Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Trump and Biden square off for first time in 2024 election season


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Trump confident, even when wrong; Biden halts, even with facts on his side

Washington, June 28: A raspy and sometimes halting President Joe Biden tried repeatedly to confront Donald Trump in their first debate ahead of the November election, as his Republican rival countered Biden’s criticism by leaning into falsehoods about the economy, illegal immigration and his role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
Biden’s uneven performance, particularly early in the debate, crystallised the concerns of many Americans that, at 81, he is too old to serve as president.
It sparked a fresh round of calls for the Democrat to consider stepping aside as the party fears a return of Trump to the White House.
Biden repeatedly tore into Trump in an apparent effort to provoke him, bringing up everything from the former president’s recent felony conviction to his alleged insult of World War I veterans to his weight and golf game.
The 78-year-old Trump declined to clearly state he would accept the results of the November election, four years after he promoted conspiracy theories about his loss that culminated in the January 6 insurrection, and repeatedly misstated the record from his time in his office.
But Biden’s halting delivery from the beginning of the debate drew the most attention afterward. Trump’s allies immediately declared victory while prominent Democrats publicly questioned whether Biden could move forward.
“I think there was a sense of shock, actually, of how he came out at the beginning of this debate, how his voice sounded. He seemed a little disoriented. He did get stronger as the debate went on but by that time, I think the panic had set in,” said David Axelrod, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama, said on CNN immediately after.
Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on the network afterward, sought to defend the president’s performance while acknowledging the criticism.
“There was a slow start, but there was a strong finish,” she said.
Biden began the night with a raspy voice and a halting delivery as he tried to defend his economic record and criticise Trump.
A person familiar with the matter said Biden was suffering from a cold during the debate, adding that he tested negative for COVID-19.
Biden appeared to lose his train of thought while giving one answer, drifting from an answer on tax policy to health policy, at one point using the word “COVID,” and then saying, “excuse me, with, dealing with,” and he trailed off again.
He also fumbled on abortion rights, one of the most important issues for Democrats in this year’s election. He was unable to explain Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion.
When asked if he supports some restrictions on abortion, Biden said he “supports Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters. The first time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.” He added that he thought doctors, not politicians, should make decisions about “women’s health.”
Biden began to give clearer answers as the debate progressed, still with a rasp, and attacked Trump’s record on issues like fighting climate change.
Addressing supporters briefly at a watch party near the debate venue, Biden didn’t address his performance directly, but said, “let’s keep going,” and indicated he has no plans to leave the race. “See you at the next one,” he added.
The current president and his predecessor hadn’t spoken since their last debate weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
Trump skipped Biden’s inauguration after leading an unprecedented and unsuccessful effort to overturn his loss that culminated in the Capitol riot by his supporters.
Trump equivocated on whether he would accept the results of the November election, saying he would accept them if the vote was “fair” and “legal,” repeating his baseless claims of widespread fraud and misconduct in his 2020 loss to Biden that he still denies.
Pressed on his actions on January 6, 2021, Trump was unapologetic.
“On January 6, we were respected all over the world, all over the world we were respected. And then he comes in and we’re now laughed at,” Trump said.
After he was prompted by a moderator to answer whether he violated his oath of office that day by rallying his supporters seeking to block the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory and not acting for hours to call them off as they raided the Capitol, Trump sought to blame then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Biden said Trump encouraged the supporters to go to the Capitol and sat in the White House without taking action as they fought with police officers.
But the debate was highlighting how they have sharply different visions on virtually every core issue – abortion, the economy and foreign policy – and deep hostility toward each other. (AP)


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