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Trump, Biden clash over pandemic in first presidential debate

Trump, Biden clash over pandemic in first presidential debate

WASHINGTON, Kyodo News: Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden clashed over the coronavirus pandemic and other issues in their first head-to-head debate ahead of the Nov 3 US election, with Biden attempting to highlight the incumbent's incompetence. Facing repeated interruptions and provocations from Trump, former vice president Biden snapped at his opponent while arguing that the administration is so lacking in a coronavirus plan that Trump is unfit to be granted another four years in office. "The president has no plan. He hasn't laid out anything," Biden said of the government's response to the pandemic, while touching on recent revelations that Trump knew in February how deadly and contagious the novel coronavirus was, but played down the threat in public. The 90-minute, nationally televised debate in Cleveland in the Midwest state of Ohio was the first of three between the two candidates in the run-up to the election. National polls show that Trump, 74, continues to trail Biden, 77. The event also covered topics such as race, the economy, climate change and the Supreme Court, where Trump is pushing to fill the vacancy following the death of iconic liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Focus has been put on Biden's on-stage performance as he has been far less visible than Trump during the pandemic, with the Democratic campaign mostly holding rallies and appearances virtually. Trump, who has resumed in-person rallies despite the continuing spread of the virus, has often ridiculed his opponent as "Sleepy Joe Biden" while accusing him of staying in "his basement all day long" and lacking the energy to serve as president. An unsure performance by Biden could have emboldened Trump, who wants to deflect criticism from his own handling of the pandemic that has cost the lives of more than 200,000 people and millions of jobs in the United States. But Biden, who is known to be prone to verbal gaffes, finished the event having made no major blunders. During the debate, Trump again pinned the blame on China for the global spread of the coronavirus, while insisting that the economy that has been hit by the pandemic- triggered shutdown is on track to make a recovery. He also asserted that Biden will "destroy" the country by closing down the economy again. While Biden touts his fitness to serve as commander-in-chief based on his experience as a longtime senator and two-term vice president, Trump accused Biden of accomplishing little during his nearly half-century-long political career. While diplomacy was not among the topics debated Tuesday, Trump and Biden are known to differ on how they view the country's role in the world. Trump has pressed ahead with his "America First" agenda, pulling the country out of international agreements and institutions he deems unfair. Biden, for his part, has called for restoring US leadership on the global stage and strengthening long-standing alliances with countries including Japan. Trump, a New York real estate developer who had never held public office before he was elected president in 2016, has been an unconventional leader who defies diplomatic and political norms and fuels division among the public with his controversial remarks on racism, immigration and other issues. He continued that on Tuesday when he failed to condemn white supremacy outright when prompted and appeared to call on a prominent group of right-wing extremists to "stand back and stand by". According to major poll tracking website Real Clear Politics, Biden has a lead of about 6 percentage points based on an average of recent national polls, although the margin narrowed from about a 10-point lead seen in late June.

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