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World Reacts with Surprise to US Presidential Debate

The front page of French weekly newspaper Le Point displays a photo of President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden with a headline reading "America on a volcano, (and Us too)" in Paris, Wednesday Sept. 30,
World Reacts with Surprise to US Presidential Debate
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People around the world have been reacting to the debate between the two main candidates for president in the United States.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first of three planned debates.

Many people overseas were critical of the language the candidates used during the 90-minute-long event. The two men insulted each other with name-calling and personal attacks.

Speaking to Biden, Trump said,” I’ve done more things in 47 months [as president] than you’ve done in 47 years” as a U.S. senator and vice president under former President Barack Obama.

Biden described Trump as “the worst president America has ever had.” Several times, the former vice president called him “a clown.”

The Associated Press reports that the candidates’ comments and actions could have a big effect on America’s international image.

Observers from Asia and Australia to Europe and Africa looked for possible effects on financial markets.

Michael Hewson is chief market expert at investment service CMC Markets UK.

“If last night’s presidential debate was supposed to inform and educate,” he wrote, “all it did was merely confirm the credibility deficit in U.S. politics.” Hewson accused the candidates of taking part “in what can only be described as a fact-free, name-calling contest.”

A highly divided and possibly legally contested U.S. election is coming, warned Stephen Innes of AxiCorp, a foreign exchange trading services provider based in Sydney, Australia.

“With mail-in votes likely to be too high (and possibly questioned), there is a chance that we still will not know the result by Inauguration Day,” he said.

By law, the winner of the election is to be sworn in on January 20. Innes warned of a possible constitutional crisis if the election results are questioned or delayed.

In Europe and Africa, people awoke Wednesday to news reports on the debate.

“The comments I’ve seen from various European press is basically: ‘I’m happy I’m not an American voter this year.’ It’s just a mess,” said Jussi Hanhimaki. He serves as a professor of International History at the Graduate Institute in Geneva in Switzerland.

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

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020
U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020

World leaders react to the debate

On Facebook, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen criticized all the time spent on arguments at the debate Tuesday night. “Fortunately, this is not the case in Denmark. And I never hope it will be like that,” she wrote.

Other leaders followed the debate, but kept their distance from American politics. Steffan Seibert is spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said Merkel was “informed about what took place last night.” But he refused to comment.

In Russia, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said he would not comment on the debate because it might be thought of as an attempt to interfere. “The Russian Federation has never interfered in the internal affairs of the United States and never will,” he said.

Walter Veltroni writes opinion pieces for Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper. Veltroni, a former mayor of Rome, says he has seen every U.S. presidential debate since 1960.

“I have never witnessed a spectacle similar to the one last night,” he wrote on Wednesday. He said the debate showed how there are two Americas that appear unable to exist together without conflict.

Hu Xijin, editor of China’s Communist Party newspaper Global Times, noted the “personal attacks” and “insults” made by the two candidates. He wrote that the debate was a sign of America’s “overarching division.”

“I used to…(like) this kind of televised debate in American politics, but I have much more mixed feelings when watch[ing] it again now,” Hu wrote. The Global Times often criticizes American policies.

Foreign policy issues were largely missing from the debate. However, Trump did blame China for the coronavirus health crisis, which has killed more than 1 million people worldwide. He also accused China of paying Biden’s son Hunter to provide advice. Joe Biden attacked Trump’s trade deals with China for failing to help Americans.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

The Associated Press reported this story. George Grow adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

clown – n. a foolish person; a joker

merelyadj. just or only

contest – n. a competition; a struggle or conflict

mess – n. disorder or when things are out of place

transfer – n. movement from one place to another

sheer adj. complete and total​

comedy – n. a show with jokes or funny situations

dysfunction – n. limited or less than full operation

spectacle – n. something unusual or notable; a special show

overarching – adj. something that affects everyone or everything

advantage – n. a condition that puts you in an improved or better position

pitiful – adj. causing feelings of dislike or disgust by not being enough or not being good enough​

fortunately – adv. used to say that something good or lucky has happened

internal affairs– adj. issues existing or taking place within a country

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