In US pre-poll debate, Biden calls Trump a clown

Bloomberg September 30 | Updated on September 30, 2020 Published on September 30, 2020

Trump-Biden interaction covers topics from Covid to economy to families, descends into bickering and chaos

US President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden hurled insults and repeatedly interrupted each other in their first debate, sparring over topics ranging from healthcare to the economy and their families as moderator Chris Wallace tried mostly in vain to control the conversation.

Biden repeatedly called Trump a clown and told him to shut up as Trump talked over his answers. He called the President a racist after Trump defended his orders to end racial sensitivity training in the government.

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Trump insulted Biden’s intelligence and jabbed the latter over unsubstantiated allegations about his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.

Biden called Trump the worst president America’s ever had and said that under his leadership “we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, more violent”.

Trump says he has right to Supreme Court pick

The back-and-forth quickly degenerated after Trump answered the first question, about his nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump said he had the right to move swiftly to replace her, while Biden said US voters should weigh in first.

“We won the election,” Trump said in answer to the first question, about his nominee Amy Coney Barrett. “Elections have consequences. We have the Senate, we have the White House and we have a phenomenal nominee.”

Biden said that Trump and Barrett want to strike down the Affordable Care Act, costing 20 million people their health insurance.

“The American people have a right to have a say over who the Supreme Court nominee is,” Biden said. “What’s at stake here, as the President’s made it clear, he wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. He’s in the Supreme Court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which will strip 20 million people from having health insurance now, if it goes to the Supreme Court.”

Wallace tried to intervene as the two candidates squabbled over their respective health policies, and Trump complained: “I guess I’m debating you.”

“Folks, do you have any idea what this clown is trying to do?” Biden, who frequently spoke directly to the camera, said as Trump talked over him. “Will you shut up, man,” he grumbled moments later.

Biden says Trump panicked over Covid

Wallace subsequently asked about Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans so far, and why voters should trust Biden to handle the response better.

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“You don’t panic. He panicked,” Biden said. “He still doesn’t have a plan.”

“Wrong,” Trump interjected. “You could never have done the job that we did. You don’t have it in your blood,” he told Biden, alleging millions of Americans would have died with the former vice-president leading the country.

“I know how to do the job,” Biden said. “I know how to get the job done.”

After enduring Biden’s criticism of his coronavirus response, Trump seized on a Biden remark that his management of the crisis would be smart.

“Don’t ever use the word smart with me,” Trump said, reminding Biden that he once said he went to Delaware State University when he went to the University of Delaware. Biden chuckled.

“Oh give me a break. There’s nothing smart about you, Joe,” Trump added.

Mask row

Trump and Biden even argued about whether Americans should wear masks to combat the spread of the virus. Many people in Trump’s entourage in the audience didn’t wear one, and when an official from the Cleveland Clinic, which is co-hosting the debate, came by to offer them masks, they refused.

Biden’s entourage wore masks. He noted that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that near-universal mask wearing would end the US outbreak. Trump said other officials had claimed the opposite.

“No serious person said the opposite,” Biden said.

“I think masks are OK,” Trump said. “I mean I have a mask right here. When needed, I wear masks. I don’t wear masks like him.”

Biden releases tax returns

Hours before the debate began, Biden released his most recent tax returns, signalling that he wanted new revelations about the president’s taxes at centre stage for their first face-to-face encounter.

Also read: Trump’s tax moves stir questions about potential legal exposure

“Is it true that you paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017?” Wallace asked Trump, a reference to New York Times’ reporting beginning Sunday on tax records the president has kept secret. Trump didn’t directly answer, saying he paid millions of dollars in taxes. “Show us your tax returns,” Biden interjected.

“I paid $38 million one year, I paid $27 million one year,” Trump said, without specifying which years.

The difference between the two candidates’ tax history is fodder for Biden’s argument that Trump has conned working-class voters into supporting him.

Biden paid nearly $300,000 in income taxes in 2019, according to his returns he released hours before the debate. Billionaire Trump, meanwhile, paid $750 in 2016 and 2017, and nothing in 10 of the last 15 years, according to the New York Times.

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Published on September 30, 2020
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