Trump-Biden debate: Mercifully, a decent show at campaigning’s tail end

US President still doesn’t seem to get it on coronavirus; but it can be said of the last debate that there was more of substance on issues, amid a tendency to stray away from pointed questions

Trump vs Biden
In the election, incumbent Republican Donald Trump is challenged by Democrat Joe Biden.

If Donald Trump had been restrained on September 29 the way he was at Nashville, Tennessee, things would perhaps have been different for the Republican incumbent. Not that Trump refrained from spewing disinformation in his final debate with the Democratic nominee, Joseph Biden; but at least he was not the disruptor-in-chief and throwing the final debate into utter chaos the way he did in the first.

Trump and Biden sparred on a number of issues of importance to America and the rest of the world; and his reference to India being “filthy” as far as the environment is concerned is not about to tilt the Indian American voting that is already decidedly in favor of the Democratic ticket.

Trump still does not seem to get it when it comes to the coronavirus and perhaps never will: that he and his administration are responsible for the disease to get out of hand resulting today in the deaths of some 223,000 people and some 8.5 millions infected in all the 50 states. It is stale that the President still keeps harping on the figure that some 2.2 million would have died if he had not acted; when in fact the study of the Imperial College London stressed that in the United States but with a caveat — that in the absence of governmental response and intervention and in people not following the requisite norms in going about their daily lives.

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The Trump administration not only mocked at masks and social distancing but also openly advocated large gatherings that exposed people to higher risk. Further Trump contradicts himself all too frequently: on the one hand, he dismisses the very idea of the virus as some kind of a fancy concoction of Biden and Democrats; and on the other hand, he insists that he has done everything possible!

More of substance

When pointed out by the NBC Anchor that 12 million people are out of work and eight million falling into poverty and the hardest hit were people of color and women and what the plan was, the Republican incumbent blamed the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for failing to pass a second stimulus package that is close to US$ 2 trillion. But media reports have it that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged that he is unable to get the Republican caucus on board.

“It’s the Senate Republicans who are the ones blocking an agreement on a relief bill”, The New York Times has said.

One thing that can be said of the last debate was that there was more of substance on issues even if there had been the tendency on the part of both Trump and Biden to stray away from pointed questions. As The New York Times put it: “The tone couldn’t have been more different from the first debate. Trump had some strong moments — the crime bill, job creation. Biden was strongest on climate and a vision for his term. Trump was at a loss to discuss the children separated from their parents. Biden sometimes went way off course. In all cases, the absence of interruptions was welcome.”

The President undoubtedly wants to get every and any African American vote this November 3 — especially in the battleground states — which is why for yet another time, he claimed to be the “least racist person in the room” bringing back a stinging comment from his opponent. “He pours fuel on every racist fire… This guy has a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn”.

Immigration sidestepped?

Unfortunately, immigration as an issue did not figure in a major way; but the question of separation of families at the border did especially in the context of a media report that authorities are unable to track down the parents of some 500 children who were forcibly taken away. In fact this tactic of the Trump administration is seen as weakening his support base from among the Evangelicals. The argument of Trump is that the kids crossed the border in cartels or coyotes; Biden refuted this saying that these children came with their parents and were separated at the border. “It’s not coyotes… they got separated from their parents. That makes us a laughing stock”.

Trump has long argued that it was the Obama administration that had come up with “cages” on the US-Mexico border; but the fact is that the Obama administration at no time can be faulted with forcibly separating parents and children as a way of deterring illegal immigration.

Foreign policy & Trump taxes

Matters of foreign policy hardly make a mark in American Presidential elections; the same goes this time around well with accusations of corruption against Biden vis-à-vis China and the Ukraine by way of Hunter Biden failing to gather any traction. If anything, the accusation on the monetary front has only raised more questions about Trump’s own tax payments that he is refusing to release for everyone to see. The more he adamantly argues that he has paid millions by way of taxes –advance taxes as well — the greater the clamor to see his returns.

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That the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may happen to be a great friend of the American President or that President Obama failed to get a “meeting” with Chairman Kim is not going to make a difference on November 3.

Close to 45 million Americans are already said to have cast their ballots as this election is turning out to be one of those with a very high voter turnout. Whether Trump and his associates believe it or not, coronavirus heads the pack of issues that is on the election agenda. And following closely are that of racial unrest and the economy which is seen as coming under another wave of stress following the second spike of COVID-19 in many states. But the bottom line as Biden said in his closing remarks in the debate, “What is on ballot this year is the character of this country”.

(The writer is a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal)