“You know who I am. You know who he is. You know his character. You know my character.”
-Vice President Joe Biden
Kinnon: After the first presidential debate created widespread panic across the GOP, President Donald Trump’s failing presidential campaign shifted its course. Trump’s characteristic mockery, narcissism and disrespectful demeanor was seemingly toned down. Given this change in strategy, paired with new debate commission rules, at least the majority of Thursday’s debate was substantive. However, although Trump seemed to have changed his strategy, he failed to shift the conversation and create any sort of effective affirmative case for his campaign. The economy is still failing, Trump is still racist, and Americans are still dying.
Landon: The final presidential debate presented a starkly different, more mild-mannered tone than its predecessor, which is owed in large part because the president finally chose to conduct himself as an adult. While the American people were able to legibly understand the two candidates, what we failed to gain was a credible, policy outline from the current White House occupant as to how we will navigate the challenges we face over the next four years. In direct contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden presented clear guides, answers and policies on several issues ranging from healthcare to navigating the climate on racial justice.
Kinnon: Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News began the evening with a question for Trump on the ongoing pandemic. As was expected, he yet again chose to ignore the facts and downplay the deadly pandemic, stating that our excess mortality rates were “way down and much lower than almost any other country.” Public health officials and scientists agree: This comparison of excess mortality is nearly impossible to accurately find and does not show the reality of the American response to the coronavirus. Again, Trump has chosen to mislead the American people. Let’s be clear— we are not doing better than other countries. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the United States had higher rates of COVID-19 and all-cause mortality compared to any other nation. Anyone who presides over 225,000 American deaths and continues to deny the threat does not deserve to be re-elected.
Landon: Biden’s ability to maintain focus on his plans to help America’s most vulnerable families in the midst of a barrage of mistruths is commendable. As opposed to speaking to America’s families, the president focused on Biden’s family engaging in a meaningless, mean-spirited exchange that is only indicative of the petty, vindictive nature of this president. Biden marched onward laying out specific policies, including plans to overcome the president’s botched response to COVID-19 as we have witnessed a surge in cases nationwide, re-engaging in the Paris Climate Agreement, achieving net-zero carbon emissions and actually being willing to speak the words “climate change.”
Kinnon: After months of protests following the horrific and unjust murder of George Floyd, I expected that Trump and Biden would clash on race relations. What I did not expect, however, was that Trump was “the least racist person in this room.”
Donald Trump refused to denounce white supremacists during the first debate. In 2018, he referred to African nations as “shithole countries.” In 2019, he told four American congresswomen of color to “go back to where they came from.” And throughout his tenure, Trump has overwhelmingly embraced policies that harm communities of color. Both his policies and rhetoric clearly indicate: Trump was most definitely not the least racist person in that room. His racism is not unique, but it certainly does not belong in the Oval Office.
Landon: For Black people tuned into this debate across the country, that statement was the most blatant falsehood of the night; this comment was so blasphemous that I could not help but to laugh at the television. It is fascinating how this mediocre, inherently incompetent man could convince himself of this notion in the face of the first Black, female debate moderator since 1992.
This lie stands in direct contrast with Biden, who conveyed humility in his willingness to admit fault in his support for the 1994 crime bill and its far reaching consequences for Black and brown communities. Rather than insisting that he be exalted, Biden laid out specific plans to remedy these effects through federal reform of the justice system, including prison reform and seeking climate justice for Black and brown communities who disproportionately find themselves proximate to sources of pollution.
Kinnon: Rather than trying to match Biden’s compassion for the American people, Trump’s strategy was largely focused on attacking Biden’s record. Particularly notable was a barrage of unfounded accusations about the finances of Biden and his family. In September, an investigation by Senate Republicans found that there is no evidence to support the idea that Biden has profited from foreign ties. If Trump would like to talk about ethical flexibility, it may be important to take a look at his own record.
In refusing to sever ties from his financial interests, Trump has figured out a way to profit from his presidency, and his companies have more than $4 million from the president’s campaign-related committees and the GOP. The president paid just $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017. After the Trump family was caught illegally using charity funds, the state of New York shut down the Trump Family Foundation. The list of financial wrongdoings in the Trump family goes on for decades.
Landon: The final presidential debate was no game-changer; it was simply an indicator what many of us already know to be true. The truth is that over 50 millions Americans have already cast a vote for one of these two candidates; the truth is that the low moments of the night came as both candidates embraced fracking and that we must demand better of our candidates seeking office. The most consequential truth is that there is a leader in Biden who seeks to right wrongs and move the country forward with tangible, feasible policies.
Kinnon: We all know who Trump is. He is a narcissistic, ethically flexible president who has inflamed racial tensions, destroyed our public health infrastructure and launched assaults on the rights of marginalized people.
We know who Biden is. Although he has made mistakes, he is a man of compassion, with a history of working alongside the Republican Party to get things done for Americans. Our nation cannot handle another four years of Trump. Biden is what our nation needs, and this debate reaffirmed the urgent need for a change in leadership.