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Faltering Biden, Forceful Trump Clash In Presidential Debate

Courtesy: NDTV/World NEWS/Agence France-Presse

US Presidential debate 2024: Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who were each the oldest president when first elected, even accused each other of being childlike as they argued over their golf swings.

Atlanta, United States:  A halting Joe Biden struggled Thursday to hold off a forceful offensive from Donald Trump as the two traded personal insults in the fiery first debate of a razor-close presidential race.

A bombastic Trump lashed out at his successor, calling him a failure on the economy and the world stage. Biden looked to hit back, but his delivery was hesitant as he spoke rapidly in a soft, trailing-off voice and stumbled on his words several times.

It was the first debate ever between a president and former president — and each accused each other of being history’s worst. Trump and Biden, who were each the oldest president when first elected, even accused each other of being childlike as they argued over their golf swings.

Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, did not shake hands as they walked to their podiums at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. There was no live audience and their microphones muted as the other spoke — rules agreed as they open a campaign in a deeply polarized country.

Biden, who was reported to have a cold, hit Trump with clearly rehearsed lines as he sought to remind millions of television viewers that Trump would be the first convicted felon in the White House.

“Think of all the civil penalties you have. How many billions of dollars do you owe in civil penalties for, for molesting a woman in public,” Biden said, and “for having sex with a porn star on the night, while your wife was pregnant?”

“You have the morals of an alley cat,” Biden said.

Trump, a veteran of rallies and reality television, spoke loudly as he rushed through a long list of complaints about Biden’s record.

“It’s a shame what’s happened to our country in the last four years,” Trump said “I’m friends with a lot of people. They cannot believe what happened to the United States of America. We’re no longer respected.”

Trump sought to seize on Biden’s delivery, saying at one point, “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

Kate Bedingfield, a former Biden communications director, acknowledged that “it was a really disappointing debate performance” from the president.

“I don’t think there is any other way to slice it,” she told CNN after the debate.

Attack on economic record

Biden immediately attacked Trump when he was asked about stubborn inflation, saying that he inherited an economy in “freefall.”

Trump said that he led “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

“We have never done so well. Everybody was amazed by other countries were copying us,” he said.

In one of the most personal attacks, Biden cited accounts that Trump had described soldiers who died in the Normandy landing as “suckers” and noted his own son Beau, who served in Iraq and later died of cancer.

“My son was not a loser, was not a sucker. You’re the sucker. You’re the loser,” Biden said.

Trump denied the remarks and repeatedly accused Biden of not being coherent.

Clash on world role

On the world stage, Trump accused Biden — who faces a backlash from parts of his Democratic base over his support for Israel — of not helping Israel “finish the job” against Hamas.

“He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian — but they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian, he’s a weak one,” Trump said.

Trump described Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan as the “most embarrassing moment in the history of our country” and said it encouraged Russia to invade Ukraine.

Biden, however, noted that he was the first recent president who has not had soldiers at risk overseas.

Trump and Biden also locked horns over abortion and immigration, key issues for their respective bases.

Biden, attacking Trump for appointing justices to the Supreme Court who ended Roe vs. Wade, the decision that allowed abortion rights around the country, said: “It’s been a terrible thing, what you’ve done.”

Some Democratic supporters quickly voiced anxiety about Biden’s performance.

At a watch party in San Francisco, Hazel Reitz said she would still vote for Biden but added: “I can’t understand a word that he says. Isn’t it sad?”

Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton University, said Biden’s supporters will be “extremely concerned.”

“Biden fueled the basic perception that has continued to overshadow him,” he said.

One candidate not on the stage was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the member of the storied political dynasty who is running an anti-establishment campaign but failed to mee CNN’s standard of reaching 15 percent in four national polls.

Kennedy instead spent the 90 minutes of the Biden-Trump debate taking questions on a livestream.

1-Header image: US Presidential debate 2024: It was the first debate ever between a president and former president

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