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Op-ed: A national headache

Trump interrupts Biden in the presidential debate.
Trump interrupts Biden in the presidential debate. 

Trump tramples over decorum during first presidential debate

Tim Cohrs, UP managing editor

In the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump showed his true colors — and they aren’t red, white and blue. His true color is orange, as he made the debate all about him, instead of bringing any policies to the table.

Trump turned what should have been a civil debate into a fatal three-way by yelling and screaming not only at his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, but also at moderator Chris Wallace.

Trump’s strategy appeared to focus primarily on steamrolling the candidate by repeating oft-debunked statements on many topics that have been frequently cited by his own administration as being incorrect.

It started early. While Biden was talking about his proposal for affordable health care, Trump didn’t let Biden finish, instead interrupting and claiming Biden was dominated by the radical left, saying, “Your party wants to go socialist and socialist health care, and they’re going to dominate you, Joe, you know that.” Biden fired back, saying he is the Democratic party now.  

Trump then went off on a tangent, with the outlandish claim that Biden and the Obama administration let 308,000 military personnel die, and that Biden would have let more people die from COVID-19 if he was president.

Wallace, from Fox News, repeatedly tried to get the president back on track, but Trump held up a finger as he continued to bully his way over questions. Wallace finally shouted, “Mr. President, as a moderator we are going to talk about COVID in the next segment,” and let Biden finish his statement.

In the health care segment, Trump would not even let Wallace finish the question and told Wallace to let him ask Biden his own question. When Wallace finally asked the question, Trump turned on Wallace, “First of all, yes, I am debating you, not him — but that’s OK, I am not surprised.” Trump’s clearly wanted an unmoderated debate to push his own agenda.

Trump continued to talk over Biden, commenting that he was a liar.

Yet it was Trump that spewed forth falsehoods. During a segment over climate change he claimed the west coast forest fires are due to poor forest management — presumably calling out the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service, agencies over which he has control.

Trump became flustered when asked if it was true he only paid $750 in income tax in 2016, repeatedly saying he paid “millions of dollars,” saying he was just taking advantage of tax laws and codes put in place by the Obama administration. Biden challenged the president to officially release the tax forms reported on by the New York Times. Trump responded, “You will see it as soon as it’s finished, you’ll see it.” When a self-proclaimed billionaire pays less in taxes than the average person, there is a problem with the system.

But Trump showed his true colors when he refused to condemn white supremacy. When he asked Wallace to name a group, Wallace suggested the Proud Boys, a right-wing group defined as a terrorist organization by Trump’s own FBI director Christopher Wray. Trump’s response was to tell them to, “Stand back and stand by.” Stand by for what? This seemed dangerously close to a call for violence.

The president claimed there was more racial division and violence under the Obama administration. However, Trump has a history of inciting racial tension, with inflammatory statements about the Hispanic community at his rallies during the 2016 election and his refusal to condemn violence on African Americans. When someone asks if you will condemn white supremacy, there is no room for humming and hawing. The only answer is a categorical, “Yes!”

President Trump’s actions turned what should have been an intellectual discussion of policy into something more like a toddlers’ food fight. The American people learned nothing from this embarrassing display.

The Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement, Sept. 30, saying they were looking into “additional structure” and rule changes, including muting microphones.

Hopefully, these changes will make the next debate more bearable and an actual debate, rather than a circus performance by the president.

Opinions expressed in Op-ed columns are the views of the writers only and are not necessarily those of the University Press student management. Student opinions are not necessarily those of the university administration.


Category: Opinion