90 Miles From Tyranny : 8 Highlights From Second Biden-Trump Debate

Friday, October 23, 2020

8 Highlights From Second Biden-Trump Debate

President Donald Trump and his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, clashed Thursday night in the second and final presidential debate before the Nov. 3 election.

Trump and Biden traded boasts and criticisms in a meeting that began at 9 p.m. at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, after officials said both men tested negative for COVID-19.

What follows are eight highlights from the 90-minute debate moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

1. Reopening Schools, Businesses

The first debate between Trump and Biden took place Sept. 29. The Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the originally scheduled second of three debates, set for Oct. 15, after Trump objected to a format in which the candidates would appear in separate “town hall” settings.

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The commission announced the change in format Oct. 8, the day after Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, met in their only debate. At the time, Trump was recovering from COVID-19 after a three-day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

In their second debate, Republican Trump and Democrat Biden differed on the issue of shutdowns during the pandemic, especially in terms of reopening schools safely as soon as possible.

Trump said that although Americans will continue to deal with COVID-19, the country can’t stay closed and must continue the process of reopening.

“We can’t close up our nation, or you’re not going to have a nation,” Trump said.

Biden said that he did not aim to keep the country shut down.

“I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country,” Biden said.

However, Biden expressed a greater willingness to keep lockdowns in place until certain needs are met.

“I’m not shutting down today, but look, you need standards,” Biden said. “If you have a [virus] reproduction rate above a certain level, everybody says slow down, do not open bars and gymnasiums, until you get this under more control.”

He wants schools to reopen, Biden said, but more needs to be done to get them into a place to do so, such as better ventilation.

“Schools, they need a lot of money to open,” Biden said. “They need to deal with smaller classrooms.”

Biden’s reopening plan stipulates: “Emergency funding needs have been met so that schools have the resources to reconfigure classrooms, kitchens, and other spaces, improve ventilation, and take other necessary steps to make it easier to physically distance and minimize risk of spread.”

The Trump administration has pushed aggressively for schools to reopen this fall, under the guidance of health officials.

Biden also said Trump had failed to negotiate a new coronavirus relief package with the Democrat-controlled House.

The president countered that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doesn’t want to make a deal before the election.

“We are ready, willing, and able to do something,” Trump said.

2. COVID-19 Vaccine and China

Trump repeated his prediction that a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved by the end of this year.

Trump said several companies–including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Feiser–are “doing very well” in developing a vaccine, adding that the U.S. also is working with European nations to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Welker questioned Trump about his vaccine timeline, noting that his own health officials have said it may be well into 2021 before a vaccine is generally available.

“I think my timeline is going to be more accurate,” Trump said, adding:

I don’t know that they [health officials] are counting on the military the way I do, but we have our generals lined up. One in particular that’s the head of logistics, and this is a very easy distribution for him. He is ready to go. As soon as we have the vaccine–and we expect to have 100 million vials–as soon as we have the vaccine, he is ready to go.

Biden fired back at Trump, criticizing the president’s handling of the virus.

“We are about to go into a dark winter,” Biden said. “And he has no clear plan and there is no prospect that there is going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.”

Asked to respond, the president said he acted quickly in response to the spread of the virus and closed down flights from China in January, an action that he says Biden called him “xenophobic” for taking.

Biden retorted that Trump had closed the border to China only after other countries already had done so.

Trump said Biden’s handling of the H1N1 swine flu was “a total disaster.”

“Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now, but [swine flu] was a far less lethal disease.”

Trump denied saying that the virus is going to be “over soon,” but said Americans are “learning to live with it.” He added: “We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does.”

The president said 99% of those who contract the disease caused by the new coronavirus recover.

“People are learning to die with it,” the former vice president fired back, adding that the president has not taken responsibility for the virus.

“I take full responsibility. It is not my fault that it came here. It’s China’s fault. And you know what? It’s not Joe’s fault that it came here, either. It is China’s fault,” Trump said.

Biden also said, referring to COVID-19, “Two hundred and twenty thousand Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight …anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States.”

3. Fracking, Climate Change, and the Oil Industry

When it came to climate change and the energy industry, the two candidates had notable differences.

“I will not sacrifice tens of millions of jobs, thousands and thousands of companies, because of the Paris accord,” Trump said, referring to the international climate agreement the United States joined under President Barack Obama with Biden as...

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