5 Coverage Points The place Trump and Biden Diverged at Ultimate Debate
The 2020 presidential campaign was a lot. A measured back and forth over politics wasn’t one of them.
That was until Thursday night when the presence of a mute button and the need for focused discussion led President Trump to debate between the lines.
If the grumpy 90-minute session wasn’t accurately measured, there were long stretches of insightful political discussion (punctuated by insults, name-calling, and falsehoods) defining Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. as standard-bearers for polarized parties.
Mr Biden, the former Vice President, elaborated on the questions put to him and pushed for a beefier response from the government. Mr Trump, whose diminished electoral strength is based on his dealings with the economy, raised the biggest problems – particularly the coronavirus and the environment – in typically Republican, business-friendly terms.
Here is an overview of their main political differences.
Mr. Trump, who systematically dismantled the environmental regulations introduced by former President Barack Obama, said he was committed to “the cleanest water, the cleanest air” – and defended his decision to get out of the Paris climate agreement, which in his estimation sacrificed “tens of millions Jobs, thousands and thousands of businesses “.
He expressed his full support for fracking, a process used to extract natural gas, and questioned the feasibility of alternative energy sources – particularly wind power – over fossil fuels.
“We are energy independent. I know more about wind than you do, ”he said to Mr. Biden. “It is extremely expensive, kills all birds, very temporarily, has a lot of problems and they happen to make the windmills in Germany and China. And the fumes emitted in the process of making those massive windmills are more than anything we talk about with natural gas. “
The former vice president dismissed Mr Trump’s claim that he supported a general fracking ban backed by progressive Democrats, saying he was only committed to a “state fracking ban”.
Mr Biden said he will take steps to combat environmental racism and protect people, especially in minority communities who “live near chemical plants and refineries that pollute”.
Mr Biden made a broader promise tied to his intention to return the United States to the emissions reductions required by the Paris Agreement. “I would switch from the oil industry, yes. That’s a big statement, ”he added. “Because the oil industry pollutes a lot, because over time it has to be replaced by renewable energies. Over time. I stopped giving federal grants to the oil industry. “
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Mr Trump has again downplayed the severity of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Mr Trump signaled his intention to keep up pressure on the “Democratic governors” to fully reopen schools and businesses despite a surge in hospital stays and a national daily death rate of around 1,000.
“I want to open schools, the transmission rate to teachers is low. I want to open the schools and our country, ”he said. “People are losing their jobs and committing suicide, depression, alcohol and drugs at levels no one has seen before. Tremendous abuse. We have to open up our country. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. “
Mr Trump did not call for social distancing or the use of face coverings, although such measures have been shown to reduce the spread of the disease.
He made misleading claims about the speed at which a vaccine would become available to the public, but offered a less optimistic schedule when pushed down by NBC News host Kristen Welker.
“We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced and shipped within weeks,” said Trump, who repeatedly contradicted his own scientific advisors who said a widely used vaccine would not be available until early next year.
“Is that a guarantee?” Mrs. Welker asked.
“No, it’s not a guarantee, but it has a good chance,” he replied.
Mr Biden reiterated his call for a national standard to be created in collaboration with the scientific community to determine the duration and conditions of possible shutdowns in order to contain the spread of the virus in the coming months.
“I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country,” said Mr Biden, who did not rule out recommending a national lockdown if the situation worsened.
“We need standards,” he added. “The standard is when you have a community replication rate above a certain level, everyone says you’re slowing down. More social distancing. Don’t open bars and gyms – don’t open until you are in control. “
Mr Biden said the key to a “safe opening” is to give businesses and communities the “resources” to take security measures.
“The expectation is that another 200,000 Americans will be dead by the end of the year,” he said. “If we just wore these masks, we could save 100,000 lives, according to the presidential advisors. And we are in a situation where the president has no plan yet. Not a comprehensive plan. I would make sure everyone is encouraged to wear a mask all the time. “
Oct. 23, 2020, 7:53 p.m. ET
The Trump administration has long sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law signed by Mr Obama. And on Thursday, Mr Trump found himself in a rhetorical position to simultaneously attack the health bill while also recognizing that the universally popular bill must be replaced if it is overturned by the courts at his request.
Mr Trump boasted of having “canceled” what is known as the one-off mandate, a tax penalty for not buying insurance that he described as “the worst part of Obamacare.”
“What we want to do is end it,” Mr. Trump said of the health bill.
He argued that millions of people like their employers’ private insurance plans and that the option to keep this type of insurance should not be taken away.
Mr Biden set out his plan in simple terms: “I will pass Obamacare with a public option” to allow more people to get public health insurance if they so choose.
He also pledged to “lower premiums and lower drug prices by ensuring that there is no competition that doesn’t exist now by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with insurance companies.”
And Mr Biden made it clear that he does not support the abolition of private insurance.
“I think health care isn’t a privilege, it’s a right,” Biden said after discovering that millions of people lost their private insurance when they lost their jobs.
“We let people in, but they have to come in legally,” said Trump.
He also stressed that his government has ended the “catch and release” practice, in which immigrants who present themselves at the border without a permit are released from custody while waiting for their cases to be processed.
Mr. Biden was visibly excited as he listened to Mr. Trump during the section of the immigration debate, and immediately tried to make it clear that the family breakups had made the United States a “mockery” and that it “violated any idea of who we are have as a nation. “
The former vice president was also specifically asked why voters should trust him to implement immigration reform since the Obama administration was unable to do so.
“We made a mistake,” said Biden, a rare unequivocal admission of failure. “It took too long to get it right.”
“I’ve made it very clear,” he added, “within 100 days I’m going to send the United States Congress a path to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people and all these so-called dreamers, this DACA.” Children, you will be re-certified immediately to stay in this country and find your way to citizenship. “
Criminal and racial justice
In a noticeable moment of debate, Ms. Welker, the second black woman to host a solo presidential debate, asked the candidates directly if they could understand why black parents fear for the safety of their children and are concerned about their encounters with the police.
When Mr. Biden first replied, he admitted that he never had to speak to his children. But he made his stance on inequality and discrimination clear.
“The fact is, there is institutional racism in America,” he said before attacking Mr Trump for heightened divisions in the country.
He called for wider access to education, health care and wealth for those denied the opportunity. And later in the exchange, he advocated rehabilitation rather than prison for those convicted of drug offenses, and stressed the need to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for prison.
When Mrs. Welker asked Mr. Trump: “Do you understand why these parents fear for their children?” – He replied, “Yes I do” and then launched an attack on Mr Biden for supporting the 1994 Crime Act, which Mr Biden has since deemed imperfect.
The president went on to say that “none has done more for the black community than Donald Trump,” referring vaguely to his administration’s reform efforts, the use of opportunity zones, and his administration’s investments in historically black colleges and universities.
“I am the least racist person in this room,” he told Ms. Welker.