With Cross Talk, Lies and Mockery, Trump Tramples Decorum in Debate With Biden
JONATHAN MARTIN, ALEXANDER BURNS
WASHINGTON — The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. unraveled into a rhetorical melee Tuesday, as Mr. Trump hectored and interrupted Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke and the former vice president denounced the president as a “clown” and told him to “shut up.”
华盛顿——周二，特朗普总统与小约瑟夫·R·拜登(Joseph R. Biden Jr.)的首次总统辩论演变为一场言语上的互殴，拜登每一次讲话都会被特朗普骚扰和插嘴，而前副总统则指责总统是一个“小丑”，并叫他“闭嘴”。
In a chaotic, 90-minute back-and-forth, the two major party nominees expressed a level of acrid contempt for each other unheard-of in modern American politics.
Mr. Trump, trailing in the polls and urgently hoping to revive his campaign, was plainly attempting to be the aggressor. But he interjected so insistently that Mr. Biden could scarcely answer the questions posed to him, forcing the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, to repeatedly urge the president to let his opponent speak.
“Will you shut up, man?” Mr. Biden demanded of Mr. Trump at one point in obvious exasperation. “This is so unpresidential.”
Yet Mr. Biden also lobbed a series of bitingly personal attacks of his own.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” he said to Mr. Trump.
“In 47 months I’ve done more than you have in 47 years,” Mr. Trump shot back, referring to his rival’s career in Washington.
The president’s bulldozer-style tactics represented an extraordinary risk for an incumbent who’s trailing Mr. Biden because voters, including some who supported him in 2016, are so fatigued by his near-daily attacks and outbursts. Yet the former vice president veered between trying to ignore Mr. Trump by speaking directly into the camera to the voters, and giving in to temptation by hurling insults at the president. Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump a liar and a racist.
Mr. Trump peppered his remarks with misleading claims and outright lies, predicting that a coronavirus vaccine was imminent when his own chief health advisers say otherwise, claiming that his rollback of fuel-efficiency standards would not increase pollution and insisting that a political adviser, Kellyanne Conway, had not described riots as useful to Mr. Trump’s campaign, when she did so on television.
And even as he went on the offensive against Mr. Biden on matters of law and order, Mr. Trump declined to condemn white supremacy and right-wing extremist groups when prompted by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Biden. When Mr. Wallace asked him whether he would be willing to do so, Mr. Trump replied, “Sure,” and asked the two men to name a group they would like him to denounce.
But when Mr. Biden named the Proud Boys, a far-right group, Mr. Trump did not do so and even suggested they be at the ready.
“Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” the president said, before pivoting to say, “Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
Mr. Trump’s volcanic performance appeared to be the gambit of a president seeking to tarnish his opponent by any means available, unbounded by norms of accuracy and decorum and unguided by a calculated sense of how to sway the electorate or assuage voters’ reservations about his leadership.
In an election marked by sharply defined and stubbornly stable opinions about both candidates, the president’s conduct was the equivalent of pulling the pin on a hand grenade and hoping that the ensuing explosion would harm the other candidate more.
But Mr. Trump made no effort to address his most obvious political vulnerabilities, from his mismanagement of the pandemic to his refusal to condemn right-wing extremism, and it was not clear that he did anything over the course of the evening to appeal to voters who have deeply disliked him, including those who reluctantly supported him four years ago. Rather than focus on those voters, he sought to undercut confidence in the act of voting itself, making claims about fraud while offering little evidence.
The debate, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, quickly descended into name-calling and hectoring in the first 15 minutes, derisive attacks that were extraordinary even by the standards of Mr. Trump’s unruly presidency.
这场在克利夫兰凯斯西储大学(Case Western Reserve University)进行的辩论在前15分钟里迅速演变为中伤和恐吓，即便是按照特朗普德任职期间无所顾忌的标准，这种嘲弄攻击都算得上过分。
When Mr. Biden attempted to discuss voters who had lost loved ones to the coronavirus, Mr. Trump interjected. “You would’ve lost far more people,” he declared.
The former vice president veered between smiling and shaking his head in bemusement and firing off attacks of his own as Mr. Trump kept interrupting.
In an exceptionally charged moment, Mr. Trump spoke dismissively about Mr. Biden’s deceased son, Beau, who died from brain cancer in 2015, rejecting an opportunity to show a modicum of personal grace toward his political opponent. Mr. Biden alluded to Beau Biden’s military service as he rebuked the president for having reportedly referred to America’s fallen soldiers as “losers.”
Mr. Trump answered with a rhetoric roll of the eyes, and began attacking Mr. Biden’s other son: “I don’t know Beau; I know Hunter,” he said, proceeding to ridicule Hunter Biden for his business dealings and struggles with drug addiction.
Amid Mr. Trump’s onslaught, Mr. Biden repeatedly offered blanket denials that there was anything inappropriate in Hunter Biden’s overseas work, and said he was “proud of my son” for confronting addiction.
He highlighted The New York Times’s revelations about how little Mr. Trump has paid in taxes. “This guy paid a total of $750,” Mr. Biden said.
