Less than two weeks away from the US election day, President Donald Trump and his Democratic contender Joe Biden went head-to-head in their second and final presidential debate.
The face-off in Nashville was markedly less chaotic and incomprehensible than the shouting match between the two presidential nominees that took place when they first met on stage late last month. One major reason for this was the ‘mute’ button that was introduced this time around to keep interruptions to a minimum.
But despite the kill switch, the debate was not devoid of tense moments with the presidential nominees relentlessly attacking one another’s records on a wide range of topics — including racial justice and taxes.
The 90-minute event included several 15-minute segments where Trump and Biden fielded questions on a number of contentious issues ranging from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and climate change to the economy and foreign policy.
By the end of the debate, President Trump had managed to speak for approximately three minutes more than former Vice President Biden. According to CNN, Trump spoke for 41 minutes and 16 seconds, while Biden clocked 37 minutes and 53 seconds in talking time.
Here are the highlights from the final US Presidential debate:
‘Trump has no plans to stop dark winter of Covid deaths’, says Biden
The presidential nominees began the debate by sparring over protocols and strategies to handle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools and businesses safely. At present, the United States has reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world.
Joe Biden argued that President Trump’s poor handling of the pandemic in the United States should ensure that he is voted out of the office in the upcoming election.
“If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control, in fact…saying I take no responsibility initially, anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” he said.
“We’re about to go into a dark winter,” he added. “And he has no plan.”
Trump denied his claims, saying that there would be no dark winter. Despite the rising number of cases and deaths, he said that the coronavirus pandemic was on the verge of going away.
“It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” Trump, who recently recovered from Covid himself, alleged.
Asked by the debate’s moderator Kristen Welker if he could guarantee whether a coronavirus vaccine would be ready within weeks, Trump said, “No, it’s not a guarantee, but I think it will be by the end of the year.”
Welker pointed out that several experts have said the vaccine may take months before it is made available for the wider public. “I think my timeline is going to be more accurate,” Trump responded.
Biden too said he was skeptical about Trump’s plan for releasing a vaccine. “This is the same fellow who told you it was going to end by Easter,” he said. “He has no clear plan.”
Trump attacks Biden for his son’s business dealings in Ukraine
Trump’s allegations against Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine last year ultimately led to his impeachment. Yet the President seemed undeterred and continued to press his Democratic contender about Ukraine.
Trump claimed that Joe Biden had made money in a business scheme involving China with his son. These allegations were raised in a series of emails that were published recently which allegedly documented Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.
“I think you have to clear it up and talk to the American people,” Trump said, putting Biden on the spot.
One of the emails claimed that while working for a Ukrainian energy company, Hunter arranged a meeting before an executive and his father, while he was serving as Vice President. Biden categorically denied the allegations and insisted that he had not taken a single “penny from any foreign source” in his life.
“Nothing was unethical,” Biden retorted. “The guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was this guy.”
Russia will pay a price if I am elected, says Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden warned that if he were to become president, he would take a tougher stance towards Russia than Trump has over the last few years.
“They will pay a price if I’m elected,” Biden said. “They’re interfering with American sovereignty, that’s what’s going on — interfering with American sovereignty.”
Earlier this week, the country’s top national intelligence official had announced that Iran and Russia have taken “specific actions” to influence the presidential election. They stated that the two countries had obtained “voter registration information”.
Biden accused Trump of being too eager to accept help from Russia, including in this year’s election. Trump said that Iran and Russia had interfered in this year’s election to undermine his candidacy.
He claimed that the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told him, “They both want you to lose, ‘cause there’s been nobody tougher to Russia.”
Trump accuses Biden of being “typical politician”
Following a lengthy exchange where Trump attacked his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, Joe pivoted by focusing on what American families are experiencing at this moment.
“There’s a reason why he’s bringing up all this malarkey. There’s a reason for it. He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues. It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family. And your family’s hurting badly,” he said, addressing the American voters by looking directly into the camera.
“They’re the decisions you’re making. In the middle-class families like I grew up in… they’re in trouble. We should be talking about your families. But that’s the last thing he wants to talk about,” he added.
Visibly annoyed by Biden changing the subject to American families, Trump mocked his political adversary by accusing him of making “a typical political statement”.
“I’m not a typical politician…That’s why I got elected. Let’s get off the subject of China, let’s talk around sitting around the table. Come on, Joe, you can do better,” Trump retorted.
‘Bidencare’: Biden proposes souped-up version of existing healthcare law
Asked what he would do if the Supreme Court chose to strike down the Affordable Care Act next month, Biden said that he would add to the law, which is commonly known as Obamacare, by including an option for public health insurance.
While the basic structure of Obamacare would remain the same, Biden said he would inject more money into the system, which he called ‘Bidencare’. He also emphasised that he supports private insurance, distancing himself from some of his former Democratic rivals from the primary debates.
“Healthcare is not a privilege, it’s a right,” he said. “Everyone should have the right to have affordable healthcare.”
Trump on the other hand, said he hoped the Supreme Court would strike down the Affordable Care Act, calling it “no good”.
“Obamacare is no good,” he said. “What we’d like to do is terminate it.” His administration is currently supporting a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that could dismantle the law.
‘I’m the least racist person in this room,’ Trump claims yet again
When asked about the issue of racism that plagues the United States, President Trump insisted, as he has several times in the past, that he has done more for the African American community than any other president since Abraham Lincoln.
He went on to attack Biden for supporting a crime bill in the 1990s, which had led to the incarceration of thousands of black men over the decades.
“I’m the least racist person in this room,” Trump said.
Vehemently disagreeing with the President’s statement, Biden accused him yet again of stoking racial discord in the country. “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” he said. “This guy has a dog whistle as big as a fog horn.”
He accused Trump of pouring fuel on “every single racist fire”, further pointing out how Trump had once called Mexicans rapists at the very start of his campaign in 2016.
‘Look at India, Russia. The air is filthy,’ Trump claims
India was mentioned only once during the debate, and it was not for the best reason. When asked about climate change, Trump compared the US to other countries and said, “Look at China, Russia, India, how filthy it is. The air is filthy.”
“We have the cleanest air, the cleanest water and the best carbon emissions,” he added. Trump defended his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, claiming that it was “so unfair”.
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