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The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Commentary on the First Presidential Debate

I have had more in depth debates and conservations during PlayStation party chats than the one I saw while watching the first presidential debate. However, the disastrous debate did leave me feeling more confident in my own intelligence. 

From the constant interruptions coming from both sides (but mainly from Trump), to the unnecessary and unprofessional personal attacks I can’t help but reiterate CNN Andrew Yang’s statement: “Last night, I feel like America lost.”

I would like to first touch on Fox News host and moderator of the debate, Chris Wallace. Wallace faced criticism mere minutes after the debate concluded, ranging from attacks on his supposed bias to an inability to “control” the debate. 

As to what bias conservatives are pointing to, I cannot comprehend, let alone find one moment from the debate that suggests bias on Wallace’s part. A great example of asking hard questions to the candidates would be the question regarding the condemning of white supremacy to Trump, and right after questioning Biden as to why he hasn’t used his leadership to express concern over the Portland, Oregon riots despite stating, “I am the Democratic Party.”

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From talking to others and through my own observations, there was absolutely no way Wallace could have controlled the debate better than he did that night, particularly when you have President Trump constantly on the attack and avoiding debate rules. Even Wallace called Trump out on his lack of conformity, asking him to please abide by his cult of a campaign team’s agreements.

One thing I will critique Wallace on is his constant questioning of Trump on the white supremacy comment compared to Biden’s Antifa comment. Where Wallace kept pressing Trump for an answer, Wallace let Biden’s “Antifa is just an idea” answer slide to his response to violence in dem-run cities. This happened again with Biden’s court-packing statement.

Let’s hit on the highs and lows of each candidate.

Whether one agrees or not, both a strength and weakness to Trump’s performance last night was his constant interrupting. A strength because of how he was able to take control of the situation and debate. A weakness, however, because he ended up coming off as unprofessional and unpolished compared to Biden, who took a rather lukewarm approach to the whole ordeal.

Trump’s major strength from his debate was bringing attention to far-left activist riots across the country, particularly those in progressive-run cities. Despite Wallace’s interjections of violence being equal in both Republican and Democrat-run cities, he drew attention away from that by saying he has seen more left violence than right.  Also, criticizing Biden over his lack of law enforcement support due to his “radical left voter base” was a smart move to show the progressive strings attached to the Biden campaign.

Predictably, Trump faced much criticism over his response when asked to condemn white supremacy. It is a fact that Wallace has asked, “Do you condemn white supremacy and militia groups?” to which Trump responded with, “Sure.” 

I agree, he could have answered more clearly without his “standby comment,” but he did condemn white supremacy, even if not in the clearest way. Yesterday a brief press briefing was held in which he was asked if he denounces white supremacy again, and here he responds with, “I have always denounced any form, any form, any form of any of that you have to denounce.” 

In regard to his standby comment, he said he meant “stand by for law enforcement to do their jobs” during the protesting. For the record as well, it is a fact that he also condemned white supremacy in 2017 during the Charlottesville scenario, contrary to what some believe in which he stated, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally,” in the same press brief. According to, President Trump has condemned white supremacy multiple times throughout his time in office.

Regarding Biden, his major strengths of being able to keep calm while Trump berated him. Whether Trump thinks he can get away with his manner or not, this speaks volumes to voters who are wanting peace, not more dogmatic polarization. Trump represents that intolerant voter base impeccably well the other night.

Biden’s climate comments regarding California wildfires were a more definite answer than Trump’s. Another highlight was Biden’s comment that “Most officers are good people. There are just a few bad apples,” which seemed to be directed at his moderate base. Yet the comment could have gotten so far when Trump used his “I want you to do the same as a law enforcement agency that supports you” interjection. Ultimately, it was Biden’s composure and the way in which he spoke that inevitably led him to win the debate.

The first debate was not a debate on policy, but instead, a debate showing the American people the importance of manners and one’s demeanor. Just today in class, we were talking about the various strategies and the point of “interrupting a candidate so they couldn’t speak” is actually a new tactic for the sole purpose to not allow the other candidate to have a clear and coherent message for a good campaign ad or something else. In class, it was talked about how this is a “new strategy,” so a candidate cannot articulate plans. 

Yet at the same time, it doesn’t help that both of the candidates are terrible debaters, and it seems in this day and age, whoever is the most absurd and provocative on the debate stage will get the most clicks and views and, thus, have their message be projected. 

In my humble opinion, though, Biden proved himself to the American people, particularly moderates, that he could potentially take the presidency from Trump. The president needs to rethink his tactics, or he could be the reason he loses in November. Trump supporters should be worried, and Biden supporters should feel hopeful.

As there is speculation as to who won last night, that is all up to public opinion. An indisputable fact is that the American people lost that night and gained nothing from the so-called “leaders” of this country.

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