posts 1 - 15 of 44
Boston, US
Posts: 205

No matter what your political views are, I think it's fair to say that that debate was .... unprecedented. Televised presidential debates began in the United States with the presidential race of 1960, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was clearly prepared for the medium of television; Nixon, it is widely thought, was not. If you have ever been to Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, there's an entire section about the debates, how they were perceived by the American public, and how they affected the election outcome.

Fast forward 60 years. Wow.

People around the world have been looking at the United States and seem to wonder: what is happening in this country? This article, by Hannah Bosch, titled "‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the US," was published by the New York Times several days before the debate happened.

Boston Latin School students: We are being joined, for the first of several occasions this year, by history and politics students of my colleague Mr. Markus Schirmer, from the Reuchlin-Gymnasium in Ingolstadt, Germany. Welcome Ingolstadt students! We look forward to hearing your perspectives on the looming election in our country and the debate that took place last evening.

Boston students: please welcome the Ingolstadt students and engage with their perspectives!

Here is your opportunity to weigh in with your impressions of the debate. Here are some questions to think about as you write:

  • What moments stood out to you?
  • What did you learn from either President Trump or former Vice President Biden about their plans for the nation?
  • What did you learn about the character of each person? Is character relevant to leadership?
  • How do you think this first debate will affect the election and what will follow November 3 (election day)?

If for some reason, you want to watch the debate again, click here for a link to the streamed version. And for highlights of the debate, take a look either at this from the BBC or this from Politico.

Boston, Massachuesetts, US
Posts: 20

The forgotten episode of SNL?

Last night’s debate was, at its core, the worst presidential debate in our history. It was embarrassing watching 3 grown men argue, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Chris Wallace. While watching the debate, I just kept echoing one thought in my head. Is this real? Is this not a scripted fake debate? I was devastated during the entirety of this debate. Not even the moderator of this debate, Chris Wallace, a Fox News reporter, could contain the side comments and interruptions. Donald Trump would be asked a question, and he would spend the entire time bashing Joe Biden, without ever answering the question. Both politicians did this, dodging their questions and working on their campaign basis. At first, Biden was simply mellow, letting Trump interrupt him, while Wallace asked Trump to stop. Then, after a certain point, Biden snapped, adding points such as “would you just shut up,” “clown,” and after Wallace said Trump you cannot interrupt him, let him finish the question, Biden added, “He doesn’t know how to do that.” Biden was not the only one throwing in snide comments, Trump was constantly personally attacking Biden, cutting him off, talking about how inept he was as the vice president and as a senator, even bringing up Biden’s son, who unfortunately passed away. This debate was an absolute joke, and I am sad that this is where the country has gone to, 3 men arguing in front of live news cast broadcasted to the entire country. This was not a debate, because Trump refused to follow the rules, to respect Wallace. Neither Biden nor Trump opened up and discussed any policies in full, Trump refused to condemn and call out white supremists, Biden did not say he supported Black Lives Matter, even when asked twice about it. One quote that I could not forget from Wallace, “sir- sir- mr.- Mr. President please! Let him answer the question!” Donald Trump debated the moderator the same amount that he debated Biden. Soon after this, Trump is asked about his taxes, and says “I have paid millions.” That is a lie, seeing as he has not released his tax report. I could go on and on, about how much of an absolute failure that was, but I shall close off with a quote from a newscaster. It was, as a newscaster (from ABC I believe) put it, “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a trainwreck…” If SNL wanted to make a version of this debate for their show, they could just recycle the entire debate for the episode, and I personally wouldn’t bat an eye.
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, DE
Posts: 4

First hello from Germany

First of all, I want to thank Ms. Freeman for reaching out to us and for giving us this very special opportunity to be part of this global project on civic obligations. Currently, there are 18 students of about your age from my English course at Reuchlin-Gymnasium participating in the project. Other colleagues are teaching them in History or Social Studies/Government courses in preparation of their graduation exams next spring. Their English oral exams will also cover the topics “The individual and society” as well as the American political system. At some later point they will be happy to talk about the current political situation in Germany.

We are excited to get to know you and your (political) views during the current US election campaign and are ready to share our thoughts from the distance.

Boston, US
Posts: 205

How the world is perceiving this debate...

Welcome, Mr. Schirmer and your students!

I just wanted to add one more incredible article that surveys how the world is perceiving this debate the morning after. I've linked it here

It is very sobering.

I am eager to read what you all have to say about this!

Ingolstadt , Bavaria, DE
Posts: 3

What’s there to discuss?

