NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After the first presidential debate was panned so widely that organizers introduced a mute button, Thursday’s second and final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden was far more civil.
Whether because of that button or the terrible reviews, especially for Trump, the two interrupted each other far less frequently, even as they clashed on issues ranging from the coronavirus to crime.
Trump, in particular, was on his best behavior early, especially with the moderator, whom he’d repeatedly attacked before the debate.
Democrat Joe Biden is framing the election as a battle over the character of the nation, a reiteration of one of his major campaign themes.
Speaking directly to the audience during Thursday night’s debate, Biden told them they’re familiar with both his and President Donald Trump’s character, their “reputations for honor” and “reputations for telling the truth.” He went on to declare that “our character is on the ballot.”
His comments came in response to Trump’s declaration that he ran because Biden and President Barack Obama “did a poor job.”
Trump responded that if his unfounded charges that Biden has received money from Russia and Ukraine are true, Biden himself is a “corrupt politician,” while Biden said the evidence for such allegations is a “Russian plant.”
Trump immediately dismissed Biden’s charges, declaring, “You have to be kidding me. Here we go again with Russia.”
Joe Biden and Donald Trump are clashing on race relations, as the former vice president calls the current president “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history.”
Biden said Trump “pours fuel on every racist fire” and noted that at his last debate the president wouldn’t condemn white supremacy and told an extremist group to “stand down and stand by.”
Trump portrayed himself as a champion of Black people. Repeating his standard line that no president has done more for Black Americans than anyone other than Abraham Lincoln, Trump accused Biden and former President Barack Obama of ignoring issues of racial justice.
Trump told Biden: “You’ve done nothing but the crime bill which put tens of thousands of Black men in jail.”
Biden said he’s been trying to change drug sentencing laws that disproportionately harmed African Americans and that the public knows his record.
Trump, touting criminal justice reform and opportunity zone bills he signed, said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”