Foreign Policy

Within the first debate, Biden and Trump get private

In a debate that lasted little more than an hour and a half on either side, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden annoyed each other in the most personal way on Tuesday, with Trump questioning Biden's intelligence and Biden calling a clown. "

In a typical exchange, Biden said to Trump, "You are the worst president America has ever had." Trump replied, "I've done more in 47 months than I've done in 47 years, Joe."

Overall, Trump, who lags far behind in the polls, was significantly rattier than Biden all night. He seemed to be interrupting Fox News host Chris Wallace as well as Biden and received constant reprimands from Wallace.

Early expert responses and polls indicated that the sometimes gawking Biden won the debate by merely opposing the president and sounding coherent, while a heavily sweating Trump seemed to unravel several times. An early CNN poll of debate watchers found that 60 percent believed Biden won, while only 28 percent believed Trump, despite the poll targeting Democratic voters.

Foreign policy itself took almost no time in the debate, and when that happened Biden generally got into more trepidation than Trump and with more composure, barely looking at the president as Trump stared at him and cut into almost every response. Regarding Trump's largely unsuccessful attempt to correct trade deficits with China, Biden said, “He talks about the art of the deal. China has perfected the art of theft. “He accused the US of running a larger trade deficit with China during Trump's tenure, although it did not do so until 2018.

In a final exchange, Biden pledged to accept the election results while Trump did not and continued to rail over largely unfounded allegations of election fraud even as Wallace called for an end to the debate. Trump also refrained from condemning white supremacists when asked, saying the radical left group Antifa caused almost all violence in American cities, despite the FBI's conclusion to the contrary. Trump only suggested that a neo-fascist group that supports him, the Proud Boys, should "step back and stand by".

The six topics Wallace picked were Trump and Biden's Records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, Economy, Urban Race and Violence, and Election Integrity. The two candidates mostly stuck to these issues, with a lot of angry crosstalk.

But Trump tried several times to attack Biden's son Hunter for his business dealings in Russia and Ukraine and to solve Biden's problems. My son didn't do anything wrong. … Everyone discredited it, ”said Biden. When Trump continued to interrupt, Biden said, "It's hard to say anything to that clown."

Trump's allegations of corruption against Hunter Biden have been largely exposed even by members of his own party. Earlier this month, two Republican-led Senate committees concluded that Hunter Biden's position on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company at the time his father, Joe Biden, was vice president was "awkward" and "problematic," but it was was not clear evidence of wrongdoing. The 87-page report concluded that "the extent to which" its role "affects US policy towards Ukraine" is not clear. "

Tuesday's debate wasn't expected to seriously affect the outcome of the presidential race, especially as 86 percent of voters say they have made up their minds who to vote and only 14 percent say they are still compelling in a new poll by POLITICO / Morning Consult. Biden has kept a constant lead in the polls.

Rarely in recent elections has a presidential debate significantly affected the race in one way or another – for example, in the first televised debate in 1960, when the less experienced John F. Kennedy showed that he could hold his own against Vice President Richard Nixon; and in the 1976 race between President Gerald Ford and the then little-known Democrat Jimmy Carter, when Ford asked a question about Soviet rule.

Still, the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on normal campaigns – at least for Biden while Trump continues to hold rallies – could make the three presidential debates this cycle more important than usual.

Most notably, Biden may have gained the upper hand by knocking Trump down in the derisive terms Trump has successfully used against his previous rivals. When Biden stated that Trump did not have a health plan to replace Obamacare, and Trump interrupted again, the former vice president replied, "Will you shut up man. … It's so unpresidential. "At another point, Biden said," Donald, would you be silent for just a minute? "

Perhaps what was most surprising was how small a portion of the new and potentially damaging questions about Trump's business relationships were in the New York Times played in the debate. The newspaper reported Tuesday that Trump has "huge balances on loans that are soon due" at Deutsche Bank, which is involved in overseas money laundering and has worked closely with Russian state institutions. Most of that is $ 160 million for his Washington hotel in the Old Post Office building and $ 148 million for the Doral Golf Resort – both of which are not profitable. The newspaper previously reported that Trump had avoided paying taxes for years and his businesses were chronic money losers.

When Biden briefly challenged Trump during the debate, "S.Like your tax returns, ”the President made no reply, simply saying that he“ paid millions of dollars in income taxes ”.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, a close ally of Biden and prospective Secretary of State, called Trump's enormous debt a "very national security concern" on Monday and said, "We don't know who has control over him." The Times reported that Trump is personally responsible for $ 421 million in loans and other debt, a significant portion of which will fall due over the next four years.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's national security division, also said the debts were worrisome when borne by the president. “It goes without saying that a US government official with extreme debt creates leverage in debtolder, ”said Kris, now headmaster at Consulting firm from Culper Partners. "The leverage and thus the national security risk increase with the probability of non-repayment."

Trump is already accused of multiple conflicts of interest in mixing his business interests with those of his office. Analysts believe that with the debt he has to repay, he may be motivated to continue these practices into a second term. Last week, a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a monitoring group, said Trump made many millions of dollars on his personal business dealings during his presidency, including over 500 visits with major followers to the properties he owns and from which he benefits. The President's frequent trips to and from his properties have cost American taxpayers well over $ 100 million.

The debate was clearly marked by tensions that have emerged since Trump's impeachment by Parliament and the Senate acquittal earlier this year for attempting to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate the Biden family's affairs in Ukraine, persisted. The congressional investigation continues into Trump's overseas business dealings. It was therefore not surprising that some of the fiercest talks took place over the international ties of both candidates.

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