Tuesday night’s chaotic presidential debate gave Joe Biden numerous opportunities to hammer President Trump on a critical weakness — his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seizing on the administration’s scattered crisis response, Biden said that the president “panicked” and downplayed the seriousness of the virus, a strategic blunder. He urged Trump to “get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap and your golf course” and work with both political parties to provide Americans with economic relief and adequate supplies of protective gear. Placed on the defensive, Trump repeatedly insisted that the White House had done a “phenomenal job.”
The two candidates later traded barbs over reopening the economy, with Trump baselessly claiming that Democratic governors were waiting to lift shutdown orders in place until after the election, and Biden arguing that easing restrictions would be unsafe.
“People want their places open,” Trump declared. Biden shot back, “People want to be safe.”
Though experts have repeatedly expressed doubts that a coronavirus vaccine will be available before next summer, Trump claimed that he had spoken “to the scientists that are in charge” and received assurances that the vaccine would be ready sooner. Biden responded by turning to the camera and issuing a direct appeal to voters, questioning why they would believe Trump’s promises “in light of all the lies he’s told you,” and the president’s repeated disagreements with government scientists.
The back-and-forth turned personal when Biden said that it was irresponsible of Trump to hold large campaign rallies during the pandemic, and Trump retorted that Biden would do the same if he were capable of drawing a crowd. Biden also criticized Trump for his reluctance to wear masks in public, leading the president to mock his rival for wearing “the biggest mask I’ve ever seen” during campaign events.