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Trump dodged a wide range of questions as Biden struggled on stage

Trump dodged a wide range of questions as Biden struggled on stage

CNN moderator Dana Bash wanted to know how Donald Trump would fight climate change. Trump has questioned its existence for decades, both in business and as president, despite abundant scientific evidence to the contrary.

But Trump had a few other things on his mind.

“Well, let me just go back to what he said about the police, how close the police are to him,” Trump said in reference to President Biden—before talking about how many police groups had supported him; how the Trump administration passed an economic development package called opportunity zones; how his administration passed a criminal justice reform package; how “millions of people are flooding into our country”; and how Biden was losing support among Black and Hispanic voters, among other things.

So Bash tried again — 82 seconds later — to find out what Trump would do, if anything, to reduce the effects of climate change if he wins the presidency in 2024.

“So I want absolutely spotless clean water and I want absolutely clean air, and we had that. We had H2O. We had the best numbers ever,” he said off-key, quickly wrapping up his answer.

Much of the focus of Thursday’s debate was on Biden’s confusing, meandering answers, and the resulting panic his poor performance caused among Democratic officeholders, donors and operatives. The consensus among most Republicans and Democrats was that Trump was the clear winner of the first debate of 2024.

As for Trump, however, he repeatedly dodged topics he wasn’t interested in, on the advice of advisers who encouraged him to shift the conversation to friendlier territory, such as immigration and the economy. It underscored the challenge of interviewing Trump — who often says whatever he wants, regardless of the question, and bombards interviewers with lengthy answers that include numerous topic changes and falsehoods.

When asked on Friday whether Trump would discuss any of the topics he avoided on Thursday, his campaign issued a statement saying no.

“President Donald J. Trump delivered a dominant debate performance, focusing on key issues like the economy, rising costs and Biden’s border carnage,” Trump spokesperson Danielle Alvarez said. “President Trump’s debate performance was not only a masterclass, but also a devastating blow that reinforced Joe Biden’s weakness, failure and dishonesty.”

Alex Conant, a Republican political consultant, said Trump showed surprising discipline and “was effective in talking about the messages he wanted to get across, the issues he wanted to talk about, and he showed remarkable discipline in sticking to that strategy.”

“He pushed the messages that were most helpful to his candidacy. He kept bringing the debate back to the issues that he’s winning on,” Conant said. “If a candidate ducks an issue that voters actually care about, voters can punish them for that, but I don’t think he’s going to get punished for what he did there.”

Sarah Matthews, a former spokeswoman in Trump’s White House, said Trump was able to get by by dodging questions because Biden was “not equipped to take Trump to task.” He wasn’t up to the task… He failed miserably. It was his job to do it, and he couldn’t.

“It’s so crazy that we’re not talking about Trump’s insane responses that he gave or his inability to answer the questions that were put to him, because we’re all talking about Biden’s poor performance,” Matthews said. who has been an outspoken critic of Trump since he left the administration. “If there had been another Democrat on stage, the contrast would have been very clear.”

Biden also dodged questions at times. At one point, he inexplicably answered a question about abortion by talking about immigration — moving from an issue he favors over Trump to one he does poorly on.

Yet Trump evaded much more often. The first dodge of the evening involved Trump supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results after falsely claiming the election was stolen. CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Trump what he would say to voters who believed he abdicated responsibility on Jan. 6 by encouraging people to go to the Capitol and publicly condemning the riots only hours after they began.

“And let me tell you about January 6th. On January 6, we had a big border, through which no one, very few, came through. On January 6, we were energy independent. On January 6, we had the lowest taxes ever,” he said, part of a wave of false claims.

Trump was asked early on whether he would support a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israel, and he has weighed in on the issue over the years.

“I should see it,” he said. He then launched into a voice winder of an answer that was laden with misleading claims and untruths about Europe and NATO – and that had nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians.

Later in the debate, Tapper said that it costs more than $11,000 a year to raise a child in the United States, and that the cost of child care for two children is more than rent for many Americans. What would Trump do to make child care more affordable?, Tapper asked.

Trump instead bragged about firing John F. Kelly, his former chief of staff, a topic that had come up earlier in the debate. He also touted his firing of James B. Comey, the former FBI director. “They weren’t good,” he said.

The former president then began criticizing Biden for not firing people, calling Biden the “worst president” in the history of the United States. For two minutes, he attacked Biden on a range of issues, including immigration and the failed U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“If he wins this election, our country has no chance. Not even a chance to get out of this doldrums. We probably won’t have a country left. It’s that bad. He’s by far the worst in history,” Trump said.

Tapper asked again if Trump wanted to talk about child care after Biden spoke. Trump, whose administration passed a child care tax credit, wasn’t interested.

“Because you understand, we have polls. We have other things that do that — they rate him the worst because what he’s done is so bad,” he began, talking about Biden for another minute without discussing the cost of child care.

Trump was later asked what he would do to curb the scourge of opioids in the United States and the deaths they cause. He claimed without evidence that Biden was a “Manchurian candidate” paid by China, that his tariff policies were working, that he was saving “our steel industries,” and a host of other false and misleading claims.

Tapper asked again about opioids, but to no avail.

Tapper tried again. It didn’t work, as Trump veered from immigration policy to the Russian capture of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

“I’m going to get him out of office very quickly, as soon as I take office, before I take office myself,” Trump said, boasting about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The conversation turned again to the January 6 attack and whether Trump would accept the outcome of the 2024 election if Biden won. Trump instead talked about how Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would never have started if he had won re-election.

“If it’s a fair, legal, good election — absolutely,” he said, before pushing back on false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. “I would have preferred to accept this, but the fraud and everything else was ridiculous. If you want, we’ll have a press conference about it in a week or we’ll have another one in a week.”