In my humble opinion the name „discussion-forum“ becomes very obsolete when talking about this presidential debate, as there’s nothing to „discuss“.

A discussion would require contrary opinions but regarding this topic it’s just not possible to have contrary opinions as it should be common consensus that this debate was a complete disaster. After having seen the debate it felt like I have been watching 3 Grandpas argue in an old people's home for 1.5 hours.

A moment, or should I say moments, witch really rather shocked me, than stood out to me, was when the two candidates started to insult or interrupt each other. There have also been several tv-debates in Germany in which the chancellor candidates had occasion to argue with eatch other about ther views, but you would have never heard Angela Merkel or Sigmar Gabriel, former chancellor candidate for the social party, say “Halts Maul” (= shut up) to each other.

Both Trump and Biden did not present themselves very well and maybe even scared off some voters, but not from voting for them, but to vote at all. Trump showed crude manners, by mentioning the drug problem of Biden’s son and Biden, by telling Trump to shut and calling him a clown, revealed an “aggressive” side I was not aware of he had.

This first debate will therefore rather not influence the election, as there was really nothing that could influence anybody.

But as disturbing as this debate was, I think the term American would fit this spectacle the most, as America is the only country I could imagine, and I don’t want to insult anybody by stating this, where 3 grown old men shout at and insult each other on tv for a full 1,5 hours.

P.S. Im sorry for eventual grammar mistakes, feel free to correct me.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22


Originally posted by JokerBra on September 30, 2020 14:0

But as disturbing as this debate was, I think the term American would fit this spectacle the most, as America is the only country I could imagine, and I don’t want to insult anybody by stating this, where 3 grown old men shout at and insult each other on tv for a full 1,5 hours.

First off, I want to say Hi from Boston!! Second of all, I completely agree with @JokerBra here. Although the United States likes to pride itself as an amazing and free country, I have to agree that in no other country would such a spectacle occur. This was embarrassing not only for the candidates, but for the country as a whole. It is quite disappointing that these two men are the ones that are representing the population.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17


While watching last night's debate, I was in a state of disbelief. Half of the time you couldn’t even hear what the other candidate was saying because of constant interruption, mostly by Trump. I wasn’t expecting a well thought out and intelligent debate because I think we all know who our candidates are, but this was beyond anything I imagined. It all just felt highly unprofessional, such as Trump bringing up Biden’s sons and disrespecting his family; a presidential debate just doesn’t seem like the time to be discussing that. Also, like @Fidget said, this felt like a 3 person debate; Trump, Biden, and Wallace. Partly it was the candidates fault for not letting Wallace even ask his questions, but on the other hand, I feel as though he did a poor job being the moderator, at times letting Trump and Biden talk over each other for too long. The personal attacks, constant interruption, and refusal to call out white supremacists says a lot about Trump's character, not much that we didn’t already know, but it still says a lot. Lastly, I’m not sure how severely this debate will affect the outcome of the election because neither candidate impressed anyone.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Scared for Our Future

This debate was unlike any other that anyone in the United States has ever witnessed. The words being delivered were far from presidential, the interruptions were at an astonishing 73 count, and barely any real points were made. This debate left everybody shocked and frankly disgusted. Is this what the United States represents? Two men supposed to be our candidates for presidency fighting like two toddlers? It was disappointing and frustrating to sit through, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next debate does not occur.

It is quite difficult to choose only a couple of key moments that stood out to me due to the fact that the whole debate was one big joke. Trump’s racist remarks, while not shocking, were outrageous and inappropriate. Calling Warren “Pocahontas” and referring to the coronavirus as the “china virus” while on the podium for a presidential debate was quite in character for him. Another moment that really stood out to me was when Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”. This resulted in celebration from the Proud Boys, prompting them to make a new logo and remarking that they would indeed stand by. On the other side of the podium, Biden’s actions, although not as horribly nauseating as Trump’s were still quite aggressive and out of place in a debate. Not only did Biden ask Trump to “just shut up man”, but he also proceeded to call him a clown. In no way do I disagree with either of those statements, however they do not belong in a presidential debate. There were so many other key moments that really stood out to me, but I would have to write for hours on end. That’s how extremely insane this debate was.

In all honesty I did not learn anything from either President Trump or former Vice President Biden. There was a very small amount of real points made, as well as a very small amount of staying on topic. I found it to be very petty and childish rather than professional and informative. As @fidget said, “This was not a debate, because Trump refused to follow the rules, to respect Wallace. Neither Biden nor Trump opened up and discussed any policies in full…” None of the actions from either side shocked me which is sad to say.

