Final Presidential Debate Recap
Updated: Jan 14
The last Presidential Debate that took place on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee, proved to be a much more traditional and even match in contrast to the name-calling, shouting match from the last faceoff. The much more sedate forum, that was monitored by controlled muting, not only offered more focus on policy debate but provided one of the clearest contrasts yet between the already starkly different candidates’ visions.
From the first opening minutes, the two candidates took opposing stances on the pandemic with Trump demanding to reopen the country because the disease was “going away” while Mr. Biden called for much more aggressive federal action and emphasized the failures of the Trump administration to recognize the seriousness of the situation at the beginning of the pandemic. Mr. Biden encouraged all Americans to wear face masks and warned Americans to prepare for a “dark winter” where the Trump administration has no clear plan. In response, Mr. Trump disagreed and emphasized that “we’re opening up our country” and that the vaccine is nearly ready. But when the president said “we’re learning to live with” the coronavirus, Mr. Biden pounced. “We’re learning to die with it,” he said.
National Security and Personal Finances
The next point of discussion was on National Security regarding Russia and Iran’s interference with the current election having most recently sent intimidating messages to Florida voters. Biden demanded that Russia, Iran, and China must pay a price for interfering with American sovereignty. Trump redirects the conversation claiming that Biden has taken about $3.5 million from Russia (according to FactCheck.org there is no evidence of this). The rest of this segment is dominated by a discussion of each of the candidate’s personal finances as Trump claimed Biden makes money from Russia, China, and Ukraine while Biden mocks Trump for failing to publicly release his income tax returns and having a bank account in China.
Kristin Welters then brings up healthcare and what are the responses of each candidate if the Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional which is largely advocated for by Amy Cohen Barrett. Biden said his next move would be to pass Obamacare with a public option of Bidencare which would mean that “if you qualify for Medicaid and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get Medicaid, you are automatically enrolled.” This plan would reduce premiums and drug prices, provide competition for insurance companies, project pre-existing conditions, and make it clear that having a public option does not make it a socialist policy. Trump prided himself on ridding of the worst part of healthcare which was the individual mandate but did not offer any clear plan.
Nationwide Minimum Wage
Trump and Biden differed sharply on the question of the national minimum wage. The current minimum wage is $7.25/hour and Trump argued that the minimum wage should be determined by the state’s whole Biden backed nationwide increase of a 15$ minimum wage. Trump defended his point saying that when you force higher minimum wages, small companies lose and goes out of business
On immigration, Biden acknowledges that the Obama-administration had been unable to pass immigration reform but says that in his first 100-days he would send a bill to Congress that would grant a pathway to citizenship and recertify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. When asked about the families being split apart at the border and not being to locate 500 children’s parents, Trump said that his administration was trying “very hard” to find those parents and redirected the conversation pointing out that the Obama administration also used detention facilities with cages.
Trump pointed out that Biden had 47 years to make substantive policy changes to address racism and never did, adding that the 1994 crime bill did great harm to the black community. Biden admits that the crime bills he had supported were a mistake but redirects his defense into solutions as he says that mandatory minimum sentences should be eliminated and that drug addiction should be treated with rehabilitation, not jail time. Citing the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform law passed during his term, Trump claimed that "Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump," adding the caveat "with the exception of Abraham Lincoln."
President Trump incorrectly claimed that Biden was going to ban fracking but Biden corrects that he advocated doing so on federal land and stated his support for natural gas as a transition; fuel source. At one point Biden said he planned to transition from oil to renewable energy, allowing Trump to step in and chime “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”
In conclusion, it is clear that Trump mainly focused on the past, pointing out Biden’s mistakes as proof of incompetency and spurring messages of hope that happy days are nearly here again. Mr. Biden on the other hand focused on denouncing Trump as a divisive and unethical leader while offering solutions on his vision for the future, offering solutions such as large-scale economic stimulus spending, new aid to states battling the pandemic, and muscular expansion of healthcare and worker benefits. In closing statements, Trump attacks Biden while Biden offers a vision for the country.
Fact Check Summary (From FactCheck.org)
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in the final presidential debate of the campaign. We found:
Trump accused Biden of receiving “$3.5 million from Russia.” There’s no evidence of that.
Biden said there’s “no evidence” that raising the minimum wage causes business bankruptcies. There is a little.
Trump erred when he said it’s “proven” that a minimum-wage boost would lead to many firings. There’s a chance that the effect could be “about zero,” according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Trump falsely said “I don’t take” money from Wall Street. He and groups supporting him got about $13.8 million from Wall Street.
Biden claimed Social Security’s chief actuary said if Trump “continues his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security” the program “will be bankrupt by 2023.” Trump hasn’t proposed ending the tax without providing alternative funding, the scenario the actuary assessed.
The president falsely claimed that his bank account in China was “closed in 2015.” Trump’s own attorney said it remains open.
Trump claimed that the $750 the New York Times reported he paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 was a “filing fee.” There is no such fee.
Trump repeated his claim that “we’re rounding the turn” on the pandemic. Cases actually are increasing in many parts of the country.
Though Biden claimed Trump’s travel restrictions on China were imposed “late, after 40 countries had already done that,” most of those countries did it around the same time Trump did.
Biden misleadingly claimed that “38,000 prisoners were released from federal prison” during the Obama administration. The total number went down by about 12,000.
Trump misleadingly suggested the Obama administration was to blame for his administration’s policy that caused the separation of immigrant families.
Trump falsely claimed that “less than 1%” of those caught crossing the border and released pending immigration hearings appear in court. The rate is about 50%, according to his own Justice Department.
The president falsely claimed murderers and rapists are released under a so-called “catch and release” policy. In fact, immigration laws require such criminals to be detained.
Biden claimed the U.S. trade deficit with China went “up, not down” under Trump. In fact it was lower in 2019 than it was in Biden’s last year as vice president.
Trump said African American income grew “nine times” more under his administration than under his predecessor. But that relies on figures Census says suffer from a pandemic-induced survey bias.
The president quoted Anthony Fauci as saying the coronavirus was “not going to be a problem.” Fauci didn’t say that.
Trump claimed that Biden wants to raise “everybody’s” taxes. Analysts say 80% would get a cut.
Biden misquoted Sen. Mitch McConnell as saying, “Let them go bankrupt,” about cities and states that have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic. McConnell said bankruptcy should be a legal option for states with unrelated money woes.
Trump again falsely claimed Biden would get rid of private health insurance. Biden opposed Medicare for All.
Trump wrongly attributed the term “super-predator” to Biden. It was Hillary Clinton — not Biden — who applied the term to some “gangs of kids.”