Pressed about how much he did pay in 2016 and 2017, the president claimed he paid “millions of dollars” but offered no evidence and declined to say he would release his tax returns.
One of the few phases of the debate that might have been taken by an open-minded viewer as an extended and articulate exchange of views came on the subject of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump voiced impatience with a range of public-health restrictions and Mr. Biden criticized the president for being dismissive of measures like mask wearing and social distancing.
“If we just wore masks between now — and social distanced — between now and January, we would probably save up to 100,000 lives,” said Mr. Biden, who also alluded to the disclosure in the journalist Bob Woodward’s recent book that the president had misled the American people about the severity of the virus last winter.
Mr. Trump, reiterating his demands that the country return quickly to normal, called on Democratic governors to “open these states up” quickly, and said without evidence, “They think they’re hurting us by keeping them closed.”
But even on a matter as grave as the pandemic, Mr. Trump indulged freely in personal mockery. When Mr. Biden called him “totally irresponsible” for holding mass rallies without health protections in place, Mr. Trump responded by mocking Mr. Biden’s more constrained events, suggesting the former vice president would hold large events, too, “if you could get the crowds.”
For all his evident frustration with Mr. Trump for not abiding by the rules, Mr. Wallace made no attempt to correct the president as he unspooled a series of falsehoods. Mr. Trump, for example, insisted that Mr. Biden had once called criminals “superpredators.” But it was Hillary Clinton who said it, in 1996.
In addition to lobbing false allegations, Mr. Trump also was unable, or unwilling, to discuss policy issues in a detailed manner. Pressed on whether he believed in climate change, the president said, “I think to an extent yes,” before quickly adding: “We’re planting a billion trees.”
Overshadowed though it might have been, the policy content of the debate’s opening phase mirrored the stark contrasts already on display in the race. On the Supreme Court, the two men split over whether it was appropriate for Mr. Trump to name a new justice to the court in the final months of his term, with the president offering a defiant rationale for doing so: “We won the election,” he said, “and we have the right to do it.”
Perhaps more surprisingly, Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Biden’s warning that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision guaranteeing women’s right to abortion access, was “on the ballot.”
或许更令人惊讶的是，对于拜登警告称本次选举是对罗诉韦德案(Roe v. Wade)——最高法院保障女性堕胎权利的裁决——的“表决”，特朗普予以否认。
The president projected disbelief, though the decision would plainly be vulnerable to being overturned by a conservative court. “There’s nothing happening there,” Mr. Trump insisted.
Mr. Trump had no defense for Mr. Biden’s warning that if the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act it could imperil women and people with pre-existing conditions, nor did he offer a substantive response to Mr. Wallace’s question prompting him to articulate a specific vision for health care policy.
拜登警告如果最高法推翻《合理医疗费用法案》（Affordable Care Act，简称ACA），女性和存在既有身体状况的人会受到伤害，对此特朗普没有做出反驳，而华莱士提出让他阐明医保政策的具体构想时，他也没有给出实质性的回应。
Mr. Trump argued that he had already done so, though he has not, and said that his success repealing the Obama-era law’s individual mandate was a “big thing” on its own. Instead of finally filling in the blanks of his health care agenda, Mr. Trump sought to go on the attack against Mr. Biden, tying him to the “socialist” aspirations of the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Biden, who campaigned against socialized medicine in the Democratic primary, deflected the attack — “I am the Democratic Party right now,” he said — and sought to keep the focus on Mr. Trump’s lack of health care policies besides gutting the A.C.A.
“He doesn’t have a plan,” Mr. Biden said. “The fact is, this man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
For Mr. Trump, this first debate appeared to be his best chance to change the trajectory of a presidential race that has so far resisted all manner of Trumpian efforts to shake it up. The president has cycled through an array of attacks against his Democratic challenger in recent months, criticizing or outright smearing Mr. Biden’s governing record, personal ethics, economic policies, family finances, and mental and physical health — often relying on misinformation and falsehoods.
Over the last month, Republicans have made an especially concerted push to brand Mr. Biden as overly sympathetic to racial-justice protests that have turned unruly and insufficiently committed to maintaining public order.
Yet that argument has not budged the race an inch in Mr. Trump’s direction, or changed the minds of a majority of voters who take a negative view of his personal character and his leadership during the pandemic. From the outset of the race, Mr. Trump has prioritized his largely rural and conservative base ahead of all other constituencies, and he has done little to reach out to Americans who do not already support him.
Rather, in a year of tumult, there has been one constant: Mr. Biden has enjoyed a steady lead in the polls since he effectively claimed the nomination in April.
Propelled by women, voters of color and whites with college degrees, and faring better with Republican-leaning constituencies than Mrs. Clinton did in 2016, the former vice president is better positioned going into the final month of the election than any challenger since 1992.
Mr. Biden has established an advantage in the three Great Lakes states that swung the election to Mr. Trump: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And he is leading the president or deadlocked with him across much of the Sun Belt, including in Georgia and Arizona, states that no Democrat has carried this century.
Just as revealing as it relates to Tuesday’s debate, there are few undecided voters left in America. So it’s questionable whether this or either of the following two debates can drastically shift the election.