'A Terrifying Time to Be Alive': Reactions to the First Debate

President Trump faced off with Joe Biden on Tuesday
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2020 12:07 AM CDT
Updated Sep 30, 2020 6:42 AM CDT
'A Terrifying Time to Be Alive': Reactions to the First Debate
President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

"A hot mess." "A terrifying time to be alive." "Mayhem." "Almost unwatchable." Those were just some of the media descriptions given to the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election. Takeaways from both sides after the Tuesday night event, which was moderated by Chris Wallace:

  • RedState: "This is a hard one, folks. Time and again, this debate proved to me that this is a terrifying time to be alive," writes senior editor Joe Cunningham. "Two old men shouting at each other while a third old man tries to get them to stop shouting at each other? Watching this debate was a type of self-destructive behavior that I’ll be recovering from for a while, I think." He declares Trump the winner, "but barely." Full piece here.
  • Vox: A number of writers at the site list three winners (none of them Trump or Biden) and four losers of the night. One of the winners? China. "No government can feasibly end American global hegemony—except for the American one," argues Zack Beauchamp. "Nobody benefits more from this kind of internal discord in the world’s most powerful state than China." Full piece here.

  • Washington Post: Aaron Blake is one of many naming Wallace a clear loser of the night. "What struck me most was Wallace’s attempts to almost placate Trump," Blake writes. "'Mr. President you’re going to be very happy, because we’re going to talk about law and order,' Wallace said at one point while trying to move past Trump talking over Biden. 'Let me ask—sir, you’ll be happy, I’m about to pick up on one of your points to ask the vice president,' Wallace said at another point." Full piece, which is one of multiple to use the word "unwatchable," here.
  • More from the right: Hot Air's livestream combines tweets from a number of Townhall Media editors; see it here. A number of the tweets slam Wallace, most seem happy with Trump's performance, and at least one points out that Biden refused to answer a question about Democrats potentially packing the Supreme Court.
  • Axios: Mike Allen, who calls the debate "a hot mess," was apparently so disheartened by the whole thing the site's own format sort of fell apart. In the "Why it matters" section after one point, Allen writes simply, "Honestly, who the hell knows?" Full piece here.
  • Politico: David Siders says the "mayhem" of the night didn't throw Biden off, and writes that if the talking points around the election itself are any indication, the aftermath is going to be "war." The president said at one point that he is "counting on" the Supreme Court to "look at the ballots." Full piece here.
  • Wall Street Journal: Rebecca Ballhaus writes that amid the "messy" debate, Biden "gave a more forceful performance than the low expectations set for him by the president and his allies." That said, Trump did appear to "rattle" him several times. Full piece here.
  • Fact checking: ABC News fact-checks the debate, and finds multiple falsehoods. Full piece here. CNN's version is here. The Federalist has a piece about Biden making a false claim about Dr. Anthony Fauci; see that here.
For more on the debate, see Newser's live coverage here, the AP's six takeaways here, the biggest insults of the night here, how the mask issue played out here, and one of the most talked-about moments here. (More Election 2020 stories.)

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