President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have clashed in a high-tempered first presidential TV debate, just 35 days before the US elections take place on November 3rd.
The live 90-minute debate shocked audiences around the world, with the number of interruptions stilting the conversation and limiting potential for a free-flowing exchange of ideas.
As described by the BBC, defendant Trump made a total of 73 interruptions, compared to 22 by former Vice-President Biden.
The tone and substance of Tuesday night’s exchange has also been criticised by many, as the pair descended into personal insults from the start.
Biden remarked “Will you shut up, man?” and referred to the president as a “clown”; Trump commented that Biden had “…graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in [his] class” and referred to past drug use by the Democratic candidate’s son.
At the same time, President Trump did not unequivocally condemn white supremacists who act in his name.
Discussing the Proud Boys – a far-right, anti-immigrant group with a history of violence – Trump said “stand back and stand by”, later refusing to clarify what exactly he meant by the remarks.
He later stated that he “did not know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News, who moderated the debate, has come under fire for not doing more to allow the debate to flow more courteously, despite his multiple pleas for the candidates to obey the rules.
“The country would be better served if we allowed people to speak with fewer interruptions,” Wallace stated at one point.
“I’m appealing for you, sir, to do that,” he continued, addressing Trump.
The debate comes as multiple issues complicate the presidential race: the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the partial release of Trump’s tax returns, and the news that the president and first lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for Covid-19.
Despite being split into six clear segments, including the economy, Covid, personal records and the supreme court, the debate involved limited discussion of policy.
However, Biden did refuse to tie himself to the Green New Deal – a Democratic plan to address major economic inequalities whilst tackling climate change – and Trump committed to nominating Amy Barrett to the supreme court, a move which would create a conservative leaning in the influential body.
Students at The University of Edinburgh were largely unimpressed by the debate.
Maeve, a second-year undergraduate from the US, spoke to The Student, saying “It was just really frustrating to watch […], neither candidate could string a sentence together and they barely talked about policy at all.”
Asked whether the night could move the dial on the contest, she went on to say “I doubt any undecided voters will be swayed by it – Trump was just being his usual self.”
Another American student at Edinburgh, Donya, was “especially disappointed” with the president’s performance, but added that “I was unhappy with both of the candidates’ performances.”
Touching on the last debate segment concerning the integrity of the election, Donya saw Trump’s refusal to say he would accept the election results as proof that “he needs violence to win.”
The next presidential debates are scheduled to take place on the 15th and 22nd October, as well as a one for the two vice presidential candidates, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, on 7 October.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed allowing the moderators for the remaining debates to cut off microphones if participants refuse to obey the rules: it is not yet clear if either campaign will accept such regulations.
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