By: Megan Rose Dickey
This is an opinion column. It was written before news broke of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. On Tuesday, Sept. 29, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took part in the first presidential debate of the year.
This debate was very contentious and combative to say the least. It pulled in 73 million television viewers alone during its original airtime. Many more viewed the debate afterward via YouTube, news clips, and other sources. Fox News host Chris Wallace moderated the debate. Topics ranged from COVID-19, the economy, health care and climate change.
Throughout the allotted debate time, President Trump and Biden argued more than they discussed their plans for the future. According to BBC, this presidential debate “descended into squabbling, bickering and insults.” Due to this, the commission that oversees presidential debates decided to alter its format and rules in the interest of ensuring more order at the next two presidential debates.
One of these new rules is attempting to limit the number of interruptions coming from both candidates. President Trump interrupted Biden at least 57 times while Biden interrupted President Trump 29 times. There was unprofessionalism on both parts including personal attacks. Each campaign team will be informed of the rules before the next presidential debate, but they will not be able to object to them.
One of the main topics of the debate was racial injustice in the country and the protests and riots that have emerged from this issue. Specifically, Wallace mentioned the riots started by either alt-left groups, such as Antifa, or alt-right groups, such as the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys group has been described as a far-right, anti-immigrant, all-male group with a history of terrorist-like violence, such as the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Wallace asked President Trump if he would publicly condemn white supremacy. He did not condemn or outright support the growing alt-right movement. The president usually avoids tough questions with ambiguous or contradictory answers. When asked to condemn white supremacy by Wallace, he first attacked the actions of the “left-wing” and did not directly answer the question. When both the moderator and Biden repeated the question, he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Then, President Trump moved on to quickly criticize Antifa and the left-wing, claiming that the violence in the country is “not a right-wing problem.”
Many have criticized President Trump for making the recent violence a partisan issue while others have denounced his refusal to publicly condemn the alt-right movements.
Just as well, another point of contention was former Vice President Biden’s vocal opposition to the Green New Deal. This contradicts what is said on his campaign website, where he claims to support the congressional resolution for the problems of climate change. Also, Senator Kamala Harris, his running mate, is a supporter of the Green New Deal.
This debate was nothing short of a chaotic mess. Hopefully, by the next presidential debate on Oct. 15, more order will be established. This will be the second of two upcoming debates scheduled before the election on Nov. 3, along with a vice presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 7.
Megan Rose is a staff writer for the Samford Crimson. She is a sophomore political science and english double major student.