President Trump has one political gear — attack — and on Tuesday he lambasted his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and the debate moderator Chris Wallace in an attempt to draw both into a brawl, both to divert attention from his shortcomings and to deny Mr. Biden the opportunity to appear presidential.
The president — an incumbent who runs with the alacrity of a challenger — repeatedly interrupted Mr. Biden, especially when the discussion turned to his attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a key vulnerability especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
At times, he appeared less like a participant than a heckler, diverting and interrupting both Mr. Wallace and Mr. Biden from asking and answering questions — and accusing both of being in cahoots.
“Here’s the deal, the fact is, that everything he’s saying so far is simply a lie. I’m not here to call out his lies, everybody knows he’s a liar,” Mr. Biden said.
“You graduated last in your class, not first in your class,” Mr. Trump interjected.
“Mr. President, can you let him finish, sir,” Mr. Wallace said.
But Mr. Trump kept interrupting him and eventually Mr. Wallace began chiding both men for not following the debate’s rules.
“Will he just shush for a minute,” said Mr. Biden, who was successful — at the start of the debate, at least — in not letting the president get under his skin.
Then, after being swept away on a torrent of Trump talk, Mr. Biden said, “Folks, do you have any idea what this clown’s doing?”
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