The Last Presidential Debate

Spandana Vagwala '22, Co Assistant Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday October 22, the United States tuned in to watch the final presidential debate in the 2020 election season. Following the contentious first debate and a cancelled second debate, much of the United States anticipated the third. White House Correspondent Kristen Welker moderated the final debate and was given a mute button to better limit each candidate’s speaking time as a result of the failed smooth communication in the first debate. Similar to the previous debate, the final debate covered COVID pandemic, racial tension in the United States, and financial matters between the candidates and in the economy, the environment, and healthcare. With the election just days away, many Americans are voting, listening to the final words of both candidates and awaiting November 3rd. Here are the highlights from the final debate:


Kristen Welker began the debate with the topic of COVID concerns. Beginning with President Trump she asked: “How would you lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis. The president, who recently recovered from his journey with COVID, claimed he recovered very quickly and that he is now immune to the disease. He continued to state the more people were getting better and the pandemic was a worldwide problem. He said: “If you take a look at what we’ve done in terms of goggles and masks and gowns and everything else, and in particular ventilators we’re now making ventilators all over the world, thousands and thousands a month distributing them all over the world. It will go away. And as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.”

When she asked Vice President Biden the same question, Biden stated that 220,000 Americans have died from the pandemic, and he criticized the President’s handling of the situation with the rates of cases increasing every day. Biden said: “If we just wore these masks, the president’s own advisors have told him, we can save a 100,000 lives. And we’re in a circumstance where the president thus far and still has no plan, no comprehensive plan. What I would do is make sure we have everyone encouraged to wear a mask all the time. I would make sure we move into the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing. I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses so they can be safe and give them the wherewithal, the financial resources to be able to do that.”

Welker then brought up the president’s claim that a vaccine will be coming soon. The president responded saying it’s not guaranteed within the next few weeks but it will be ready and available by the end of the year. Biden, in response, said: “this is the same fellow who told you, ‘This is going to end by Easter’ last time. This is the same fellow who told you that, ‘don’t worry, we’re going to end this by the summer.’ We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter and he has no clear plan. And there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.”

Perhaps one of the main highlights of this debate was the juxtaposition between President Trump’s remark that “we’re learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does”  and VP Biden’s response: “People are learning to die with it.”

Welker continued to question the candidates on what their approach to containing the virus would be. VP Biden claimed that the reason shutdowns had to extend to so many businesses, schools and lives was because President Trump neglected the virus during its initial stages. He also said if the situation worsened, standards of closing schools and shutting things down would have to be confronted. The President said shutting down schools is futile since school going children have better immune systems and because the “transmittal rate to the teachers is very small.” The President continued saying: “We have to open our country. We can’t keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs. They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. There’s abuse, tremendous abuse. We have to open our country. I’ve said it often, the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and that’s what’s happening.”

The candidates continued the debate, disagreeing over the usefulness of plexiglass dividers, looking at the country as red/blue states instead of a whole, prioritizing the elderly community, statements about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recommendations, and more. 


Ever since the recent nomination and appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barret, healthcare has been a subject of debate. Welker pointed out that the president is in favor of overturning the Affordable Care Act which has been argued that 20 million Americans would possibly lose their health insurance overnight. In response, President Trump said he wants to completely eliminate Obamacare and start his own healthcare plan which would protect those with pre-existing conditions. 

On the other hand, VP Biden emphasized that he wants to build on Obamacare. Biden laid out his three goals with improving healthcare. First, he said: “What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option, and become Bidencare. The public option is an option that says that if you in fact do not have the wherewithal, if you qualify for Medicaid and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get Medicaid, you automatically are enrolled, providing competition for insurance companies.” Secondly, Biden said he would “reduce the premiums and reduce drug prices by making sure that there’s competition by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the insurance companies. Lastly, Biden reminded his audience that he wants to eliminate private insurance. He assured that “not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan, nor did they under Obamacare. They did not lose their insurance unless they chose they wanted to go to something else…people deserve to have affordable healthcare, period.” 

The Environment

Following Welker’s question about what each candidate would do to combat environmental threats and climate change, President Trump and Vice President Biden stated their plans. The President mentioned the trillion trees program which is committed to planting a trillion trees around the world by the end of the decade. The President also pointed out that achieving universally clearer water and cleaner air should be a goal.. He praised the United States, saying: “We have the best carbon emission numbers that we’ve had in 35 years under this administration, we are working so well with industry, but here’s what we can’t do. Look at China, how filthy it is, look at Russia, look at India, it’s filthy, the air is filthy.” The President also re-affirmed his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord because “it would take businesses away and sacrifice tens of millions of jobs.”

Vice President Biden endorsed his climate plan. He claimed that, under his plan, 18.6 million jobs would be created and that he would invest in charging stations and would eventually own the electric car market to promote a better environment. The President interrupted Biden to state that his plan to fight climate change was a partnership with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and would in turn cost over 100 trillion dollars. Biden continued to show his favor for solar energy and wind power. Both candidates continued to clash over details about limiting and/or banning fracking. 

Racial Issues

Given the events of 2020, Welker continued to ask about how the next presidential candidate would help diffuse racial tension. She reminded the sitting president about his words against the Black Lives Matter movement and asked President Trump what he had to say to Americans who claimed his words and tone has contributed to a climate of racial strife. The president shared his first impression of the BLM movement and said he thought “it was a terrible thing.” He then continued to say: “I am the least racist person in this room. I got criminal justice reform done, and prison reform, and Opportunity Zones. I took care of Black colleges and universities… I can’t even see the audience because it’s so dark, but I don’t care who’s in the audience, I’m the least racist person in this room.”

After banter between the two candidates concerning Abraham Lincoln and President Trump’s past statements about Muslims and Mexican immigrants, Welker reminded VP Biden of his support for a crime bill in the 80s and 90s which ultimately led to the mass incarceration of many Black men who had small amounts of drugs in their possession. She asked him if people should vote for him due to his past with the issue. Biden admitted he made a mistake and now believes that no individual, regardless of race, should be jailed for drug use and/or possession but should rather seek government funded treatment. Biden also continued saying he has been trying to change the portion of the bill and that they have released over 38,000 prisoners. When President Trump directly asked why Biden hasn’t been successful in changing the bill during his time in office, Biden claimed it was because of resistance from the Republican Congress. 

The election is days away, and it is being called the “most important election in our lifetime.” Remember to make a voting plan and vote if you are eligible. Continue to learn about our country so you can cast a well-informed vote when you turn 18! Lastly, don’t forget to tune in to the polls to monitor the 2020 election as it comes to an end. 

Spandana Vagwala ‘22, Co Assistant Editor-in-Chief