Liveblog of 2020’s First Presidential Debate! (With Some Commentary)


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In Joe Biden’s corner, Captain America! In Donald Trump’s corner, Star Trek’s “Gorgon”!

Welcome to our liveblog of the dreaded first Presidential Debate!

My comments will be in italics.  I don’t have video, just audio, made available by NPR.  Questions are by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who at times came to be seriously pissed with Trump.

First question: Appointment of Amy Coney Barrett

Trump: We won.  Great nominees.  Endorsed by very liberal people.

Biden: People have a say, comes when we vote for President and Senators.  Only way to get their views is to wait. Trump wants to get rid of the Affordable care act.  Barrett is against it.  Will lose protections for pre-existing conditions, equality.

Trump: aren’t 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.  I’m still President, so I get to do it.

Biden is interrupting Trump!

Biden: I am the Democratic Party right now, not socialist medicine.

Trump: You’ve had 318,000 military deaths.  You would have been much later.

Biden: President also opposed to Roe v. Wade.

Trump: It’s not on the ballot.  Nothing happening there.  You don’t know her view on Roe.

Question: Court will have decision on Obamacare.  You’ve never come up with comprehensive plan to replace it.  Gave a largely symbolic executive order.

Trump: Of course I have.  I got rid of the individual mandate.  Cutting prices for insulin, etc., so getting most favored nation — allow them to buy overseas.

Biden: You will add a public option and create a public option.  It will only apply for people so poor to that they get Medicare.

Trump: He’ll get socialist medicine.  You agreed with Bernie Sanders.  You just lost the left.

Biden: He is not for people getting health care.  So many lost healthcare from employers.

Trump: Took away individual mandate.  Decided, let it run them well or poorly?

Biden: He has no plan except wishful thinking, has not gotten anything done.  Doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Question: If Republicans have Barrett, brought up by Democrats — are willing to end filibuster or packing the court.

Biden: Issue is that people should vote.  Trump interrupts.  Biden: Will you shut up, man

Question 2: Covid.  Even after vaccine, may be years before normal.  Why should trust you more than your opponent.

Biden: 200,000 dead.  4% population, 20% deaths, 40,000 deaths.  Trump says “it is what it is.”  President knew how bad crisis was.  Says he didn’t tell the truth because didn’t want to panic.  He said Xi was doing a great job.

Trump: China’s fault.  You would have let more people die. You wouldn’t have closed the country because it was xenophobic.  Governors said that I did a phenomenal job.  Made ventilators, masks.  Fauci said I was right.

Biden:

Trump: You messed up swine flu.  Now its weeks before vaccine.

Biden: 14,000 died. His own CDC could lose 1/4 million by end of year.  We don’t trust him on a vaccine.

Trump: You don’t trust Pfizer?

Question: vaccine

Trump: It’s become very political.  Left doesn’t want it soon.  But my people tell me it could be much easier.

Biden: He said miraculously gone by warm weather.  Every serious company says maybe by end of year, but even if we do, won’t be distributed until middle of year.

Question: Public health experts say will be muzzled.

Biden: Can’t trust the scientists under Trump.  Don’t

Trump: They’ll have the vaccine soon.

Biden: Can we believe him?  He’s lied about anything.

Trump: Did you say smart?  You didn’t go to college.  I’m smarter.

Biden: Oh geez.

Question: Why opposed to reopening?

Biden: He doesn’t have a plan.  We do.

Trump: Pelosi.  He wants to shut down the country.  We don’t.  Now we understand the disease.  Now we know that young people aren’t vulnerable.  More people will be hurt by shut downs, with Democratic Governor.

Biden:  I want to respond to that.

Moderator: Too bad.

Trump:  I’m not opposed to masks.

Biden: If we just had masks and distanced we’d save 100,000 lives.

Trump: Experts says don’t need masks.

Biden: No serious expert.

Trump: What about Fauci?  [Back in March]

Question: Your campaigning has differed.

Trump: We campaign outside.  You just can’t get the crowds.

Question: Economy: V-shaped and K-shaped recovery?

Trump: It was hard to close down the economy.  Now re-opening, doing record business.  And he will shut it down again.  When you shut it down, look at Democrat-run states, one said will open up by November 9, after the election.  Got to open up these states.  It’s like people are in prison.  Look at alcoholism and drugs and divorce.

