How the World Reacted to the First 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidate Debate

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash during the post-debate wrap.

“That was a shit show.”Dana Bash, CNN, Tuesday, September 29

Be careful what you do and say, as someone may be watching and listening.  When one lives a public life, such…say, politicians, caution must always be front and center.  For some people like Donald Trump, caution is a folly.  Last Tuesday night’s debate between Trump and Joe Biden was the most raucous and incoherent political event I’ve ever seen in my adult life.  I’ve never witnessed such discord and antagonism among political figures.  Trump and Biden sounded less like political opponents and more like two cranky old neighbors arguing about leaves being blown into one another’s yards.

But, after the feud in which absolutely nothing was accomplished, I pondered the viewpoints of our allies and certainly our adversaries.  While many Americans don’t care what other nations think of us, I am concerned how our standing as the beacon of democracy across the globe is after that mess.

Here are just a few.

“Most Canadians are going to feel grateful that they live in this country.” – Don Abelson, an expert in Canada-U.S. relations at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

“Chaotic, childish, grueling.” – Libération, France.

“The clearest loser from the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was America.” – The Times, U.K.

“Never had American politics sunk so low.” – La Repubblica, Italy, which also described the debate as “chaotic, rowdy, and based on mutual contempt.”

“The US embarrassed itself before the world for 100 minutes.”– AajTak, Hindi-language news channel.

“The rivals kept interrupting each other and instead of a balanced discussion they chose the path of mutual insults.” – NTV, Russia.

“[Trump and Biden] “obviously did not show an exemplary role to American people on how to engage in debates.” – Hu Xijin, editor of China’s Global Times.  Xijin added: “Such a chaos at the top of U.S. politics reflects division, anxiety of U.S. society and the accelerating loss of advantages of the U.S. political system.”

“Debate?  What debate?  The event was not intended to change minds or elucidate issues. It was only a form of entertainment which did credit to neither the incumbent nor the challenger. It encapsulates all that has gone wrong with American politics.” – Bilahari Kausikan, a former ambassador in Singapore.

“If the president says that, everyone takes it as natural.  But for a decent man like Biden to say that is a bit of a surprise.” – Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to the U.S., regarding Joe Biden’s “shut up, man” comment to Trump.

“It was very depressing.” – Marietje Schaake, a Dutch former member of the European Parliament who now serves as international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center.  She also warned: “The U.S. can go down a lot further, even if people think it’s already intense.”

“The comments I’ve seen from various European press (outlets) is basically: ‘I’m happy I’m not an American voter this year.’ It’s just a mess.” – Jussi Hanhimaki, a Finnish-Swiss professor of International History at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

“This debate would be sheer comedy if it wasn’t such a pitiful and tragic advertisement for U.S. dysfunction.” – Kenyan commentator Patrick Gathara on Twitter

In the Middle East, the largely domestic debate drew raised eyebrows when Biden at one point said “inshallah” as Trump hedged on saying when he would release his tax returns. “Inshallah” in Arabic means “God willing.”  It also can be used in a way to suggest something won’t ever happen.  Both Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned satellite channel based in Dubai, and The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, published articles noting Biden’s use of the word.

“How did America reach this level of political decline?” – Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Emirati political scientist, on Twitter, adding that he saw the debate as a “tumultuous verbal battle.” 

“Interruptions and arguments were allowed to fill way too much time.” – Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Facebook.  She also asked for feedback from voters about how to soften public debate, and stated, “Fortunately, it’s not like that in Denmark.”

“The first debate between would-be leaders of the free world was better suited to the Colosseum of ancient Rome or a cage fight in Las Vegas.” – The Australian.

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