With just 12 days to go before USA elects its next president, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump faced off in their second and final presidential debate in Nashville on Friday, 23 October.
Under a new rule, their microphones had a provision to be muted at times to allow the opponent to speak uninterrupted for the designated time allotted – although the moderator didn’t have to resort to it.
This comes after the chaos of the first presidential debate, where Trump spoke over his time, and bled his comments into Biden’s designated two minutes.
The debate was moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker. Keeping her composure through the event, Welker kept both the candidates in line, making sure the debate didn't devolve into chaos.
The two candidates spoke about the future of America in light of coronavirus, the economy, taxes, race and climate change in the first face-off between the two candidates after Trump's COVID diagnosis. Here are the key highlights from the face-off.
‘We Are Heading Into A Dark Winter’: Biden on USA’s COVID Situation
It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” said Trump when questioned about the coronavirus.
Taking the stage for the first time against Biden after his positive COVID diagnosis, Trump made dubious claims that a vaccine was “ready,” and that he is “immune” because he had recovered from his own illness. “It will be distributed very quickly,” Trump said, speaking of the vaccine that he said he could not guarantee, when further probed.
Biden shot back, citing Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus as the primary reason for him not being worthy of being elected for a second term.
“You hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control, in fact… saying I take no responsibility initially, anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.
“I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses so they can be safe and give them the wherewithal, the financial resources to be able to do that,” he added.
When President Trump claimed that the United States is “learning to live” with the coronavirus pandemic, Biden addressed the American electorate.
“He says we are learning to live with it – people are learning to die with it,” Biden said. “You folks home who have an empty chair at the kitchen table this morning, that man or wife going to bed tonight and reaching over to try to touch – out of habit – where their wife or husband was is gone – learning to live with it? Come on, we are dying with it. When is the last time – is it really dangerous? Will you tell the people it is dangerous now?”
“I could blow away your records like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said addressing Biden’s strong fundraising in comparison to his own.
“We don’t need money. We have plenty of money,” Biden replied.
Biden and the Democratic Party outraised Trump and the Republicans by $135 million in September — $383 million to $247.8 million.
New York: A Ghost Town?
"If you go and look at what's happened to New York, it's a ghost town. It's a ghost town. And when you talk about plexiglass, these are restaurants that are dying. These are businesses with no money," Trump said.
"Putting up plexiglass is unbelievably expensive, and it's not the answer. I mean, you're going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic? These are businesses that are dying, Joe. You can't do that to people. You just can't — take a look at New York and what's happened to my wonderful city for so many years. I loved it. It was vibrant. It's dying. Everyone's leaving New York”, he added, claiming that Americans can’t stay home in the face of a pandemic.
On Tax Returns and Personal Wealth
“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said when Trump made unsubstantiated claims around Joe Biden’s finances.
“We learned that this President paid 50 times the tax in China (that he has in the US), has a secret bank account with China, does business in China, and, in fact is talking about me taking money? I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever, ever.”
The remarks came in as Trump once again raised the question of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden‘s son‘s business dealings.
“There’s a reason why he’s bringing up all this malarkey. There’s a reason for it. He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues. It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family. And your family’s hurting badly,” Biden said, looking straight into the camera.
You have not released a single solitary year of your tax returns,” Biden said, turning the focus on Trump’s tax returns.
“What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?”
“First of all, I called my accountants under audit,” Trump said. “I’m going to release them as soon as we can. I want to do it. And it will show how successful, how great this company is. But much more importantly than that, people were saying $750. I asked them a week ago. I said, what did I pay? They said sir, you prepaid tens of millions of dollars. I prepaid my tax.”
On Ties with Global Leaders
“I have a very good relationship with him. Different kind of a guy, but he probably thinks the same thing about me. We have a different kind of a relationship. We have a very good relationship. And there's no war,” Trump said at the final presidential debate of his relationship with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
“He's talked about his good buddy who's a thug, a thug, and he talks about how we're better off. And they have much more capable missiles, able to reach US territory much more easily than they ever did before,” Biden said.
“Having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is a good thing,” Trump retorted.
Biden shot back: “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe, the rest of Europe. Come on.”
“But a lot of these kids come out without the parents,” Trump claimed about illegal immigration to the US. “They come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs.”
“Coyotes didn’t bring them over. Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents,” Biden retorted, dismissing Trump’s claim. “And it makes us a laughing stock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”
In a first, Biden also differentiated his proposed immigration policies with that of the Obama Administration. Responding to a question about record deportation and a failure to pass immigration reform by the Obama Administration, Biden said, "We made a mistake. It took too long to get it right. I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States.”
“And the fact is, I’ve made it very clear within 100 days I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. And all of those so-called dreamers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship,” Biden said. “The idea that they are being sent home by this guy and they want to do that is they’ve gone to a country they’ve never seen before.”
“I never had to tell my daughter if she's pulled over make sure she puts, for a traffic stop, put both hands on top of the wheel and don't reach for the glove box because someone might shoot you,” Biden said, highlighting that he is cognisant of institutional race disparity in America.
He continued, “But a Black parent, no matter how wealthy or poor they are, has to teach their child when you're walking down the street don't have a hoodie on when you go across the street, making sure you in fact if you get pulled over, yes, sir, no, sir, hands on top of the wheel, because you are in fact the victim whether you're a … person making $300,000 a year person or someone who's on food stamps."
“The fact of the matter is there is institutional racism in America,” Biden said.
Trump, once again iterated that he is the President that has done the most for the Black population of the United States, since Abraham Lincoln. He also called himself the "least racist person in this room".
On Climate Change
President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord – a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets – was a major blow to the global response to the climate crisis. The decision sent a message to the rest of the world that the US – which can legally leave the agreement as early as 2020 – would not be leading the global fight against climate change.
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India. It’s filthy, the air is filthy. I walked out of the Paris Accord as we had to take out trillions of dollars and we were treated very unfairly,” Trump said.
"I will not sacrifice millions of jobs... thousands of companies because of the Paris Accord. It is very unfair,” he added.
“We are energy-independent,” said Trump, who has pledged allegiance to coal and petroleum producers and dismissed wind and solar energy sources as impractical.
“I know more about wind than you do,” he said, speaking to Biden.
“It is extremely expensive, kills all the birds, it’s very intermittent, it’s got a lot of problems, and they happen to make the windmills in both Germany and China. And the fumes coming up – if you’re a believer in carbon emission – the fumes coming up to make these massive windmills is more than anything that we are talking about with natural gas.”
Biden replied: “Find me a scientist who says that.” In July 2020, Biden in contrast to Trump, proposed spending $2 trillion over four years on clean energy projects and ending carbon emissions from power plants by 2035.
“I love solar, but solar doesn’t quite have it yet,” the president added. “It is not powerful yet to really run our big, beautiful factories that we need to compete with the world.”