President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden came face-to-face Tuesday night in the first presidential debate held in Cleveland. The raging COVID-19 pandemic affected the meeting of the two candidates as there were no handshakes and only around 100 people in the audience.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, said ahead of the event he intended to be "as invisible as possible." That plan fell through the roof as the two candidates constantly spoke over each other, throwing personal jabs — forcing Wallace to intervene.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the presidential debate.
Trump Defends Supreme Court Decision: As the debate opened, Trump defended his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barett to the Supreme Court, saying, he was entitled to nominate Barrett since he won the 2016 election.
Biden, on the other hand, said the American people should have the right to decide the Supreme Court nomination through the winner of the 2020 election.
Trump, Biden Spar Over Healthcare: The former vice president said Trump's agenda with Barett's nomination is to strike down the Barack Obama-era Affordable Care Act, and should the law be overturned by the Supreme Court, 100 million people with pre-existing conditions will lose healthcare coverage.
Trump disputed the number and went on to attack Biden claiming the latter's health care plan would "extinguish" private health care of 180 million people, which earned an immediate interjection of "that's simply not true" from the rival candidate.
The animated discussion on healthcare saw Trump claiming that the Democratic party "wants to go socialist" and Biden dismissing the allegations. Trump said he had a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, but offered no details.
Trump's Handling Of The Pandemic: Biden pointed out that 40,000 people were contracting the disease each day, saying, the president was responsible for the dismal numbers. Trump, in turn, laid the blame on China and disputed the numbers of people affected in other countries.
The president claimed credit for closing the borders early on in the pandemic. The debate took an acrimonious turn when Trump accused Biden of mishandling the swine flu. Biden in return said he did not "trust" Trump over the upcoming vaccines.
On Coronavirus Vaccine: Trump added, he has "spoken to the companies" and the vaccine could come "a lot sooner" than expected. The president said he had spoken to Pfizer Inc PFE, and also named Moderna Inc MRNA and Johnson & Johnson JNJ in the debate.
Trump again touted the possibility of having a vaccine before Nov. 1, adding that the military was ready to deliver the vaccine to the people. Biden countered, saying, "This is the same man who told you, by Easter, this would be gone away."
Biden On Defunding Police: Trump came down heavily on his rival over law enforcement, accusing Biden of wanting to defund the police.
"I'm totally opposed to defunding the police officers," Biden retorted. "The vast majority of police officers are good, honorable, decent people."
Trump On Racial Discrimination Protests: Biden decried Trump's record on race and accused him of dividing the people.
"This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred." Trump attacked the former vice-president on his legislative record. "You've treated the African-American population about as bad as anybody in this country."
Trump claimed he was doing better with African-Americans than any Republican had done in a long time. Trump claimed the race-related protests in Portland and elsewhere are run by "radical left Democrats." He decried Antifa's alleged role in the violence related to the recent protests but declined to denounce white supremacist groups.
Biden On Tax Policy: Biden wants to eliminate the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and called for extending help to the "people who need help." Corporate taxes would be brought back to 28% instead of the present 21%, he said. The former vice president pitched his "Buy American" proposal that would prioritize manufacturing in the country.
Trump was critical of the record of the previous Obama administration in wake of the Great Recession and pointed out the rising stock markets as a testament to his success, saying, "When the stock market goes up, it equals jobs."
On Integrity Of Election Results: Trump reiterated his claims over mail-in voting, saying millions of unsolicited ballots are being sent all over the country.
The accusations of fraud mainly centered around voters being turned away from an early voting site in Philadelphia on Tuesday and also on ballots being thrown in the trash last week. The Associated Press reported that the first incident occurred as the poll watchers hadn't yet been accredited to observe and the second incident occurred in a Republican-controlled election office and was reported to authorities.
Biden claimed Trump was just afraid of the votes being counted and dismissed the concerns over ballots saying the military had been voting by mail since the end of the civil war.
Trump On NYT Income Tax Report: Trump rubbished the New York Times report that said he paid $750 in annual federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. The president claimed he paid "millions of dollars" in taxes each year, before being interrupted by Biden. "Show us your tax returns."
When asked again about the amount of tax he paid in those years, Trump said "millions of dollars and you'll get to see it." Pointing the finger on Biden, Trump said, "He passed a tax bill that gave us all these privileges."
Reactions: Political observers were left unamused by the debate between the presidential hopefuls.
"We'll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate ... One thing for sure, the American people lost," said CNN's Jake Tapper.
NBC's Lester Holt said he was at "loss for words" on how to describe "what we just witnessed."
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said, "that was the worst presidential debate I've ever seen in my life."
CNN's Dana Bash summarized her views rather bluntly. "That was a sh*t show," she said.
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