I didn’t learn anything new about Trump or Biden’s character per say, however much of my previous views on their characters were merely strengthened. Trump did not fail to be the narcissistic, bigoted, and irrational person that exists in my mind. Biden on the other hand surprised me a little bit with his comebacks, however other than that his character of being very moderate as well as uninspiring stayed the same.

Character most definitely affects leadership. Having a leader who has horrible character results in a terrible leader, an example being our current leader. How can somebody be a good leader if they aren’t even a good person?

I fear that this debate may have lost Biden some votes. Because of the ridiculousness and lack of real discussion, it was very unconvincing for anyone still on the line. I think that this was a good way for Trump to show that he can do whatever he wants and still have a scary amount of supporters. It’s honestly terrifying to think of Trump winning again.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

A Disgrace for America

Yesterday's debate was according to my parents the worst presidential debate ever, and I very much agree with that statement. Overall, the two candidates fought over each other for 90 minutes essentially leading us to no real result/winner of the debate. This is because during the 90 minutes on the air, president Trump did his speech habit of self centering the debate on making us feel bad for him as "everyone was after him his whole term" and with that, he kept interrupting Biden essentially bringing us no progress. However, something that really stood out to me was that the moderator, Chris Wallace, had to basically babysit the two candidates as one time he told president Trump to shut up and let Biden speak. This wasn't just a one time thing as Wallace had to keep doing this throughout the debate. Another moment that really stuck out to me was when Trump wouldn't condemn the white supremacists in the White House and brought that off topic. There are many more moments that stuck out to me, but really what I learned from both candidates was that Trump just wants to cause more chaos for the country and make promises that he likely won't keep and Biden will likely try to undo what Trump has done. As for both candidates' character, it was pretty evident that during the debate Trump was very self centered and rude to Biden as usual, and for Biden it seemed as though his character was calm even though he had Trump pestering him even when he tried to speak. Their character very much reveals their leadership methods, and as we learned from Donald Trump, because he was very rude and self centered, he ended up being that way in office and to mostly all of the White House media. Lastly, I believe that this debate may hurt Biden's votes a little bit because I feel like he missed some crutial exposure moments at Trump, but overall, with both of their fight, I hate to say but I have a feeling that this debate will make the November election closer than I would like it to be.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Like Nothing We've Seen Before...

If this had been anything other than presidential debate, it would have been hard not to laugh throughout the hour and a half “debate” that occurred last night. However, debates are a core part of our democracy and what occurred last night was absolutely horrifying. We witnessed our president’s blatant racism, watched as both candidates struggled to get out any sort of response, and saw the stage turn from a place of a civil debate to an argument, complete with attacks from both sides.

The moment that stood out to me that most was when Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists. He was given every opportunity to and he could not. If anything he encouraged white supremacists, saying that they should “stand back and stand by”. This is concrete evidence that he is a white supremacist which is beyond terrifying as he is the leader of America.

During the debate I didn’t really end up learning much about either candidate’s plan for the nation. Trump’s strategy at times seemed to be made up of avoiding questions and preventing Biden from answering, and if I’m honest, it worked. Although Trump did not get out anything close to a plan, neither did Biden and the few moments that showed potential were ruined by an interruption. So much of the debate was simply an argument, not only between the two candidates, but the moderator, Chris Wallace, added to the chaos as well. While I understand that Wallace did have a difficult task, I felt like he dealt with it poorly as so much of the debate was made up of Trump interrupting Biden and Biden trying to come up with a comment to say back to him.

In general I did not learn much more about the candidates, character wise too. Much of what Trump said (including his many interruptions) was honestly expected. On that stage he proved that he is rude, disrespectful, and ignorant, but it is awful to think that he has so much power and will likely never feel (or at least show) remorse for some of the terrible things he said during the debate. He truly never seems to stop. Biden on the other hand, remained relatively calm which I think was expected, and showed quite a bit more empathy than Trump and even addressed the American people a bit. I think that character is very important when it comes to leadership. Part of what makes a good leader is dependent on character: The ability to work with others, the ability to listen, the ability to make yourself heard as well as others. Donald Trump showed none of those characteristics in last night’s debate, although to be honest Biden exhibited few as well.

I do not really think that this debate will influence many voters. I would be surprised if any undecided voters even kept the debate on, as it was a complete mess to watch. Although I don’t think this debate will affect many of the votes for the election this November, it does definitely bring up questions about the direction our democracy is taking and what will happen as the election draws nearer. Last night left me with a deep sense of dread and embarrassment, and I can only imagine what the future may bring.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Embarrassing for America

The Presidential Debate last night was embarrassing for America. It’s hard to believe that this is the reality we are facing. Joe Biden and Trump both acted in a very unprofessional and immature way. Everybody was talking and nobody was actually listening.

