Federal Courts and Nominations

Trump bullies, Biden holds firm in slapfest presidential debate

President Trump sought to bully Joe Biden in a slapfast of a presidential debate Tuesday night, although the Democratic nominee held firm and repudiated his opponent for stoking racism and for his failures in addressing the coronavirus.

Throughout the night, Trump talked over Biden in the time allocated for his responses, accusing the former vice president of failing to accomplish anything in his 47 years of public service and raising questions about his son Hunter Biden’s financial ties to Russia and China.

Biden, having enough of Trump at times, referred to him as a “clown” and denounced him for stoking racism.

“This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division,” Biden said.

Even Chris Wallace of Fox News, who was moderating the debate, said Trump was breaking debate rules more than Biden by speaking over his opponent, pleading with both to uphold the deal their campaigns reached.

Biden deployed one of his best lines of the night when criticizing Trump for his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans.

“Two hundred thousand dead, as you said over 7 million infected in the United States,” Biden said. “We in fact have 5 percent of 4 percent of the world’s population, 20 percent of the deaths. 40,000 people a day are contracting COVID. In addition to that, between 750 and 1,000 people a day, they’re dying.”

Biden concluded, “When you were presented with that number he said it is what it is. It is what it is because you are who you are. The president has no plan.”

Another key moment came up when Trump declined to repudiate white supremacy, shifting the blame for ongoing violence in civil unrest to left-wing groups. Trump specifically declined to denounce the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group that has been labeled a terrorist organization, and instead encouraged its members to “stand by.”

“I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem,” Trump said. “This is a left-wing problem.”

For his part, Biden refused to give a clear answer when asked whether he’d seek to pack courts with liberals upon his election as president.

The climax of the debate was the topic of mail-in voting, which prompted Biden to issue an urgent plea to voters to oust Trump from the White House.

“And this is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate,” Biden said. “Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote.”

Trump, when asked if he was hoping his pick for the Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett and other justices were watching the tabulations, gave a nebulous answer.

“I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballot, definitely,” Trump said. “I hope we don’t need in terms of election itself, but for the ballots I think so because what’s happening is incredible.”

There were no questions on LGBTQ issues addressed during the debate.

Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said in a statement Trump’s words were damaging to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

“As part of a breathtakingly horrible display tonight, President Trump again admitted that he is counting on a Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court to help ‘counting the ballots’ in this election,” Wydra said. “This motivation for pushing through a replacement for Justice Ginsburg while people are voting is incredibly damaging to the legitimacy of the Court, which no senator of either party should support.”