The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Trump and Biden clash in first debate of election season, discuss economy, immigration

Photo Courtesy of Jason Getz.
President Biden (right) and Former President Trump (left) stand on the debate stage Thursday night.

In the first debate of the 2024 presidential election season, Former President Donald Trump faced off against President Joseph Biden. The two heatedly discussed policies ranging from inflation to immigration for over 90 minutes, with both candidates hurling insults about the other’s platform and time in office.

The debate began at CNN’s Atlanta Studios at 9 p.m. EST. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderated and, in rules agreed upon before the debate, each candidate was given two minutes to answer each question, one minute for responses and rebuttals and two minutes for closing remarks.

Tapper opened the line of questioning by asking Biden about national inflation and what he would say to voters who feel “worse off” under his presidency than Trump’s.

Biden claimed that the Trump Administration left the economy hard-pressed, and that his work has brought down the prices of prescription drugs. He claimed that he would continue to work upon re-election to “bring down the price around the kitchen table.”

Trump disagreed in his response, saying Biden’s administration inherited “almost no inflation” from his term.

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The topic then transitioned to the state of national debt. Trump responded first and tailored his answer around his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More people died under (Biden’s) administration than our administration, and we were right in the middle of it,” Trump said.

“He had the largest national debt of any president in a four-year period,” Biden said in his response.

Abortion — the next policy on the docket — was, to Trump, a political question that he repeatedly said should be in the hands of the states.

“We brought it back to the states, and the country is coming together on this issue,” Trump said.

Biden’s response triggered discourse between the two candidates on Roe v. Wade’s stance on late-term abortion. Trump claimed that some democratic states have supported “after-birth” abortions, and Biden repeatedly cited his support for the 1973 Supreme Court decision upholding federal protections on abortion.

Immigration, a main point of contention between the two candidates throughout the night, yielded more heated discourse between Trump and Biden. When asked about the “overburdening” of cities such as New York and Chicago with migrants, Biden showed optimism about the “bi-partisan” agreement recently reached by Congress and condemned Trump’s immigration policies.

“When he was president, he was separating babies from their mothers,” Biden said.

Trump replied saying that Biden disregarded his request for the nation’s borders to be closed, claiming Biden “just left (the southern border) open.”

“He’s exaggerating,” Biden replied. “He’s lying.”

Trump continued his response by stating he plans to crack down on illegal immigration.

“We have to get a lot of these people out, and we have to get them out fast,” Trump said.

When asked about foreign policy, specifically the ongoing war in Ukraine, Trump pivoted to criticize Biden’s handling of troops in Afghanistan. He claimed that Biden has consistently given more than “$200 billion” to Ukraine, and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the “greatest salesman ever.”

After calling Trump’s sentiments “malarkey,” Biden responded by saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a war criminal.”

Bash continued the line of questioning by asking Biden about the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the ongoing “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza in light of the Israel-Hamas war. Biden said that Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to endorse the previously proposed ceasefire resolution, but the administration is “still pushing hard” for Hamas to accept the terms.

Trump was then asked if he supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“I have to see,” Trump said.

While Biden claimed that Hamas’ hesitation to accept the ceasefire proposal was the reason the Israel-Hamas War is ongoing, Trump disagreed.

“(Biden) said that the only one who wants to keep going is Hamas,” Trump said. “Actually, Israel is the one, and you should let them go and let them finish the job.”

The topic then transitioned to the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol insurrection. Trump pivoted by saying that the country boasted a “great border” and “energy independence” at the time. 

Biden, condemning the day as a dark spot in American history, said that Trump “talked about (the insurrectionists) being patriots.” He added that those responsible for Jan. 6 should be in prison.

The topic of the insurrection led to a bitter back-and-forth. Trump criticized Biden’s handling of the Black Lives Matter protests in Minnesota, and Biden responded by bringing up Trump’s recent felony conviction.

Responding to Biden’s citation of his New York trial, Trump called Judge Juan Merchan “horrible” and said “the public knows it’s a scam.”

The two proceeded to debate the importance of upholding democracy approaching the 2024 election. 

“This guy has no sense of American democracy,” Biden said.

Trump responded by saying Biden is “not equipped” for the presidency.

The debate continued with discussions of issues raised by African American voters. Biden, adding that employment for the demographic is “at the lowest it’s been in a long time,” said that he understands inflation has been hurting the entirety of the nation and hopes to reduce childcare costs.

“He caused the inflation,” Trump said. “It’s killing people – they can’t buy groceries anymore.”

In talks about the handling of climate change, Trump upheld his removal of the nation from the Paris Climate Accords on the grounds that the country was treated “horribly” during its participation. Biden criticized Trump’s handling and emphasized the need for the international climate agreement. 

The question of combating rising childcare costs was then posed, considering that they have reached an annual average of $11,000 per child as of 2024. However, the debate pivoted into an argument over firings of staff and insults thrown between the two over the defense of the nation’s military and the state of the middle class. 

Each of the candidates proceeded to discuss plans for the nation’s opioid crisis upon re-election and what they’ve already done to combat drug addiction.

“We were doing very well with addiction until COVID came along,” Trump replied.

In response, Biden claimed that he’s worked on “bi-partisan” deals to remedy addiction nationwide.

Nearing the end of the 90 allotted minutes of debate time, the candidates addressed concerns about their ages and fitness for presidency. Biden, saying that he was once criticized for being the second-youngest senator ever elected, said that Trump was only three years younger than him and “a lot less confident.” Trump countered the point by saying he “aced” two cognitive exams that he volunteered to take himself.

In the final question of the night, Trump was asked multiple times if he would accept the results of the election, no matter the outcome.

“If it is a fair and reasonable election, absolutely,” Trump said. 

The discussion of election acceptance resulted in a litany of accusations between the two candidates. Biden, after Trump claimed he would “drive us into World War III,” said that the United States is needed to “protect the world.”

To conclude the debate, Biden began his closing remarks in support of his policies on Medicaid and his handling of big pharma and emphasized his ongoing quest to bring down inflation. Trump closed by supporting his treatment of U.S. veterans and claiming Biden is a “complainer” who “makes our country unsafe.” 


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Mary Piacente
Mary Piacente, News Editor
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