If the American people had to endure 90 minutes of cross-talk and interruptions last month in the first presidential debate, the alternative – clashes, simultaneous events at City Hall on Thursday with President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. – was not much improvement.
Mr Trump tested positive for coronavirus after the first debate, and, citing safety, the presidential debate committee said the second debate, scheduled for October 15, would have to be virtual. Mr. Trump refused, so Mr. Biden scheduled an ABC mayor’s office. Mr. Trump then scheduled his own program on NBC ̵
“I thought, damn it, we have a free TV class,” the president said at a rally in North Carolina earlier Thursday.
It is an open question whether Mr. Trump’s gambit to try to push Mr. Biden off the stage worked in his favor. Mr. Biden’s whole strategy is to fly low to victory. Mr. Trump could have done this more easily with an excited spectacle than Biden’s, which one of Mr. Trump’s advisers likened to “watching an episode from Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood, suggesting the resemblance to his beloved Fred.” Rodgers is a bad thing.
Here are six snacks from the dueling night town halls.
Trump stepped on his own message by refusing to denounce QAnon.
After Mr Trump suffered days of headlines and headaches as a result of his refusal to condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate, he was ready to offer a hedge-free denunciation on Thursday. “I condemn white supremacy, don’t I?” He said to moderator Savannah Guthrie, almost before she finished her question.
The rare determination on the subject made Mr. Trump’s refusal to flourish his mouth, minutes later, to deny the false conspiracy theory QAnon even more.
“I just don’t know about QAnon,” Mr Trump said, although he backed up a discredited statement from proponents of the theory a few days ago.
Ms. Guthrie quickly went through how the far-right movement falsely claims that Democrats are a satanic cult that practices pedophilia. “Can you just say once and for all that it’s completely untrue and deny QAnon in its entirety?” She pressed.
“I know they are very much against pedophilia – they are fighting very hard,” Mr Trump said. He later repeated this remark, almost with encouragement: “What I hear on the subject is that they are very strongly against pedophilia. I agree. I agree. “
In line with the 2020 Elections
Mr. Trump has long been wary of speaking ill of his supporters, and those who believe in the QAnon conspiracy theory are among his most ardent supporters. “I understand that they like me a lot,” he said in the summer, noting that they “love our country.”
Ms Guthrie may have made the most memorable remark last night when she questioned Mr Trump about a recent retweet of a discredited conspiracy theory that Mr Biden had organized action to kill SEAL Team 6, one of the the country’s elite military units to cover up the alleged fake death of Osama bin Laden. Mr. Trump shrugged, “I’ll let him go there.”
“I don’t understand,” Mrs. Guthrie replied. “You’re the president.” You’re not some crazy uncle.
Biden suggested that masks and vaccines be made mandatory.
The question of how to manage the pandemic that has gripped the nation in the last six months is almost certainly the clearest difference between Mr Biden and Mr Trump, and that was clear in their town halls.
Mr Trump minimized the risk of the virus, even though he was hospitalized after falling ill. He mocked Mr Biden for wearing a mask and opposed the idea of making masks mandatory. Mr. Trump took off his mask theatrically during his campaign rallies; Mr Biden revealed that before he took the stage, he wore two masks – a preventative measure that some doctors said was effective.
Mr Biden said he would get the vaccine himself by the end of the year and would call on other Americans to do so “if the body of scientists says it is ready to be done and tested”.
He also said he could support making vaccines mandatory, but acknowledged that such a measure would be difficult to implement. “You can’t say everyone has to do this, but it’s like you can’t put on a mask,” he said.
With that, Mr. Biden was walking on difficult terrain. There is a long history of resistance to mandates in this country; I think Obamacare and the individual mandate. And a significant number of Americans have opposed vaccines in the past; One of the big questions is how many Americans will receive a coronavirus vaccine once it is developed, mandated or not.
“It’s thorny,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic political consultant. “But he was a realist. People should have confidence in the vaccine. So you can’t play games like Trump. “
Mr Biden also said he expected Mr Trump to take the Covid-19 test before their next debate on October 22, in accordance with the rules set by the presidential committee on the debate. “Before I came here, I did another test,” he said. “I took it every day.”
He said he would not come to town hall if it was positive. “I didn’t want to come here and expose anyone,” he said. “And I just think it’s just decency to be able to tell if you’re clear or not.”
Trump adhered to the unpopular position of masks and pandemics.
