President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden went head-to-head for the second and final time this election season, with Election Day just 11 days away.
Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated the event, with more success than Chris Wallace had at the first debate, keeping the candidates under control. The debate was held on the campus of Belmont University outside of Nashville.
There were six major topics of the night: coronavirus, national security, families and the economy, immigration, race and climate change. The first 40 minutes of the debate remained fairly civilized, as both candidates respected the time allotted to one another. Both candidates throughout the entire debate showed their polar opposite plans for how they plan to take control of the country if elected.
In the first topic, which was coronavirus, Trump opened by stating that it is a worldwide pandemic and that he received kind words from many countries due to his handling of the deadly virus, as he quickly shut down the economy and is successfully rushing a vaccine. On the other hand, Biden directly discussed his recovery plan, which was what Welker had asked for them to elaborate on.
He began with the number of deaths the United States has seen, only continuing to say, “Someone responsible for that many deaths should not remain president.” If Biden is elected, he said he would implement rapid testing, national standards and financial resources for those in dire need of it right now, as many Americans are suffering due to the coronavirus’ lasting effects.
“Not my fault that it came here. It’s China’s fault,” Trump said in response to Biden. Biden, with regard to Trump’s handling of the virus, called Trump a xenophobe. When Trump called Biden and the Democrats out for criticizing his travel ban to China as racist, Biden backtracked to say, “I talked about his xenophobia in a different context, it wasn’t about closing the border to Chinese coming to the United States.”
As for the nation’s economic shutdown, Biden began by saying he doesn’t rule out any future shutdowns in order to keep the American people healthy, and that they should be given the capacity to open safely with the resources they need to do so successfully. In response, Trump declared in regards to New York and other democratic states, “They’re shut down so tight, they’re dying.” But, as Biden mentions, states like New York were able to control the spread through tough legislation.
Next came national security, which is under tight scrutiny to avoid any interference in the upcoming election from other countries such as Russia and Iran. Biden began the topic by saying, “Countries that interfere with the election will pay a price.” He then said that the countries that are attempting to interfere are trying to make sure that he doesn’t get elected into the oval office, and Trump hasn’t said or done anything about it.
Trump went into offensive mode, making accusations that Biden and his family received a large sum of money from Russia, and that he himself never has. Trump stated that there are emails that incriminate the Biden family, proving they’ve received money from Russia. With the accusation Trump made about Biden’s family, Biden countered saying that he has never taken money from foreign powers. He then continued on to tell Trump to stop talking about corruption until he releases his tax returns, which he hasn’t released in the four years he has been in office, breaking a longstanding tradition of disclosure by presidents and presidential candidates.
Trump maintains he is being treated unfairly by the IRS as he has paid millions of dollars in taxes.
Just this week, news reports emerged that Trump has a bank account in China, which many say threatens our national security. In response to Welker’s question regarding the recent findings, Trump said the account had to do with his business, and he shut the account down prior to beginning his campaign to be president in 2015. The account, according to Trump, was only open for two years.
In debating health care, Trump started the discussion by saying he overturned individual mandates requiring everyone to have health insurance, which are now in court. In the first debate which was held almost a month ago, Trump avoided discussing what his plan will be for a nationwide health care policy, and he continued to do so at this debate. He instead just said that his plan will be better than what Biden has planned if elected. During Biden’s given two minutes, he said that if the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “ObamaCare,” is deemed unconstitutional and is repealed by the Supreme Court, then he will be pass a similar healthcare plan with a public option, with hopes of it later becoming “BidenCare.” He said that it will be available to Americans who qualify for Medicaid.
Next came questions about proposing more economic relief bills and increasing the minimum wage, both things that have been big topics of recent discussion and debate about how to help struggling families.
Trump blamed Nancy Pelosi for not furthering proposed relief bills, saying that she thinks it helps her politically.
“We are ready, willing and able to do something,” Trump said.
Biden noted that Republican senators have said a relief bill doesn’t have the support, and that’s why talks have failed. Biden mentioned that the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus plan, has been sitting on the Senate floor since May, and blamed Republican Senators for not working to pass it.
As for minimum wage, Trump said it should be a state decision, not a federal one, because every state has different standards of living.
Biden on the other hand wants a national minimum wage: “[American’s] deserve a minimum wage of $15,” he said.
As for immigration, Welker asked about the more than 500 children that have been separated from their parents at the Mexican border, who she said have not yet been reunited.
Trump launched into the discussion by saying that children are brought here by bad people. Ultimately, he tried avoiding the question and finished his time by saying that his administration is working hard to reunite the families that were torn apart. Trump also called out Biden by saying that it was him and Obama who built the cages in the first place.
“Parents cannot be found. Kids are along with nowhere to go,” Biden remarked. He said if he is elected, in his first 100 days as president, he plans on creating new pathways to citizenship.
Welker asked the candidates about race in America and the “talk” that is now happening in the homes of people of color.
Biden, who noted his daughter is a social worker, said to those who have been impacted by institutional racism: “You are in fact a victim.”
Trump responded by bringing up Biden’s history as a senator and vice president, being in politics for 47 years, and that the only thing he did in regards to minorities was passing the crime bill in 1994, where Biden supposedly called African-Americans “super predators.”
Trump then stated “I am the least racist person in the room.”
On the issue of climate change, Trump led the discussion by saying that he wants to have the cleanest water and air on the world, and that our nation’s carbon emissions are the lowest they have been in 35 years.
In his remaining minute, he discussed how he didn’t want to risk ruining the economy by adhering to the global Paris Accord, and said, “We have done an incredible job environmentally.”
Countering Trump’s claim, Biden said climate change and global warming are both existential threats, and there is not much time remaining to reverse the damage that has already been done.
“Our health and our jobs are at stake,” he said.
Trump countered by saying that he will not put jobs at risk for the sake of the environment, and criticized Biden’s environmental plan as being too costly. Biden stated that his environmental plan was not only necessary, but would also work to provide millions of new jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Perhaps the most hilarious portion of the night was when Biden criticized Trump for pushing false narratives surrounding renewable energy, by saying, “He thinks wind causes cancer.”
Trump responded by confidently stating, “I know more about wind than you do.”
The final topic of the night concerned the transfer of power in general and more specifically, the inauguration, which is to be held on Jan. 20, 2021. Welker asked both men to say how they plan to address the people that did not vote for them on Inauguration Day.
During Trump’s two minutes, he avoided the question and went back to coronavirus and tried to attack Biden’s plans.
On the other hand, Biden spoke directly to the American people as if it was Inauguration Day.
“I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me,” said Biden, who also earlier in the debate, said he is for all Americans, regardless of their political party.
“What is on the ballot is character.”