Contrasting perspectives on COVID-19
Trump’s difficulty in articulating a defense for his handling of the pandemic remained a drag on his campaign at a critical time. The opening topic of the debate was quite predictable – Trump received variations of the same question in interviews and rarely delivered a clear answer.
When asked to describe his plan for the future, Trump instead claimed his past management was flawless and predicted a rosy turnaround from the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans.
WATCH: Trump and Biden discuss impact of COVID-19 on New York City:
“We are turning the corner, we are turning the corner,” Trump said, even as cases spiked again across the country. “It’s going away. ”
Biden, who sought to continue Trump’s handling of the virus in his closing address to voters, has prepared. “Whoever is responsible for these many deaths should not remain President of the United States of America,” he said.
« [Trump] says “we, you know, we learn to live with it”. People learn to die with it. ”
Relaxed, but the insults still fly
Three weeks after drawing bipartisan criticism for his frequent interruptions and harassment of his Democratic rival, Trump adopted a more moderate tone at the start of the debate.
Trump asked NBC News moderator Kristen Welker about the opportunity to follow up on Biden’s responses – “If I can? – rather than just jumping, and he thanked Welker several times for starting.
Out of the gate, this debate looked different from the first outing, when Trump’s relentless interruptions and missed deadlines derailed the 90-minute contest from the start – but there was still digging.
“We can’t lock ourselves in a basement like Joe does,” Trump said, resuming his spring and summer attacks on Biden by staying at his residence rather than campaigning in person in the middle of the pandemic.
Biden smiled, laughed, and shook his head in Trump’s direction. He mocked Trump for once, suggesting that the bleach helped kill the coronavirus.
WATCH | Biden and Trump trade insults in a peaceful debate:
The two have had a long back and forth about their personal finances and their entanglements in family matters. But overall, voters at home got something they didn’t get on September 29: a debate.
It marked a recognition by Trump that his explosive side was a handicap for the elderly voters and suburban women who flocked from the GOP to Democrats.
Clash over relations with North Korea
Trump said the administration of former President Barack Obama left him with a “mess” to deal with in terms of tempering relations between the United States and North Korea.
Trump said he avoided a war that could have threatened millions of lives, adding that Obama told him he viewed Kim Jong-un’s potential danger as one of the greatest threats to national security from the country.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden said Trump had “legitimized” a “thug” by meeting and forging a relationship with Kim. Trump replied that Kim “didn’t like Obama” and insisted that “having good relations with other countries is a good thing”.
Biden countered by noting that the United States “had a good relationship with Hitler” before the invasions that led the country to World War II.
Trump defends separation of children at border
Trump has championed separation through his administration of the children of immigrants who remain away from their families after detentions along the US-Mexico border. He said children are often brought across the border not by families but “by coyotes and lots of bad guys.”
The U.S. Civil Liberties Union told a judge this week that there are still 545 children separated from their parents since 2018.
Trump said his administration built more than 640 kilometers of the promised border fence. He also said “they had built cages,” referring to the Obama-era facilities described in media reports during the separations.
WATCH | Biden denounces the separation of children at the border:
Biden took issue with Trump’s response, saying children “were taken” from their families in 2018.
As he has done since the primary campaign, Biden defended the Obama administration’s immigration policy, admitting that it “took too long to get it right.”
Candidates get high on race relations
Welker both provided multiple opportunities to speak directly to black Americans. Both men said they understand the challenges black citizens face, but the segment was mostly about continuing.
Trump blamed Biden as an almost singular force behind mass incarceration, especially of “young black men.” Trump declared himself “the least racist person in this room” and repeated his assertion that “no one did what I did” for black Americans “except Abraham Lincoln, except possible ”.
WATCH | Trump claims he is “the least racist person in this room”:
Biden said Trump “stoked every racist fire” and referred to the moment in the first debate when the president would not condemn white supremacy. During the debate on September 29, Trump told the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to “step back and be ready.”
The race discussion in the country lasted for several minutes, with Biden then sarcastically seizing on Trump’s penchant for saying that he has done more for black Americans than any president since Lincoln by referring to Trump as “Abraham. Lincoln over here ”.
Trump said Biden had four years as vice president to fight racism, but did not. “You’re all talking and no action, Joe,” he said.
Biden said Trump was a bait for the race, saying the president “had a dog’s whistle about as big as a mist horn.”
Biden and Trump end with markedly different tones
To close the debate, Trump and Biden offered dramatically different versions of what they would say to Americans who did not support them on a hypothetical inauguration day.
Trump that if re-elected, in his inaugural address he will tell voters who did not support him in the election that “success will bring us together, we are on the road to success.” He touted the country’s economic growth “before the plague coming from China” that sparked the coronavirus pandemic.
WATCH | Trump paints a grim picture of a Biden presidency:
Biden, meanwhile, says he would tell his critics that “I represent you all, whether you voted for or against me” and “I will make sure you are represented.” He went on to reiterate some of his main campaign themes, pledging to grow the economy, fight systemic racism, move the nation forward towards clean energy, and ensure that every American has “a. equal chance ”.
WATCH | Biden explains what he would say to Americans who did not vote for him if they were elected:
What do you want to know about the American elections? Your questions help inform our coverage. Write to us at [email protected]