What stood out to me was when Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and Joe Biden saying “I am the Democratic Party right now” rather than saying that he is representing the Democratic Party.

I learned that Biden is vowing to eliminate tax cuts under Trump’s tax law. He is also urging everyone to vote any way they can. Trump does not support mail-in voting. He argues that there is voter fraud. He also says that he should be able to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat.

Both candidates showed that they are disrespectful and rude. Biden showed that he struggles under pressure. Trump displayed his ignorance. The debate was full of personal attacks on family and insults. It lacked real discussion of policies and plans. When asked questions, both candidates avoided what was really being asked. This debate showed that neither of them are fit to lead. It will make the election closer than the polls have been predicting.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

An Embarrassment

Now I don’t usually dabble in politics, and this was actually the first presidential debate I watched in full—how tragic to say the least. I can say that before watching the debate, I had (and still have) some very strong biases against Trump. This live debate only solidified my strong dislike for how he presents himself and his avoidance of prevalent topics. Is it fair to say that I am afraid for the fate of this country?

To say the whole exchange was a disaster would be an understatement. The term “debate” would not be applicable in this sense as it was more of an angry exchange between two old men. Rather than using this opportunity to discuss his future plans and visions for a second term, Trump instead resorted to getting under Biden’s skin—which in my opinion seems a bit unpresidential. One moment that stood out to me is when Trump declined to condemn white supremacists. Not only did he refuse to condemn the Proud Boys, he also told them to “stand back, stand by” as if encouraging them to continue their supremacist ideals. As if that wasn’t enough proof of his racist tendencies, Trump’s comment on ending racial sensitivity training in federal agencies “because it’s racist” only solidified his ignorance. Following this comment he adds, “we have to go back to the core values of this country. They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it's a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country, and I'm not gonna allow that.” The first thing any history class teaches is that one must learn of the blemishes in history in order to change the future and avoid repetition. How is learning about our country’s dark but important history “teaching people to hate our country”? Acknowledging our faults as a nation not only shows dedication but also a great sense of patriotism.

Although this debate lasted for a whole 90-minutes, no prominent progress was made in terms of proposing plans for the nation on either side. Biden attempted to voice his ideas but was interrupted multiple times and succumbed to Trump’s snarky remarks. I found it rather low of Trump to go after Biden’s son Hunter, claiming that he was “dishonorably discharged for cocaine use”. Given Biden’s calm reaction to this as well as previous interruptions, I found it rather respectable and professional on his part. Trump on the other hand, I expected nothing more from him than to actively taunt and go after his rival’s family.

I think this debate will discourage people to vote seeing as we’ve been made a spectacle by the rest of the world. It’s definitely embarrassing to see that every other country is pitying our political situation at the moment. Hopefully this gives people more of an incentive to vote.

@JokerBra I completely agree with you. This debate was not only disturbing but embarrassing in many ways. It’s hard to believe that these are the people representing the face of Americans.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

The Messiest Presidential "Debate"

The presidential debate last year was surreal. Despite having a moderator and rules that were set beforehand, both candidates still interrupted each other constantly. It was hard to hear what each person was saying. Like @JokerBra said, it was more like three people arguing rather than a real debate. They were constantly attacking each other instead of giving clear answers for the questions; there were no real points made on both sides.

There were many moments that shocked me because I did not expect them to take place in a presidential debate. When Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists, he initially said he would do so, but needed a name to call them by, even though Wallace already said it in the question. In the end, he never condemned them, but told them to “stand back and stand by.” To me, that is telling them to be prepared to act when they are needed. At one point, Trump kept questioning Biden about the three and a half-million dollars given to his son, Hunter Biden. Biden denied his accusation, yet Trump still went on asking while Biden was trying to answer other questions. That scene made it feel more like an interrogation session and not a debate. Biden made snide comments about Trump in some of his answers too. I expected both to be more composed and able to talk about the problems at hand rather than focusing on attacking each other.

The point of the debate was for people to learn more about what to expect from their presidency, but neither of them gave clear answers, making it close to impossible to understand what the future of our nation will look like. Biden tried to answer the questions, even though most of his answers did not give an explicit idea of what exactly it is that he would do. On the other hand, Trump used his time to insult Biden.

