The final U.S. presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was far more civilized than the first time around, with far fewer interruptions and armed with the seemingly rarely used ability to mute microphones.
American voters were hopefully able to be better understand each party’s position on core issues in the country before the Nov. 3 election, but the night was certain not void of heated spats.
‘The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself’
The first of six major topics asked by moderator Kristen Welker during the U.S. presidential debate was about COVID-19 and what each of the candidates would do to lead Americans out of the health crisis.
Trump said Americans could see a viable vaccine for the virus “within weeks.” He did backtrack and said it is “not a guarantee” but maintained that the U.S. will have a vaccine, that will be distributed rapidly, by the end of the year.
When pressed on what companies are this close to having a vaccine ready for distribution, the U.S. president named Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer.
Biden quickly shot back saying that the U.S. is going into a “dark winter” with “no plan” on how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and no prospect of a viable vaccine “before the middle of next year.”
Trump went on to address his personal COVID-19 diagnosis, saying he had it and “got better very fast” after have a therapeutic treatment. He added that his son, Barron, was also infected with COVID-19 and by the time Trump spoke to the doctor the second time “he was fine.”
“It will go away,” the U.S. president said. “We’re rounding the corner.”
“We can’t keep this country closed...The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”
Biden repeatedly called out Trump for not having a comprehensive effective plan to manage COVID-19, including providing resources for businesses to be able to operate safely, adding that “people are learning to die” with the virus.
He added that the U.S. president was lying to the American people since February, initially promising the virus would be gone by Easter and then by the summer.
“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” the former U.S. vice president said.
‘Those kids are alone...it’s criminal’
Welker asked Trump about the children who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, with the country unable to locate the parents of 500 children.
The U.S. president said these children were brought to the U.S. by coyotes, cartels and gangs, who used these kids to get into the U.S.
Trump went on to say that these children are “so well taken care of” in facilities that were “so clean.”
Biden strongly shot back the U.S. president, saying parents brought their children across the border, adding that the separation makes the country a “laughing stock” and “violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”
“Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone, nowhere to go...it’s criminal,” Biden said.
‘Those with the lowest IQ, they may come back’
In a particularly shocking moment during the debate, Trump commented on what he called the “catch and release” process where immigrants stay in the country while waiting for a hearing on their immigration case.
Trump described it as a disaster where “murderers” and “rapists” would be caught at the border and released into the U.S., and never end up showing up for their hearing.
“Those with the lowest IQ, they may come back,” the U.S. president said.
That comment in particular instantly got a lot of criticism on social media.
‘I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States’
In discussion around shortcomings of the Obama administration, Welker asked if immigration reform couldn’t be delivered then, why should voters trust Biden to do it now.
“It took too long to get it right,” Biden said. “I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States.”
“Within 100 days I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people and all those so-called dreamers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified again to able to stay in this country... We owe them.”
Trump wasn’t convinced that Biden will be able to keep his promise that never materialized under Obama.
‘I’m the least racist person in the room’
The U.S. president maintained during the debate that he is “the least racist person in this room.”
This comes after Welker asked him to respond to Americans who say that his language on the Black Lives Matter movement is “contributing to a climate of hate and racial strife.”
“The first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter they were chanting ‘pigs in a blanket,’ talking about police... ‘fry ‘em like bacon,’” Trump said. “That was my first glimpse of Black Lives Matter, I thought it was a terrible thing.”
People also took to social media to call out the U.S. president on his claim about the national organization.
When Welker asked Biden about The Talk, the conversation Black parents need to have with their children, he admitted that he never had tell his daughter, a social worker, that if she is pulled over to make sure she puts two hands on the wheel and doens’t reach for the glove box because “someone might shoot you.”
He added that “there is institutional racism in America.”
The former U.S. vice president said the country had been moving toward being a more inclusive place but “this is the first president to come along and say, that’s the end of that.”
Trump responded to the question by saying that “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump” with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln, who Biden later called racist.
Biden also responded to criticism of a 1994 crime bill that he signed, which resulted in a signifiant increase in incarcerations, particularly in Black and racialized communities.
The former U.S. vice president admitted it was a “mistake.”
“I’ve been trying to change it since then, particularly the portion on cocaine,” Biden said, adding that no one should sent to jail for a pure drug offence.
“They should be going into treatment,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to get done.”
Trump pressed Biden, demanding he answer why he didn’t change this under the Barack Obama administration, with the former U.S. vice president eventually responding by saying there was a Republican Congress.
‘We’re not in a war, we have a good relationship’
During the portion of the debate around national security, Trump was pressed on his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“When I met with Obama...he said the biggest problem we have is North Korea,” the U.S. president said. “He indicated we would be in a war with North Korea.”
“We’re not in a war, we have a good relationship.”
Trump described Kim Jong-un as a “different kind of a guy” and went on to say the North Korean leader would not meet with Obama because he “didn’t like him.”
Biden condemned the U.S. president’s relationship with Kim Jong-un, saying Trump has “legitimized” North Korea.
“The reason he would not meet with president Obama is because president Obama said we’re going to talk about denuclearization, we’re not going to legitimize you, we’re going to continue to push stronger and stronger sanctions on you,” Biden said.
The former U.S. vice president also compared Trump’s “good relationship” with Kim Jong-un to Hitler, saying “it’s like saying we had a great relationship with Hitler before he, in fact, invaded...the rest of Europe.”