Biden: Billionaires have done well due to his profligate tax-cut.  He’ll have  fewer jobs than when he started.  People losing their jobs have been first-responders. If open with a significant increase in deaths and cases — you can’t fix the economy until you fix the covid crisis.  Takes too much money to open safely.  He didn’t provide masks to kids because

Trump: I get to respond.

Moderator:  You already did.

Trump:  Talks for a whole lot.  I brought back football.

Question: Trump, you only paid $750/year in 2016 & 2107,

Trump:  I’ve paid millions.  Go to the Board of Elections.  Report says am totally overleveraged.

Question: How much in those two years.

Trump:  Millions.  But I don’t want to pay more than I have to.  He passed the tax bill.  Obama gave me that bill.

Biden: We need to cut the tax code.  Taxpayer is

Trump: I’ve done more than you did in 47 years.  You broke the military.

Question: Increase in taxes for the very wealthy.

Biden: Look at analysis by Wall Street firms.  Would create 8 million new jobs.  Will eliminate some taxes and increase to 28%.

Trump: Could have gotten that increase by doing nothing.

Moderator: Went up 2

Biden.  Economy was booming.  He blew it

Trump: Ohio and Michigan had best years last year.

Biden: He’s lying.  China

Trump: Hunter Biden, China, and Burisma.

Biden: Totally discredited.  My son did nothing wrong.  Position has been totally discredited by World Bank etc.  People testified under oath.  People said I did my job and well — you’ve fired most of them.  We could talk about his family all night.

Trump: They all lost millions to come work for me.

Moderator: Hate to raise my voice, but why should I be different.  Country would be better served with fewer interruptions.

Question: Issue of race.  Biden: you said that his comments in Charlotteville boosted the white power.  Trump, you say Lincoln.

Biden: It’s about equity.  Remember Charlottesville, “fine people on both sides.  Then he tear-gassed people protesting.

1 in 1000 African-Americans has been killed by Covid?  Has done nothing for them.

Trump: 1994 crime bill.  You called them super-predators.  I’m letting people out of jail.  You’re the worst.  We have law enforcement groups all over the U.S.  You have no LEO support.  You can’t even say the word, because you’d lose the left.  We believe in law and order, but you don’t.  Radical leftists have you wrapped around your finger.

Question: Said Brionna Taylor verdict said that there are different justice systems for white and black.

Biden: Bad apples have to be stopped.  Cops don’t like what happened in these situations either.  Violent protest is not appropriate.

Trump: People burning, looting.

Question: Why ending racial sensitivity training.

Trump: Ended it because racist — if you were a certain person, it was like a reversal.  Were teaching people to hate our country, that it’s a racist place.

Biden: There is racial sensitivity.  People have to be made aware of what insults and demeans.  It makes a huge difference.  Look down on people who don’t have money, Irish-Catholics like me.  We can take racism on.

Trump: Was tremendous division.  Ferguson, Oakland, Baltimore.  Don’t want

Biden: Favor law and order with justice.

Question: Has been a big raise in Democratic led, but as many as in Republican-led places.

Trump: If he ran the country, the suburbs will be gone.

Biden: He doesn’t know the suburbs.  This isn’t 1950; they’re integrated now.  They’re threatened by Covid.

Question: Do you favor reimagining policing?  BLM?

Biden: Totally opposed to cutting money.  But we need community policing.  Need to have

Trump: Name one law-enforcement rule that supports you?

Question: protests.  Many of them turned into riots.  Biden: have you ever called the Dems in charge and tell them to bring in the national guard.

Biden: I don’t hold public office now.  Have opposed violent.

Moderator: Haven’t called them?

Trump: He’s opposed to law and order.

Biden: He wants to rile people up, pour gasoline on the fire,

Question: You criticized over Antifa, but will you call white supremacists and militias.

Trump: Almost everything from the left wing.

Biden: His own FBI director said coming from the right, not the left.

Trump: Then he’s wrong.

Biden: Everyone who says

Question: Often re-election is referendum on incumbent, why elect you?

Trump: No President has done more in this time period: before Covid, greatest economy, lowest unemployment, rebuilding military, space force, fixing the VA.  They left us 128 judicial openings.  We did 300 appointments.

