The second and final presidential debate of the 2020 election took place in Nashville last night between President Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
The debate was moderated by NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker and focused on the topics of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), foreign interfence in the election, healthcare, minimum wage, immigration, racial justice and climate change. The event consisted of fewer interruptions and personal attacks from each candidate than the first debate, with a discussion focused primarily on policy.
The debate began by Welker asking Trump about the increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the country, and how he plans to handle this stage of the pandemic.
Trump said he recognized that there have been recent spikes in several states, but that the mortality rate of the virus has decreased. Additionally, he said a vaccine may be ready in the upcoming weeks and will be announced soon.
The Daily Targum previously reported that Pfizer is the only company in a late-stage clinical trial that could have initial results by the end of October in a best-case scenario. On Oct. 16, Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said they will only apply for Emergency Authorization Use after the third week of November once the vaccine meets safety regulations.
Trump said there is no guarantee that a vaccine would be released as early as November, but that it is expected to by the end of the year. Despite his own health officials stating that it may be well into 2021 before most Americans receive the vaccine, he said he believes it could become widely distributed earlier than that.
When asked about his approach to controlling the spread of the virus, Biden said Trump has yet to make a comprehensive plan to help combat the spread of the virus. He said that in the event of his election, he would not only continue to encourage the use of face masks in all circumstances, but also expand rapid testing and develop a national standard to safely reopen schools and businesses.
“(Trump) did virtually nothing, then he gets out of the hospital and talks about, ‘Don’t worry, this will all be over soon,'” Biden said. “Come on, there’s not another serious scientist in the world that thinks it’s gonna be over soon.”
In response, Trump said he never intended that the pandemic would be over soon, but instead that the country is learning to live with it. He said people cannot “lock themselves up” until the virus is controlled.
Welker then moved on to the topic of foreign interference in the election. The New York Times reported that top intelligence officials have found that Russia and Iran have obtained U.S. voter registration information, with Iran sending threatening messages to Florida.
Biden said that anyone who interferes with the results of an election should pay a price because they are interfering with American sovereignty. He said this interference is taking place due to the fact that Russia is familiar with him and wants him to lose this election, while Trump said both of these countries are working to ensure he loses the election instead.
Welker also asked Trump about whether there is foreign conflict of interest due to his previous business relations with China. He said he opened a bank account in China in 2013 when deciding whether to participate in a business deal.
He said the account was closed in 2015 prior to running for President, but The New York Times reported that an attorney for the Trump Organization confirmed that this account is still open, althought there are no deals, transactions or other business activities ongoing since 2015.
On healthcare, Trump said that he plans to implement a new healthcare policy in the event that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is overturned in the Supreme Court. He did not specify what this healthcare system would look like but said it will be one that always protects those with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, he said Biden wants to eliminate private healthcare, something that would not happen under his plan.
In response, Biden said his plan involves the creation of “Bidencare,” expanding upon the ACA with a public option. He said that under this plan, individuals who qualify for Medicaid are automatically enrolled in the public option, and that other policyholders will experience reduced premiums and drug prices. Biden also said those with private healthcare plans would not lose their insurance under his system.
On the topic of race, Biden said more economic opportunities, better access to schooling and better healthcare, among other things, must be provided in order to combat institutional racism. He said there needs to be an opportunity for the Black community to accumulate wealth in addition to decreasing the level of violence against them.
Trump then said that with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, there has not been any other president who has done as much for the Black community as he has. He said that under his administration, they have not only passed criminal justice and prison reform, but also increased the amount of funding given to primarily Black colleges and universities.
“As far as my relationship with all people — I think I have great relationships with all people,” he said. “I am the least racist person in this room.”
The final topic focused on how each candidate would fight climate change while also supporting job growth. Trump said he pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement because it would have sacrificed American jobs and businesses, but has still managed to maintain a clean environment.
Biden said his climate plan would create a large amount of job opportunities. He said the plan includes investing in electric charging stations and reducing energy leaks, among other things.
Welker ended the debate by asking each nominee what they would say to those who did not vote for them in the event they win the election.
Trump said during his time in office, he has worked to rebuild the country’s economy and increase the number of jobs both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said he has aimed to lower taxes.
Biden said regardless of whether you voted for him, if he is elected he is meant to represent every person in the United States. He said he wants to give the country hope that the economy can still grow while also creating more jobs, working toward clean energy and continuing to fight against institutional racism.