate was far from perfect, and many have described it as being the most unprofessional debate in presidential history. To end this recap, I would like to share some light-hearted statistics I have found that may surprise you. Trump interrupted Biden a whopping 57 times. In turn, Biden interrupted Trump 29 times. Trump personally attacked Biden 12 times- one of which being attacking Biden’s son for having a drug problem. Biden Personally attacked Trump 10 times- one of which being telling him he was the “worst president the US has ever seen”. Donald Trump argued with the moderator 25 times and the moderator told him to stop talking 24 times.  No matter what side you are on we can all agree that America has some major changes coming ahead.


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