Biden: Under Trump, we’re weaker.  He’s Putin’s puppy.  (Trump interruts.)  He never keeps his word.  We’re poorer; we’re more divided.  You talk about military being users, he got the Bronze Star.

Trump: Hunter got tossed out, dishonorably discharged.

Biden: Not true, totally discredited.  Mitt Romney says report was a waste of money

Question: Climate Change:  Pulled out of Paris Accords.  Say fires not climate change.  What believe about science of climate change?

Trump: Paris Haven’t destroyed businesses.  Forest management.  To an extent human activity adds some, but I want immaculate air and water.

Moderator: Why did roll back clean power plan, fuel economy standards

Trump: Was killing businesses; need new cars, if can afford it.  Many people agree with me.  I’m OK with electric cars true.  California laws crazy.

Question: You’ve proposed a Green New Deal.

Biden: No one’s going to build more coal and oil plants.   I will make the federal fleet electric vehicles.  Will weatherize homes.  So much we can do now to create many jobs.  We can get to net zero emissions by 2035; building new green infrastructure.  We need to be in the Paris accord.  Falling apart.  Brazil’s rain forests taken down.  Give them money to stop it.

Question: What about balance of economic vs. environmental concerns?

Biden: He wants to release more methane.

Trump: GND is $100 trillion price.  (Crosstalk between them: True, not true, true, not true.)

Question: Biden, but it will costs lots of money

Biden: It will create millions of jobs.  We can create jobs by ensuring environment is clean and safe.  See what’s happened in Midwest?  We’re 15% of the world’s problem.

Trump: GND. He said military is stupid bastards.

Biden: No I didn’t.  GND will pay for itself over time.  I support the Biden Plan, different from what he called radical Green New Deal.

Question: Election integrity.  What will you do to ensure that next President is legitimate.

Biden:  Iwillvote.com.  No evidence of cheating by mail-in ballots.  Will have poll workers out there.  He wants to scare people so won’t be legitimate.  Vote early, in person, whatever is best for you.  We’ll accept the outcome.  Doesn’t matter if he thinks that he can not accept election.  If I win, he’s out.

Trump: There’s been no transition.  Look at Crooked Hillary: they tried to spy on me, try to block my programs.  A solicited ballot is ok.  An unsolicited ballot is not OK.  There’s fraud, found them in creeks.  Send out multiple ballots.  We want to know what happens on election day.  Will be fraud.  Might not know what happens from months.  In by November 10th.

Question: have said mail-in will be rigged, etc.  Now mail-ins are out. Ballots can come in until the 9th.  What are you going to do about it?  Are counting on Supreme Court, including Barrett, to decide?

Trumo: Yes, I’ll want them to look at the ballots.  Ballots being sold by mailmen, dumped in rivers.

Biden: Not true.  Also, late-arriving ballots still need a postmark by Election Day.

Question: Biggest problem has been that many are thrown out due to identity question, missed deadline, etc.

Biden: In that case, we are supposed to have an affidavit process.  Give people a chance to claim their ballot.  Who they voted for, who they say they are, is totally legitimate.

Question:  Will you pledge that you’ll tell your supporters to stay calm, and not claim victory, until the election results independently certified?

Trump: Today, poll-watchers were thrown out in Philadelphia, which is very dirty.  I’m urging my people to monitor the polls.  But if I see ballots manipulated….  The Democrats cheat.  Look at Carolyn Maloney’s race.

Biden: Yes I will pledge.  The military has voted this way for over a century.  Why is that different?  I’ll be a President for Democrats and Republicans.



NPR’s responses: Lots of shouting. Trump far worse.  [But a provoked Biden did do it once first – GAD].

Mara Liason: I’ve never seen a debate like this.  Lots of shouting, crosstalk.  Trump wanted to provoke Biden into anger or losing concentration.  They are diametrically opposed on policy.  If debate as to who voters want to live with — President missed an opportunity.

Tamara Keith: Biden’s straight to camera monologues were effective.  Stood out most about coronavirus.  Trump had conclusory answers.   Had a schoolyard vibe.

Asma Khalid: Focus on the Trump taxes.  Don’t know how much landed, because of the chaos.  Moderator tried to get answer.