Masks are popular politically. They are perceived as a necessity for public health by experts and a wide range of the American public. One of Mr. Trump’s advisers, Chris Christie, said Thursday that he was “wrong” not to wear a mask at the White House. But Mr. Trump, although he recently contracted the coronavirus and required hospitalization for it, still can’t get himself to a full throat of rolling over wearing masks.
“I’m fine with masks,” I tell people, “Wear masks,” he said. But he could not resist the addition. “Exactly the next day,” he said, he had seen a study that showed that people using masks were still infected with the virus.
He tried to reverse the position of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s largest infectious disease expert, on masks. And he rejected the scientific consensus.
“Masked people catch him all the time,” he added.
It was this kind of retreat that caused Republicans to be disappointed: six months, eight million cases and more than 215,000 deaths later, the president is still trying to bring the reality of the pandemic to his policy, not the other way around.
The pandemic has ruined American life like no other event and per capita mortality is higher than in other developed countries, but Mr Trump continues to say his administration’s response has been successful. “We are the winners,” Mr Trump said, referring to “excess mortality”. He added: “What we did was amazing and we did an amazing job.”
Biden finally turned to the court, something like that.
Mr Biden made some news: After vigorously avoiding the issue recently, he signaled that he would announce before election day whether he supported expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court. But he said he wanted to wait until after the Senate acted on Judge Amy Connie Barrett’s nomination to replace Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This was a difficult question for Mr Biden, and it seems likely that no answer was planned. Many Democrats have called for an expansion of the Supreme Court after Mr Trump and Senate Republicans ordered to fill the vacancy created by Judge Ginsberg’s death, even though it was so close to the election. If that happens, Mr Trump will put three judges in the High Court.
Mr Biden has made it clear in the past that he does not support the idea. He avoids the issue during the campaign, saying he does not want to play into Mr. Trump’s hands and divert attention from what Republicans are doing with the Ginsburg vacation. But he agreed with moderator George Stefanopoulos that voters had a right to know his views, and he set a timetable for their announcement.
It may not have been enough to leave the problem behind.
“His ‘judicial’ response or lack of response was a bit mysterious,” said Priscilla Southwell, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon. “So he says voters need to know his position on this, but only until the confirmation process is over. By that time, the majority of voters will have already voted, including this voter. “
Still the Interior Ministry: Trump’s second plan.
Mr. Trump had good words for conspiracy theorists; he would not say whether he tested negative for coronavirus on the day of the first debate (“I probably did. I probably didn’t”); and he continued to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 vote.
However, he did not have much to say about the extensive program for the second term.
When Mr. Trump talked about politics, it was mostly about reshaping his file. He was the smoothest and obviously the most comfortable when he spoke about the economy and warned of the impact of Mr Biden’s choice, saying the nation would “end in a depression like you have never had before”.
He said he was negotiating a stimulus plan with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although they were not in a position to speak. “I am ready to sign a big, beautiful incentive,” he said. As a party, it also offered one of the largest ever understated prints on its fingerprint of the often flexible GOP
“I may have changed the party a lot in the last three years,” Mr Trump said.
But the lack of vision for the next four years – and for guidance in the remaining months and years of the pandemic – is a clear and unaddressed weakness for Mr Trump. When Mrs. Guthrie gave him a chance to take the final step for another four years, he began, “Because I did a great job.” There were several other specifics beyond the classic Trump boast. “Next year,” he promised, “will be better than ever.”
What if Biden loses?
Mr. Biden is in many ways a completely conventional candidate for the White House, especially compared to Mr. Trump. He has dedicated his entire life to the election: 36 years in the Senate, two terms as vice president under Barack Obama and three proposals for the White House. So his desire to answer questions about what he would do if he lost was astounding: As a rule, this is the question that candidates avoid. (The answer in the textbook: “I do not intend to lose.”)
Maybe because polls show him in a strong position against Mr. Trump. Or because Mr. Trump has been talking about loss lately. But when a voter asked how he could try to influence a second Trump administration if he lost, Mr Biden said he was likely to return to teaching, “focusing on the same issues of what constitutes decency and honor. in that country. ” He added: “This is something that drew me into public life as a start.”
Mr Stefanopoulos asked: What will he say about the country if Mr Trump is re-elected?
“Well, you could say I’m a bad candidate and I didn’t do a good job,” Mr Biden said. “I hope it is not said that we are as racial, ethnic and religious in conflict with each other as the president seems to want us to be.”