September 30, 2020
If you’ve been on the internet in the past 16 hours, you may have seen that Tuesday night’s debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden was anything but presidential. For an uninterrupted 90 minutes, the two septuagenarians barely debated. Instead, they argued over one another, complained about the other’s speaking time, and in some moments flat-out made a mockery of what it means to run for president of the United States. There was little discussion of policy or acknowledgment of the many simultaneous crises voters are battling. Ultimately, as CNN’s Dana Bash said last night, the first 2020 presidential debate was a “shit show.” Or, as Politico reported, it was “an epic moment of national shame.”
Here is a brief list of the moments that epitomized the lowest in a low night for America.
1. When Trump refused to denounce white supremacists
Perhaps the most and least shocking part of the night was when Fox News anchor and debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump, “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities?” “Who would you like me to condemn?” the president retorted. “Give me a name.” Biden offered up the Proud Boys, a white supremacist militia group. But instead of condemning the Proud Boys, Trump instructed them to “Stand back and stand by.”
2. When the two septuagenarians argued over their college grades
When the subject of COVID-19 came up, Biden said that more people were going to die unless the president “got a lot smarter.” In response, Trump, who was apparently triggered by the word “smart,” said that Biden shouldn’t even use that word, given his graduating class rank. Essentially, the two men aspiring to lead the free world got into a fight calling each other dumber.
Given that the two individuals were in college over 50 years ago, you might think that their grades are pretty irrelevant — and even more so when we consider that the topic of discussion was a deadly global pandemic. But apparently they’d disagree.
3. When Biden said to Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”
As you may have noticed, the cross-talk and interruptions were the real winners from last night. While answering a question about possibly packing the Supreme Court, Biden got so fed up with not being able to complete a sentence without interjection that he said to Trump, “Will you shut up man? This is so unpresidential.” He also later said Trump was “the worst president America has ever had.”
4. When Trump attacked Hunter Biden
In one of the ugliest moments, Trump made his attacks deeply personal. The president brought up Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, criticizing his financial turmoil and ridiculing his drug addiction. “My son, like a lot of people, had a drug problem,” Biden responded, addressing viewers at home directly through the camera. “His fixed it, he’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him,” he said. In another moment, when Biden was talking about his late son Beau, Trump pivoted back to Hunter, saying, “I don’t know Beau, but I know Hunter.”
5. When Trump rattled off voting conspiracy theories unchecked
One of the lies that Trump has parroted throughout the campaign is that voting by mail will lead to voter fraud and that the process can’t be trusted. (Nevermind the fact that he himself votes by mail.) The conspiracy theories attacking the efficacy of election integrity are one thing, but the fact that they went largely unchecked by Wallace is cause for concern. Despite mountains of evidence that voting by mail is secure (and that the greatest election security threats come from foreign actors), Trump claimed, “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.” He continued, “These ballots are going to be all over. It’s a fraud, and it’s a shame.”