Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So the 2nd and final presidential debate aired October 22nd 2020 and we covered it on the behalf of C-SPAN, Washington Post and New York Times.
Donald Trump tried hard to cast Joe Biden as a scandal plagued politician who had failed decades in office, and Biden sought to portray Trump as a demagogue who criminally abused immigrants and mishandled the coronavirus pandemic as the two presidential contenders counterpunched on a wide range of policy issues in their second and final debate.
The two candidates electronically muted for some portions of the night, the constant interruptions from the first debate were replaced by a clearer contrast between their competing views for the country and more sharply defined exchanges of attacks and retorts.
Trump tried to accuse Biden of making money from China, the former vice president pointed out that the president has a bank account in the country and has failed to disclose his income tax returns despite promises to do so.
Trump argued that the stock markets would crash if Biden were elected, Biden responded with his signature line contrasting the gains of Wall Street vs. the cratering Main Street economy, and when Trump sought to paint Biden as a puppet of socialist forces, his opponent pushed back with a forcefulness that has been absent from much of his campaign. “He’s a very confused guy. He thinks he’s running against somebody else,” Biden said. “He’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.”
The most heated moments of the night focused on Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border. Advocates have been unable to locate the parents of 545 children who were separated at the border.
Trump responded by asserting that the separated children had been “so well taken care of” and pressed moderator Kristen Welker of NBC to ask Biden: “Who built the cages?” implying it was the Obama administration. Biden, appearing the angriest he had been the entire debate, shook his head and said the family separations had made the United States the laughingstock of the world.
“It’s criminal! It’s criminal!” he declared.
Biden came to the debate with a well rehearsed cache of opposition research, speaking on Trump over his record on health care, the coronavirus, race relations, the economy, immigration and more. Trump was pushed repeatedly on his record, including areas like health care, where he has failed to deliver on his promises, and at times Trump found himself struggling to respond to attacks on a wide range of policy issues, and on the issue of character which Biden brought up repeatedly.
There were times When Trump found himself struggling to respond to attacks on a wide range of policy issues, and on the issue of character which Biden brought up repeatedly.
When turning to face the camera, Biden said, “He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues. It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family’s hurting badly.”
Trump rolled his eyes and mocked Biden for turning the conversation to families like a “typical politician.”
The exchange was indicative of the tense 90 minute debate at Belmont University in Nashville, which took place just 12 days before Election Day.
Trump’s allegations of corruption by Biden failed to set the tone of the debate, the president instead retreated his campaign’s other main attack line, repeatedly describing Biden as a failed politician.
During the first several minutes of the debate, it seemed as though both candidates were trying to refrain from interrupting the other.
“I’d like to respond if I may,” Trump said at one point, adding “thank you” when he was acknowledged by Welker. The effort, appeared increasingly torturous as the debate progressed, with Trump grimacing and shaking his head and Biden gritting his teeth and stifling laughter as they waited for the other to finish.
The backdrop to the debate and to the election itself is the global pandemic that is leaving more than 222,000 Americans dead and upending the nation’s economy. Trump’s handling of the crisis is a top reason his standing in the polls has been low over the past several months and his lack of introspection after contracting the virus himself has alarmed some advisers who worry that his defiant approach is turning off the voters he needs to prevail. As Trump tried to continue playing down the virus “We’re rounding the turn,” he said Biden pressed him repeatedly over the death toll.
“Anyone responsible for that many deaths should not remain as the president of United States of America,” Biden said.
Early in the debate, Trump made it known to make good on promises from his campaign that he would prosecute the case against Biden over his son Hunter’s alleged foreign business deals. The president accused Biden of being a “corrupt” politician and claimed without evidence that he had been paid $3.5 million from Russia.
“I think you owe an explanation to the American people” Trump said, turning to Biden. “I think you have to clean it up and talk to the American people maybe you can do it right now.”
Biden offered a denial, saying “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source at any time in my life,” and then turned the tables on the president.
He attacked Trump for having a bank account in China, and criticized Trump for doing hotel deals in foreign countries while not releasing his tax returns. “What are you hiding?” Biden said. “Foreign companies are paying you a lot.”
The subject of race also prompted some clashes. Trump insisted he was “the least racist person in this room” and falsely claimed that he has done more for the Black community than any other president before him, with the “possible” exception of Abraham Lincoln. Biden, in turn though gestured toward Trump and retorted: “Abraham Lincoln…here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one.” Biden ran afoul of the facts at times as he made his case against Trump. At one point, he claimed that no one lost their health insurance during the Obama administration, which is not true. He also appeared to apologize for the immigration record of the Obama administration, which included large numbers of deportations and no comprehensive legislation to help undocumented immigrants. “We made a mistake,” Biden said. “It took too long to get it right.”