First presidential debate turns to heated remarks and chaos

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in their first presidential debate Tuesday night.

The 90-minute debate was moderated by Fox News correspondent, Chris Wallace, who later described the time as “an interesting hour and a half,” as both candidates talked over one another. Biden and Trump did not stick to their two minute speaking time frame after each question.

The debate was originally planned to be held at the University of Notre Dame’s campus but was moved to Cleveland, Ohio after the university withdrew its bid to host after citing health concerns related to the coronavirus.

Tuesday nights debate comes after a New York Times article revealed that Donald Trump paid a total of $750 in income tax the year he won the presidency and another $750 his first year in office. Biden released his taxes on his campaign website earlier Tuesday, revealing he paid almost $300,000 in income taxes in 2019.

At the debate, the first question asked surrounded Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“We won the election … and therefore we have the right to choose her,” Trump said. “She will be outstanding. She will be as good as anyone who was on this court.”

Barrett is up for nomination in the Senate later this month and will presumably replace Ginsburg.

Biden rebutted, saying the American people have a right to choose who they want on the Supreme Court.

“We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is. That’s the only way the American people get to express their view through who they elect as President and who they elect as Vice President,” Biden said.

Biden also said if Barrett is nominated, a woman’s right to an abortion is threatened.

“It’s just not appropriate to do this before the election,” he said.

In the first segment of the debate, Biden said the president wanted to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. This will strip 20 million people of their health insurance, Biden said.

Biden proposed his expansion of health care while would allow people to keep their private insurance. Biden also criticized Trump’s opposition to the ruling of Roe v. Wade, which was a landmark decision that protected a woman’s right to abortion without government restriction.

Trump said that the Affordable Care Act would be replaced by a better health care system that doesn’t hurt privatized insurance.

“(Trump) has no plan for health care,” Biden said. “He’s been promising a healthcare plan since he’s been elected … the fact is that (Trump) doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Biden also told Trump to “shut up” during this section of the debate.

Following the discussion of the Supreme Court, the next topic was the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, which has killed over 200,000 American citizens and 1,000,000 people worldwide.

Biden criticized Trump’s lack of a plan in response to the pandemic, blaming him for the number of deaths he said could have been prevented.

However, Trump blamed the virus on China and said by closing the country off from China, he helped saved lives within the United States.

“We’re weeks away from a vaccine … far fewer people are dying, we’re doing great…,” Trump said.

However, Biden talked about how the distribution of the vaccine could possibly not happen until later next year if a vaccine is even ready by the end of 2020. He also said that if everyone within the U.S. wore masks and practiced social distancing that there is potential to save countless lives.

Following the discussion on COVID-19 in the U.S., the two candidates discussed the economy.

“We built the greatest economy in history, we closed it down because of the ‘China-plague,” Trump said. “What happened was we closed it down, and now we’re reopening …. we had 10.4 million people we’ve put back into the workforce (Biden) will shut it down again.”

In response to Trump’s claim about the economy, Biden said that only the rich have benefited from the economic rebound because of the pandemic and called back to how Trump only paid $750 of income tax in 2016 and 2017.

But, Trump denied this and said he paid “millions of dollars” in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, when asked.

Biden also said that it’s not possible to fix the economy before fixing the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

“(Trump is) the worst president America has ever had,” Biden said.

The discussion of the economy was followed by discussion of racial injustice.

Biden said that after Trump called protestors on both sides of the Charlottesville protests “very fine people,” he was inspired to run for president.

The 2017 protests involved white supremacist groups clashing with opposing protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent and lead to the death of one woman. 

Trump compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, in terms of helping Black people in the U.S.

Biden criticized Trump for tear-gassing peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in front of the White House on his way to a church for a photo-op in June.

“One in 1,000 Black people have been killed because of the coronavirus and if he doesn’t do something by the end of the year, one in 500 will be killed,” Biden said. “Trump has done virtually nothing.”

Trump then referred to the 1994 Crime Bill that Biden helped draft that disproportionately impacted Black people and called minority groups “predators” that needed to get off the street.

The recent verdict of the Breonna Taylor and the charge of the officers in the case was also discussed.

Wallace then asked Trump why he ended diversity training within federal agencies.

“I ended it because it’s racist,” Trump said. “We were paying people … very bad ideas. They were teaching people to hate our country … They were teaching people our country is a horrible and racist place.”

Biden said he wasn’t fully on board with recent demands to defund the police and that community policing is still needed.

When asked to denounce white supremacist groups, Trump could not bring himself to fully denounce any specific white supremacist group and shifted blame toward the far-left extremist group, ANTIFA.

When asked about the science of climate change, Trump said that the U.S. is doing phenomenal.

“If you look at the Paris Accord… it was a disaster,” Trump said. “I believe that we have to do everything we can to get immaculate water and immaculate air.”

Trump did not define what immaculate water and immaculate air are. 

Trump said that better forest management would’ve helped prevent the wildfires that have been occurring in California.

Trump also said he would plant “a billion trees.”

Biden’s climate change plan involved cracking down on fracking and creating millions of “green” jobs for the economy.

“Nobody’s going to build another coal fire plant in America,” Biden said. “We’re going to move to renewable energy.”

Biden’s climate plan involved creating and upgrading “weatherized” buildings, and believed that the U.S. could get to net zero carbon emissions by the year 2035. He proposed new green infrastructure that has the potential to create millions of  jobs, along with tax incentives for those who go green.

Biden also said he would have the U.S. rejoin the Paris Accord.

Both candidates were asked about the integrity of the election after an influx of mail-in ballots will be sent in because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said that there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are fraudulent and that personnel in the military have been voting by mail ever since the Civil War.

“(Trump) is trying to scare people into thinking that this isn’t a legitimate election,” Biden said.

Biden also said that he would accept the results, no matter what.

Trump felt that ever since his term began that he has been treated unfairly after there were multiple attempts to investigate the legitimacy of the 2016 election.

“As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster,” Trump said. “They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country, it’s fraud … This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”

Biden stated that he would not claim victory until all the ballots have been independently verified. 

Experts have also alluded to how the result of the election may not be known on election night.

“We might not know for months,” Trump said.

Trump urged his supporters to “watch the polls” to ensure that the 2020 election is fair and legitimate.

According to the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll, Biden has a seven-point lead in the state of Wisconsin.

The next presidential debate will be Thursday Oct. 15, which will be moderated by Steve Scully of C-SPAN networks. A vice presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence will be held the previous week, Wednesday, Oct. 7.

This story was written by Benjamin Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu.