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A Dry and Forgettable Presidential Debate

By Madeline McCarthy

On Thursday, Oct. 22, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden battled it out in Nashville, Tennessee for the final presidential debate. Kristen Welker, an anchor on NBC News and a White House correspondent, moderated the debate — and she proved to be better at standing her ground and keeping the two men under control.

The rather disastrous first debate made the prospect of having to sit through another one dismal. Last time, there was a constant battle for speech between Trump, Biden, and the moderator, Chris Wallace. It was nice to see Welker insist on finishing her questions and sticking to time limits. I also appreciate that Trump did not interrupt nearly as much as he did in the last one. They could finish more of their points, so it felt more like a debate.

“Lukewarm” is the word that came to mind while watching the first sections. Quite an extended amount of time was spent on covid, which is understandable because of the extent of damage the pandemic has caused. But it felt like I had heard all of this before — Trump wants to reopen and Biden feels like being more cautious. 

Another chunk of time was spent arguing about who was more corrupt — I sometimes wonder how we have come to this point. Both men pointed out sketchy actions the other was involved in, like Trump’s bank account in China or Biden’s son’s possible email scandal. Trump criticized Biden on his long history as a politician. At one point, Biden turns directly to the camera and says “it’s not about his family and my family, it’s about your family.” He used a similar tactic in the first debate to appeal to the viewers, and although a bit corny, he has a point. The debate should benefit the American public, but it was often a defensive commentary about themselves. 

It wasn’t surprising that Trump’s taxes were brought up again. Once again, he claimed that he wants to “release them as soon as we can.”

The latter part of the debate proved to be more controversial; questions were asked about race, climate change, and national security. In the beginning of this section, Trump glossed over a point that Welker made about him sharing a video of people a man chanting “white power” to his millions of followers.

When asked about supporting crime bills in the 90’s that led to the incarceration of thousands of Black men for small amounts of drugs, Biden said he made a “mistake.” And I’ll agree with him on that one. The important thing I see here is acknowledgment of the mistake. It would be hypocritical to defend these past actions, especially since he has backtracked on his view of the matter. This approach is more appreciated than any sort of excuse. 

Too many statements coming from our presidential nominees were proven to be inaccurate. A few came from Biden. Specifically, he made a comment about the trade deficit with China increasing, which was proven to be false by a trade reporter in The New York Times. He also mentioned COVID-19 spiking in “red” states, which was said to be misleading by a NYT fact-check reporter. And I am sure there were some more.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, had what felt like a never ending list of comments that were said to be completely false, misleading, or lacking evidence. A notable one was when he said that Biden called the Black community “super predators” in 1996. This term was actually used by Hillary Clinton, who was first lady at the time, when she spoke about the people that were impacted by the crime bill passed in 1994, which disproportionately incarcerated Black men.

Another heated moment during this debate was on the topic of immigration, specifically about the 500 plus immigrant children whose parents cannot be located due to separation at the border. Trump said these children were not brought in by their parents, but “through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs” (he still continues with the harmful rhetoric of immigrants being overwhelmingly bad people). This statement is said to be false by a homeland security correspondent for The New York Times. The separation was due to the “zero tolerance policy” that Trump approved.

It should be up to the two debating to provide proof, not the American public. This is a massive problem because many who watch might take their favorite candidates words at face value without double checking the truth.

The main purpose of this debate felt more like damage control. It was just dry, and much more forgettable than the first. So many people have already voted and I’m not sure another awkward argument between these two helped to change anyone’s mind, especially if they didn’t do any fact checking afterwards. It is strange to think that we even need extensive pages of fact checking, but that is the reality. This was just another disappointment in American political history.

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