Trump bulldozes Biden with lies while stumbling president fails to keep up

Trump bulldozes Biden with lies while stumbling president fails to keep up

It took less than 10 minutes for President Joe Biden to nearly completely freeze for four seconds before mistakenly blurting out that he “beat Medicare.”

The president has spent the last several years underscoring Donald Trump’s antidemocratic threat and the nation’s slide into autocracy under his administration.

But within minutes into their debate rematch ahead of the 2024 presidential election on Thursday, it appeared that the only thing standing in the way of that dark vision of America’s future was a frail 81-year-old man who couldn’t respond to a 90-minute stream of lies.

The Democratic president was hoarse and his responses were often strung together in brief, confusing and disconnected phrases. His Republican rival, without any real-time fact-checking, unloaded bogus claims that bulldozed his opponent and the debate moderators.

At one point, Biden appeared to lose his train of thought in a hard-to-follow sentence before he left open a long and awkward moment of silence that only gave Trump more ammunition.

Biden said he wanted to make sure “every single solitary person” was eligible for “what I’ve been able to do with the Covid – excuse me, with, dealing with everything we had to do with, look,” he said before looking down and pausing for several seconds.

“We finally beat Medicare,” he eventually said by mistake.

“Well, he’s right,” Trump replied. “He did beat Medicare. He beat it to death.”

Joe Biden and Donald Trump appear at the first 2024 presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27. (Getty Images)
Joe Biden and Donald Trump appear at the first 2024 presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27. (Getty Images)

Since they last met, Trump unsuccessfully tried to overturn the results of the election he lost, failed to stop a mob from storming the halls of Congress to do it by force, got indicted in four separate cases encompassing 88 criminal charges, and became the first-ever American president to be criminally convicted.

Trump’s on-stage reunion with Biden in Atlanta is also in a state where the former president is criminally accused of waging a conspiracy to overturn his rival’s victory.

In two weeks, he will be sentenced in New York after a jury found him guilty of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to influence the 2016 election.

The first debate in American history between a president and a criminally convicted candidate opened with their visions of the economy, then deteriorated into Trump’s lies about immigration, abortion, January 6 and the 2020 election.

Opening with questions about inflation, Trump lied about the state of the economy under his watch (“the greatest economy in the history of our country … everybody was amazed by it”) and falsely claimed that the only jobs under the Biden administration “were for illegal immigrants”.

He repeatedly refused to answer questions, instead deflecting with answers on his own terms in stream-of-consciousness riffs and insults that sounded more like Trump’s delirious campaign rallies.

Trump in reality created fewer new jobs in his first three years than his predecessor Barack Obama did within his final three years. The former president also took credit for the Veterans Choice Act – again, another measure under Obama.

When questioned about his plans for a 10 percent tariff on imported goods, Trump insisted it wouldn’t drive up prices at home, and would instead “cost countries that have been ripping us off” – a statement unchecked by moderators.

CNN muted the candidates’ microphones, preventing Trump from speaking over his opponent.

But moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper failed to do any on-the-spot fact checks, leaving it up to a mumbling Biden – who stared wide-eyed as Trump spoke towards the space where an audience would be – to find the truth in his rival’s statements.

When Trump lied that abortion rights advocates want to “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month” and perform “after-birth” abortions, those obviously false statements were left to hang in the air until Biden could mutter out that they are “not true.”

During their September 2020 debate, Biden warned that the constitutional right to an abortion is “on the ballot.”

Trump, who appointed three justices to the Supreme Court, told Americans that “there’s nothing happening there.” Less than two years later, the Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade.

On Thursday, Trump claimed that he would not ban a widely used abortion drug at the center of another Supreme Court case, despite his allies in Congress and in state legislatures actively trying to block Americans from getting it.

“What’s he gonna do, when MAGA Republicans control the Congress?” Biden said about possible national restrictions on abortion access. “Is he gonna sign that bill? I’ll veto it. He’ll sign it.”

President Joe Biden looks down during his first 2024 debate with Donald Trump on June 27. (AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden looks down during his first 2024 debate with Donald Trump on June 27. (AFP via Getty Images)

The debate marked the first time that an elected Democratic official has confronted the former president in person for his role in the January 6 on the Capitol – but it took roughly 40 minutes to get to it.

Trump was asked twice what he would say to voters who say he violated his oath that day, and he failed to answer both times. Instead, he said “we had a great border” and “we were respected all over the world” on January 6 before laying the blame on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“He sat there for three hours, three hours, watching, being begged by his vice president and a number of his colleagues and Republicans as well, to do something,” Biden said.

“He wants to let them all out,” Biden said of the hundreds of defendants accused of joining the attack. “And now he says if he loses it again, such a whiner that he is, that it could be a bloodbath.”

Biden pointedly asked Trump, as he did in 2020, to denounce far-right violence, but he never got an answer. Trump started ahead, barely even noticing.

Joe Biden walks off stage during the CNN presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27. (Getty Images)
Joe Biden walks off stage during the CNN presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27. (Getty Images)

Moderator Dana Bash asked Trump three times whether he would accept election results if he lost again. Trump said he would, only if he deems it “fair” and “legal” and “good” before he repeated his bogus allegations of fraud he baselessly claims had cost him the 2020 election.

Trump, whose campaign is built on retribution and political vengeance, even suggested at one point that President Biden “could be a convicted felon as soon as he gets out of office.”

“The idea that you can seek retribution just because your president is wrong. Simply wrong,” Biden said.

“How many billions of dollars in fines for molesting a woman in public? Of having sex with a porn star?” Biden added. “You have the morals of an alley cat.”

At another point, Biden said that “this guy’s three years younger and a lot less competent.”

Trump replied by boasting about his cognitive test results and his golf championships, then devolved into both men bragging about their handicap.

Biden has agreed to only one more debate event with Trump, on September 10 – nearly three months away, and a month after Biden is expected to receive the Democratic Party’s official nomination.

But Democrats and election analysts walked away from Thursday night’s debate wondering how it all went so terribly wrong, and whether Biden could even be replaced as the party’s nominee, after one single debate performance to millions of voters revealed the candidate who is supposed to take on an existential threat.