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It's hard to argue whether the presidential debate was, in fact, an incomprehensible mess. Instead, opinion writers argue which candidate it was more of a mess for.

Jillian Carey | The Breeze

Opinion | How can anyone vote for Trump after that debate?

Many people have never seen a presidential debate that bad — and not just because they’re too young to remember a worse one. George Stephanopoulos from ABC News said that in 40 years of watching, moderating and reporting on presidential debates, this one “was the worst presidential debate I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

It’s hard to imagine a single voter who could’ve been swayed by that debate. At this point in an election, most people have already decided who they’re voting for, but the presidential debates can help to sway the remaining few who are still on the fence. Still, after this debate, it seems like any sensible person should’ve been dissuaded from voting for Trump.

One should be able to expect professionalism during a debate, which this debate didn’t even come close to. It was embarrassing and aggravating to watch and hear three men talking over each other, most often because of Trump’s ceaseless interruptions. 

Tuning into a debate should lead to the answers of pressing questions such as what one should expect for the economy under one nominee’s leadership, or what that nominee might plan to do about COVID-19 in the coming months. While Biden managed to discuss these issues, viewers might have been shocked to hear some of the topics Trump spoke about instead, such as the jabs he took at Biden’s son.

While Biden talked about his late son, Beau, who served in Iraq and died of a brain tumor in 2015, Trump began to talk over him. In a single, chilling moment, Trump turned the discussion from Biden’s late son to his son, Hunter, who’s recovering from substance abuse. Trump politicized that struggle and journey while adding without evidence that Hunter had been dishonorably discharged from the military and had “made a fortune” in Ukraine and Russia.

Worse than the unprofessionalism were Trump’s nonanswers, though. Throughout the debate, with Joe Biden turned toward the camera and Trump turned toward Biden, it seemed clear that Biden was speaking to the American citizens, meanwhile Trump was doing everything in his power to silence, disorient and disrupt Biden. When actually asked a question, Trump was more likely to waltz around the answer than actually give one.

And yet, it was hard to miss the fact that Trump refused to denounce white supremacy. Worse, he said to the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group, “Stand back and stand by.” More than anything, this makes it seem like Trump is admitting to being the leader of this hate group.

Even if Trump’s incessant interrupting and unsettling nonanswers actually manage to convince enough Republicans not to vote for him, if Trump is voted out of the office, he isn’t going to go willingly. With countless claims about the election being rigged, it’s clear that Trump isn’t going to just accept a peaceful transition of power, according to CNN.

If this debate is to be any indication for the next two coming up, viewers can likely expect for them to be wild, full of false claims and liable to give them a migraine — and that’s without turning them into a drinking game. Voters should do themselves a favor and vote early, just to be done with this nonsense already.

Jillian Carey is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at breezeopinion@gmail.com.

Evan Holden | The Breeze

Opinion | Biden embarrassed himself and only showed incompetence 

The first presidential debate was an absolute disaster. Now, many are left arguing whether the fault belongs to Chris Wallace, who struggled to uphold almost any order during the debate at all, President Donald Trump, who constantly interrupted and spent the night on an unrelenting offensive push that was often personal, or Joe Biden, who at his best moments was using fear tactics rather than talking about his plans, and at his worst was lowering the standard of what a candidate can say to his opponent during a presidential debate. 

Trump has a reputation for using tactics that can be described as bullying, and the audience didn’t see anything entirely new from him. He pushes his opponents to psychological exhaustion by letting loose a barrage of attacks, stopping his opponent in the middle of his response and speaking in a subtly or blatantly disrespectful manner. 

This kind of behavior builds psychological pressure and anger in anyone subjected to it. Biden broke under that pressure. Within minutes he said probably the most embarrassing line of the night, “Will you shut up, man?” 

Many thought this was something that needed to be said and perhaps they’re right. Trump was breaking the rules as much as he wanted, but actually allowing those words to be said while in the middle of a debate to be next president of the U.S. shows not only a lack of restraint, but a lack of intelligence and ability to be competent and professional at the most crucial of times. 

It’s possible that no presidential candidate has ever said that on stage in front of a live audience of millions. Telling someone to shut up is something that’s done at a high school lunch table. There are intelligent, charismatic and proper ways to shut down someone who’s rude and belligerent, but Biden showed he had no such skill, and sunk even below the level of his opponent. He may as well have tried to throw a literal punch and turned the debate into a fistfight. 

A more competent candidate might have also noticed their mistake immediately and did their best to correct it, but Biden doubled down. A few minutes after, he did it again. 

“Will he just shush?!” Biden said, losing his incredibly short temper for the second time after Trump continued to interrupt him. Biden had to completely stop what he was saying at that moment and lost even more momentum by drawing attention away from his answers to the debate questions and to his outrageous behavior on stage. 

As the night went on, the insults and interruptions from both sides continued to get worse. After a heated argument about Biden’s son Hunter, Trump again pushed Biden past his mental limit and got him to embarrass himself. 

“It's hard to get any word in with this clown!” Biden said, before correcting himself: “Excuse me, this person.” By correcting himself, Biden finally acknowledged his unprofessionalism and immaturity, which is ironic considering that he’s older than Trump.

Undecided voters have a difficult choice to make this election, and after this debate, they have an even harder one. These men have continued to present themselves as unprofessional and unable to follow the most simple of rules. At the end of the day, this was a presidential debate. Trump rolled over Biden’s every opportunity to speak, but the moderator let him. It was Biden's choice to step out of line and in doing so, he decreased the public's ability to feel good about voting for him to an even greater extent. Many citizens voting for Biden don’t want him to be president almost as much as they don’t want Trump to be re-elected, and he’s making it harder for them to, as the saying goes, “Settle for Biden.”

Evan Holden is a sophomore political science major. Contact Evan at holdened@dukes.jmu.edu.