The first debate between US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden was tense from the beginning.
And it quickly devolved into a chaotic litany of criticisms and a cascade of insults with each interrupting the other, though moderator Chris Wallace said Trump was more disruptive.
The two candidates traded barbs about the coronavirus response, health care, the economy, among other topics while weaving in references to each’s job performance and even dragging their families into the fight.
Here’s our play-by-play of the night’s events:
22:55 ET – Post-debate economic analysis
Al Jazeera Digital Managing Business Editor Patricia Sabga:
The subject of jobs was raised several times during tonight’s debate. Notably, Biden pointed out that more jobs were created during the last three years of Obama’s presidency than during Trump’s first three years in office.
This is true, but it’s important to bear in mind that the unemployment rate continued to trend down under Trump to hover near a 50 year low- before COVID struck.
What matters more than what has passed is where the jobs market stands now.
The economy has recovered roughly half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April when coronavirus lockdowns swept the nation. The unemployment rate has come down from a pandemic peak of 14.7 in April to 8.4 in August.
That’s an impressive comeback but well short of a V-shaped recovery Trump has touted. And there are signs that the economic recovery is starting to plateau, signaling there is a long road back to pre pandemic strength.
Keep in mind that the unemployment rate in February – before lockdowns – was 3.5 percent.
Millions of Americans are unemployed right now, wondering if they have lost their jobs for good or whether they can find a new one.
For struggling Americans who just want to support themselves and their families, tonight’s debate offered little by way of concrete policies either Trump or Biden would take to keep moving the jobs market forward.
22:35 ET – Trump doesn’t condemn white supremacists
Trump was asked whether he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups and instead of directly answering the question, Trump instead blamed the months of violence in US cities on “left-wing groups.”
“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence or the number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha, and as we’ve seen in Portland?” moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump.
“I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right,” Trump responded. “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
“Then do it sir,” Wallace urged Trump before his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, chimed in. “Do it, do it. Say it,” said Biden.
Trump shot back, “You want to call them. What do you want to call them? Give me a name.” Biden said, “Proud Boys,” referring to a right-wing group.
“Proud Boys. Stand back and stand by,” responded Trump.
22:32 ET – Wallace asks about post-election peace
For his final question, Wallace asked both candidates if they would urge their supporters to remain calm and not take to the streets if the election is close and counting continues.Trump said he was urging his supporters to be vigilant about the actual voting on Election Day. “I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump said.Biden said Trump “has no idea what he’s talking about.”“Once the winner is declared after all the ballots are counted, that will be the end of it,” Biden said.
22:30 ET – Analysis: Trump’s ‘forest cities’ line
Debate expert Alan Schroeder: “Here’s how we know Trump was either under-coached before the debate or didn’t heed the coaching he got. His advisers must have warned him not to repeat his line about ‘forest cities,’ yet he couldn’t resist. These two words are likely to spark a thousand memes at Trump’s expense.”
Trump recently referred to “forest cities” in Austria that aren’t susceptible to forest fires like those California is experiencing. Austria’s leaders debunked Trump’s notion.
22:25 ET – Trump continues attacks on Hunter Biden
During a back-and-forth, Trump shifted gears and accused Hunter Biden of being “thrown out of the military”.
Biden firmly responded, “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem, he’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him.”
22:20 ET – Analysis: Trump’s debate style
Debate expert Alan Schroeder: “Trump’s style as a debater relies heavily on the repetition of catch-phrases like ‘radical revolution’ that sound ludicrous outside the confines of the right-wing echo chamber.”
“This rhetoric is undoubtedly effective with those who already support him, but does it resonate with anybody else?”
22:15 ET – Law enforcement and racism
Trump accused Biden of not supporting law enforcement.
“If he ever got to run this country and they ran it the way he would want to run it … Our suburbs would be gone,” Trump said, noting that law enforcement unions have been endorsing him. Biden pushed backed accusing Trump of racism.
“I was raised in the suburbs. This is not the 1950s. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore. The suburbs are by and large integrated,” Biden said. Trump wants to “rile everybody up.
He doesn’t want to calm things down. I’m saying let’s get everybody together, figure out how to deal with this. What he’s doing, he just pours gasoline on the fire constantly at every single solitary time,” Biden said.
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