Final presidential debate: Donald Trump, Joe Biden discuss contrasting realities and plans

U.S. President Donald Trump defends his approach to the coronavirus outbreak and claims the worst of the pandemic was in the past.

Updated - November 28, 2021 01:30 pm IST

Published - October 23, 2020 06:53 am IST - Washington

Donald Trump and Joe Biden during a presidential debate. File photo.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden during a presidential debate. File photo.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden came face to face for their final debate before Election Day. The candidates, who debated at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, sparred on topics that included the pandemic, climate change, China and corruption.

The debate was markedly less chaotic than the first debate — possibly due, in part, to the muting of microphones during segments of each candidate’s response; Mr Trump did not interrupt Mr Biden as he did in the first debate allowing for a clearer presentation of both sides’ positions.

The response to the pandemic and how each candidate would lead the country out of it was discussed at length, with Mr Biden warning that the country was heading into a “dark winter.”

“Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president,” Mr Biden said.

As president he would encourage everyone to wear masks, introduce rapid testing, institute national standards for schools and businesses to open up and give them financial assistance to spend on safety measures, he said.

“All he does is talk about shutdowns,” Mr Trump said.” No, we’re not going to shut down and we have to open our schools.”

Mr Trump said that the shutdown had caused depression, job loss, suicide, alcohol and drug use as well as abuse.  He said 2.2 million were expected to die — a misleading statement based on a White House disease model scenario if no person took any action to curtail infections. Mr Trump insisted again, that the country was “rounding the turn” [turning the corner] on the pandemic.

To Mr Trump’s “We’re learning to live with” the pandemic, Mr Biden said, “We are learning to die with it.”

When moderator Kristen Welker of NBC asked Mr Trump if he could guarantee that a vaccine would be out in weeks he said no, but said there was a “good chance” it would be available that soon.

“No it’s not a guarantee but it will be by the end of the year,” he said. “But I think it has a good chance, there are two companies …I think within a matter of weeks.”

Mr Trump repeatedly tried bringing the conversation to unsubstantiated claims of Mr Biden’s family getting money from abroad. Through the last few days the Trump campaign and his allies have sought to bring attention to the foreign dealings of Mr Biden’s son, Hunter.

“We cannot all lock ourselves in a basement like Joe does,” Mr Trump said. “He has the ability to lock himself up…he made a lot of money someplace.”

Mr Biden questioned Mr Trump on why he hadn’t still released his tax returns as he had said he would, and brought up his “secret” Bank account in China. [ Mr Trump had declared the account in his tax documents but not in his public disclosure of assets as the account was held by one of his companies ].

“It’s not about his family and my family, it’s about your family. And your family’s hurting badly,” Mr Biden said at one point in the debate.

Mr Biden said he did not understand why Mr Trump was “unwilling to take on [ Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” on reports that Russia had offered bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and Mr Putin’s actions to destabilize NATO .

“Any country that interferes with us will, in fact, pay a price, because they’re affecting our sovereignty,” Mr Biden said.

On North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, Mr Trump pointed out that there was no war with North Korea and that the he had a “good relationship.”

“Having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is a good thing,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Biden, who said he would (as president) talk to Mr Kim if the latter agreed to “drawing down” his nuclear capacity, likened Mr Trump’s position to having a good relationship with Adolf Hitler prior to the Nazis invasion of other European countries.

On race, Mr Trump defended his position  on Black Lives Matter (the moderator had asked him about his equating it to a symbol of hate) but said he was the “least racist person in the room.” Mr Biden said Mr Trump was “one of the most racist Presidents we’ve had in modern history.”

On healthcare policy, Mr Biden said he was going to modify Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) to include a public option.

“Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan, nor did they under Obamacare,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Trump insisted that Mr Biden supported “socialized medicine” [ a government run healthcare system].

“He’s a very confused guy. He thinks he’s running against somebody else. He’s running against Joe Biden,” Mr Biden said. Mr Trump has repeatedly said Mr Biden is controlled by the “radical left” and progressive flank of the Democratic party.

“I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them,” Mr Biden said.

At one point, Mr Trump was asked about a  report this week that the parents of 545 migrant children separated from their families at the southern border could not be located.

“They are so well taken care of. They’re in facilities that were so clean,” Mr Trump said. He also said that the Obama-Biden administration had built the cage like structures in which migrants were being held. [The Obama-Biden administration had in fact been criticized for its own border policies and tough approach to deportation. ]

Towards the end, the debate focussed a substantial amount of time on the two candidates’ climate policies. Mr. Trump asked Mr Biden if he would “close down the oil industry.” Mr Biden said “over time, over time” he would “transition” and would stop giving oil  federal subsidies.

“Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Biden clarified after the debate that he wanted to end federal subsidies to oil companies and not get rid of fossil fuels , the Washington Post reported.

At the end of the debate, when asked what they would say at their hypothetical inaugural address to those who did not vote for them. Mr Trump used his time to say Mr Biden would cause an economic depression if elected and about his own economic record.  Mr Biden said he would tell people he was there to represent all of them and was going to give them hope.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.