Juana Summers: Trump again challenged legitimacy of the election.  Much misinformation was not rebutted.

Mara Liason: Didn’t lean much new.  Not very many undecided.  Biden agreed not to declare victory before all of the votes are counted.  Trump refused.

Fact-checking at NPR.org:

Tax bill: I’m going to make corporate tax 28% rather than 21%.  Exempts under $400,000.  True.

Economy: Was doing well before pandemic, but not more so than before.  Added 6.8 million; previous 8.2 million.

Open Judicial Seats:  So many seats were left open because the Senate wouldn’t approve them.

Science:

Vaccines:  Trump said, are weeks away.  Biden, distributed mid-next year; likely true.  Approval could, if proven safe, be months away.  The concern is that Trump will pressure them to move it sooner.

Masks:  Masks are very important, even if not 100% effective.  Highly charged issue.  Trump has mocked Biden, including tonight, for wearing masks.

White Supremacy:  Trump was asked to condemn the Proud Boys; he said they should stand back and stand by, then he attacked Antifa.

Racial Equality: Asked about it, Trump talked about law enforcement and criminality instead.

Tamara Keith: Did it change the election?  He did the Trump Show he does at rallies.  He wanted to trip up Biden.  Biden didn’t land on his face, but he did tell the President to shut up at one point.



My view: I guess that I really did have to watch this on video, because it seems like Biden’s breaking the fourth wall and address the camera directly may have been what made the difference in his favor.  On radio I thought that Biden won on substance, but it may be that enough people really do love Trump’s rule-busting domineering style.  This will mostly likely affect low-interest voters, who might be most vulnerable to Trump’s out-of-order spray of what were largely lies.  My guess is that voters Biden would target are more likely to have seen him in action, so their numbers are not as likely to change.  I might expect a small Trump bump in the short term.  It will then be affected by two countervailing factors: fact-checkers will boost Biden support; a flood of misleading headlines and clips on social media will boost Trump’s.

Trump is clearly intent on trying to dispirit the Left.  (He has the advantage of leading a party that is largely unified, even if in terror of him; Biden’s party covers a far broader ideological range, a substantial number of are from ideological groups that have been disrespected, disappointed, and largely shut out of leadership — and who may waver about voting at all.

The main areas where this happened were with support of racial minority rights and with environmental issues.  Biden skirted Trump’s demands that he accept the framing of protests of police violence as “law and order vs. violence and chaos”; Biden ultimately came up with a very good line that he favors “law and order with justice,” which should be on a t-shirt by  now.  Trump also challenged Biden to name any police association that has endorsed him; Biden couldn’t or wouldn’t do so.  Thatt says a lot more bad about those police associations than it does about Biden, but Trump knows that voters are socialized to trust the police, so in most voters’ minds he landed a big punch.

(Biden, though, landed some big punches on Covid, where Trump’s positions make no sense.)

On the environment, Trump snarled that the Green New Deal would have a $100 trillion price tag.  (Fact-checkers, let us know!)  Biden was snared into saying that he supported the Green New Deal, then that he didn’t, then that he did, then that he didn’t — before finally landing on the assertion that what he supported was “the Biden Plan” (which, to be fair, is true.)  That equivocation is going to make for some damaging commercials.  The truth is, many different plans can fit into the category of “Green New Deal” — essentially, using jobs and regulations to convert swiftly to a renewable energy economy — and the one he supports is not the Bernie Sanders version or the Elizabeth Warren version or the AOC version, but a more modest version of the plans that all of them agree is a good start.  He didn’t make that point early or well-enough.  However, I can’t see anyone with environmentalist leanings not concluding that Biden was far better on this issue.   

Now I’ll go look at others are saying.



And here’s what I’ve found.  Fact-checking seems overwhelmingly to favor Biden.  A CNN snap poll of those who watched the debate concludes that a number equal to the percentage of Republicans surveyed — 28% — thought that Trump won, with over twice that favoring Biden.

Here’s a page with some good fact-checking, finding errors on both sides.

There are also a lot of calls for canceling all debates after the Vice-Presidential one, because this one was so bad.  I’ll address how they could be fixed, instead, on Thursday or so.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)