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OPINION: The first presidential debate lacked professionalism

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump met at a CNN debate on June 27, 2024 in the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle.

Former United States President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden participated in the first debate of this year’s election cycle on June 27, 2024

The debate was held in Atlanta, Georgia and hosted by CNN, with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash as moderators. A key feature of this debate was that there was no live audience, as CNN wanted viewers at home to form their own opinions on the candidates without audience reactions influencing them. Even further, when one candidate was answering a question, the microphone of the other candidate was muted to prevent them from interjecting. While the rules and moderators were fair and reasonable, the debate still revealed the lack of professionalism in American politics.

President Biden is currently 81 years old, and former President Trump is currently 78. Regardless of the winner, the next president will be the oldest ever elected in American history. This was clear from both of their demeanors on stage, especially Biden. In fact, President Biden was met with criticism and uncertainty due to his performance, as he seemed exhausted and distracted. This factor alone made the debate feel unserious. 

Despite the clear rules given by the moderators, the former president still managed to find loopholes in the system. Trump would often respond to the questions the moderators posed by first responding to what Biden had said previously – even though Tapper and Bash allowed time for the candidates to respond to one another – effectively dodging certain prompts. 

When asked about climate change, Trump responded with, “Well, let me just go back to what he said about the police, how close the police are to him.” After ignoring the question from Bash, Bash prompted the former president again with, “38 seconds left, President Trump. Will you take any action as President to slow the climate crisis?” His brief response consisted of “And yet, during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever. And my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually,” even though no statistic was stated. 

There were more unsupported claims from both the former president and current president, which reinforced that this debate was essentially useless. 

Trump threw around haphazard claims such as “We’re like a Third World nation,” that Biden is destroying Social Security and that millions of immigrants are living in luxury hotels while veterans are homeless. Biden also responded to prompts without any statistical backing and promoted empty promises, like restoring Roe v. Wade. Both sides seemed to simply be using exaggerated speech directed at the other without actually promoting any tangible solutions to the issues at hand.

The issues discussed were largely reminiscent of the 2020 presidential election debates, which, personally, made me feel bored and annoyed with the debate. Since Trump was elected in 2016, it seems as though there is an endless cycle of nonsense being spewed about issues such as abortion, inflation, tax cuts, immigration and climate change legislation. One side wants one thing, and the other is unwilling to accept it. There were more recent topics discussed, like the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine and the war between Ukraine and Russia. 

When probed on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Trump gave an alarming response. 

“As far as Israel and Hamas, Israel’s the one that wants to go – he said the only one who wants to keep going is Hamas. Actually, Israel is the one. And you should them go and let them finish the job,” Trump said. 

In a war where more than 30,000 innocent Palestinians have been killed, I am not sure what “finish the job” means. This claim is arguably encouraging terrorism and genocide, and is coming from someone who also incited an insurrection on January 6th, 2021. All the while, Trump stated that millions of terrorists are pouring into the United States because of the border crisis, making Biden a terrorist. Curious. 

During the debate, Trump especially hyper fixated on immigration, and used it as an escape route to answer almost any question he did not seem to have an intelligent answer to. According to some of his responses, immigration is to blame for inflation, veteran homelessness and black unemployment. Despite the ongoing wars abroad, Trump also referred to the border as “the most dangerous place anywhere in the world.” While immigration is a topic worth discussing from both parties, Trump seems to use it to evade answering real questions and to rally a political fanbase. 

Overall, the first debate of the 2024 election was underwhelming, repetitive and useless. Both candidates are the oldest American voters have seen, and as the two men spent part of the debate arguing who is better at golf while refusing to give meaningful answers to the questions asked, this livestream can be seen as one of the most unprofessional and unserious moments in American history. The next four years will likely be much of the same, as both candidates stated they were only running because of how horrible the other was at being president. 

Optimistically, future elections may consist of younger, more competent candidates who are willing to make change and end the unprofessional vindictiveness seen in government today.

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawson
Luke Lawson, Opinions Editor
Luke Lawson is a senior at the University of Arizona studying accounting.