I agree with @penguinsintherain on the influence that this debate had on voters. For some voters, the presidential debate influences who they will vote for. After this debate, I doubt they have clear answers, and I would expect similar results from the other debates, if they even happen. It is concerning what will happen on November 3rd.

Boston, US
Posts: 205

A few response to yours

@Fidget: Interesting that you should reference Saturday Night Live (SNL)! It comes back Saturday night and one can only imagine what they will do. Donald Trump (played by Alec Baldwin), Joe Biden (played by Jim Carrey), Kamala Harris (played by Maya Rudolph) should make for interesting "must-watch television."

@madagascar: you said something so worrisome to contemplate: that the debate was "a good way for Trump to show that he can do whatever he wants...." Yikes.

@JokerBra: Welcome! We love having you here! And I wish Trump and Bien had said "Halts Maul"--it would have sounded much better in German than it did in English. Great point (that others have noted too) about three grown white men shouting at each other for 90 minutes. Only on an American stage in Cleveland, Ohio.

@20469154661 [that's a mouthful!]: Yes, I too took note when Biden said "I am the Democratic party right now." The historian in me heard an echo. Check out "L'état c'est moi." Or more recently from a certain someone in Germany, "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer." (One people, one empire, one Führer/leader) (Thank you Mr. Gavin for conferring on the latter quote.) Made me anxious.

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

A Disgraceful Debate

I’m glad I’m on the same page as everybody else in saying whatever that was, it was horrible. A debate is supposed to be a formal argument. This was not a debate.

I don’t think there was much Chris Wallace could have done to ease the chaos. Really, the only problem was Trump. Biden and Wallace didn’t interrupt, they only responded to Trump’s interruptions. I’ve seen plenty of other debates with Biden and he always comes off as fairly presidential. He’s always the one who stops mid-sentence, even mid-word as soon as the moderator tells him to. The thing is, it is clear what Trump was trying to do. I think he was trying to appeal to his own base above all things, and it worked out fine for him, as well as leave as little time as possible for Biden to speak. Biden may not be everything we’ve wished for, but relatively speaking he kind of is.

My point in saying these things is I think I missed out on tons of important information I could have got from a more presidential debate. Nevertheless, there was still a lot of substance that, even if just briefly mentioned, was tremendously important. I even missed some of the most outrageous things that were said because of how quickly, and almost rushed, the topics were covered.

One of the worst things the president said by far was “Stand down, stand by,” specifically to the white supremacist group Proud Boys, as if telling them to wait for orders from him. What aggravates me about Biden and even Wallace a little bit, even though I know it’s not his role in the debate, is that neither really followed up on that too much. Of course, it has been blowing up all over social media, and sooner or later Trump will come up with a silly excuse when confronted about it. Yesterday, Ed Markey tweeted, “Donald Trump won’t condemn white supremacists because he is one.” I don’t think that’s too far from the truth.

There were some other moments that were totally uncalled for, as well as some that we all saw coming. First, it was very inappropriate for Trump to bring up Biden’s son Hunter and his drug problem out of the blue. It seemed like Trump was just waiting for an opportunity to bring it up and eventually realized he was running out of time. The debates are not supposed to be for personal attacks. It was really hard to watch. Then Trump said at one point, “Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me,” another moment that stood out to me.

Of course, there were things talked about that didn’t surprise me too much. For the Supreme Court vacancy, Trump said it ought to be filled while he’s still President, not even mentioning all the things that were said during Obama’s last term. Then he went on about how the mail in votes would be fraud. Again, nothing new. What was really scary was the fact that Trump would not guarantee he would accept the election results. I’ve never been so frightened of a person in power during my lifetime as much as I am of Trump right now.

To be honest, I thought Biden could have been a little stronger, mainly because he didn’t get a chance to talk most of the time. He understandably missed several opportunities to rebuttal and fact check. However, Biden on the other hand did say some things that were a bit more comforting, such as, “I’ll be a President for Democrats and Republicans.”

To reiterate, I had trouble focusing on either candidate’s plans for the nation because of the chaotic nature of the debate. I will say that I trust whatever Biden has in store for us more than Trump, with my evidence being the last four years. Trump is not a good leader, and I don’t think that’s something that is up for interpretation. I think some stability in the White House would be a good change. Biden may not be able to work miracles, but at least we know he’s capable of that.

I can’t see how this debate would be a deciding factor for undecided voters in any way, and I think for the most part each candidate is maintaining their base. Again, based on Trump's refusal to accept the election results if he loses, I think I have a pretty good reason to be worried. I hope we can watch these two in a couple more debates, preferably debates where one person talks at a time.

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