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US Presidential Debate: Hot Mess

Nobody expected the first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, to calm policy ideas. This could go down as the most vicious Presidential debate ever. The debate was replete with personal attacks that saw moderator Chris Wallace struggling to control Trump. Trump delivered aggressive attacks, but Biden threw counter-punches while directly talking to the TV audience. We are not sure who won this round, but the United States stood like a loser to the world through this debate.

A Sheer Chaos

The first debate between President Donald Trump, 74, and former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, quickly went off the rails, with each side lobbing bitter attacks and frequently talking over each other. Trump delivered a performance that amounted to shouting his Twitter feed at his challenger. Biden, however, had come prepared exactly for this scenario and stayed true to the survival strategy that his team had designed — speak to the people, not to the President.

Trump was at his fiery best and his supporters would have loved to see that. Trump tangled with debate moderator Chris Wallace early in the night, repeatedly interrupting a question about why he hasn’t released a comprehensive health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. “If I may ask my question, sir,” Wallace, the Fox News journalist, pressed as Trump kept cutting him off as he tried to ask the question. “First of all, I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump shot back at Wallace. “I’m not surprised!

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• Biden snapped at Trump just about 20 minutes into the debate after a line of questioning on the Supreme Court went off the rails. “Will you shut up, man?” Biden said after Trump repeatedly talked over him. “This is so unpresidential.” At times, the debate was an unintelligible jumble of the two candidates and Wallace talking over each other. As Wallace tried to move to the next topic area, Biden quipped “that was a really productive segment, wasn’t it? Keep yapping, man.”

Disappointing Debate, Barbaric stage

The 90-minute event was a chance for the candidates to show a clear contrast, describe their plans, and convince Americans they can do the job. But for much of the debate, only two things were evident: Former vice president Joe Biden is actually quite old and President Trump isn’t presidential.

• To be sure, heading into the event there were very few undecided voters. Most of those watching know who they are voting for, but hoped to cheer for their side. But there was nothing to cheer for. The debate was often disorienting, hard to follow and involved a number of norm-defying moments.

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Biden has led every poll over Trump all year. He just needed to seem plausibly presidential – and not mess up – for this debate to be a non-event. Trump, meanwhile, needed the debate to alter the trajectory of his campaign and give him momentum for the first time all year. With just five weeks to go before November 3, Trump needed a debate performance that shifted attention in the campaign from his performance in office to Biden’s vulnerabilities. And thought Trump did try his best to get as personal as possible, Biden survived most of those attacks. But Biden didn’t really try to do more than just survive in the debate.

• Biden had to do two things in this debate. First, he had to project that he could do the most stressful, complicated, and important job in the world. Second, he had to make sure that this debate didn’t change his significant lead over Trump. On the first point, Biden wasn’t able to instill confidence.

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What Is India’s takeaway ?

At the outset, it needs to be underscored that Biden would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with foreign policy. For decades, he has not only served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but has, on more than one occasion, served as its chair. Consequently, he is no stranger to vital issues in contemporary international politics.

His background and experience stand out in marked contrast to those of Trump. Unlike Biden, who has a sophisticated understanding of world politics, Trump entered the presidency with a set of simplistic views about the world. Once in office he used his vast prerogatives to upend a range of commitments and policies which had, for the most part, enjoyed support across American ideological divides. To that end he withdrew from Nafta, from the Paris climate change accords and even questioned the utility of Nato, a virtual cornerstone of American security policy since the early days of the Cold War.

It is true Biden and Harris have expressed concerns about the state of human rights in Kashmir. Yet to pin their likely foreign policy posture towards India on their views about a single, albeit fraught, issue overlooks much evidence that offers hope for a rejuvenated and more cordial partnership.

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