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October 1, 2020

Foreign observers wary of ‘chaos,’ ‘rancor’ in US debate

World

October 1, 2020

GENEVA: “Chaos, interruptions, personal attacks and insults,” one Chinese newspaper editor said of the US presidential debate. An Australian counterpart said the debate was “swamped” by the “rancor engulfing America.” Denmark’s prime minister bemoaned the quarrelling and interruptions on display.

Observers from Asia and Australia to Europe and Africa looked for possible impact on financial markets and currencies, although the reaction was muted overall. In Europe and Africa woke up to reports about the cacophonous showdown overnight.

“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, a Finnish-Swiss professor of International History at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

“That’s all extremely disturbing for many Europeans, who generally would think the United States would be a symbol of democracy — that’s been the oldest democracy in the world — that has this long, long tradition of, yes, very acrimonious debate, but there’s always been a winner and a peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

On Facebook, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote, “An election debate in the States last night, where interruptions and quarrels were allowed to fill up way too much. Fortunately, this is not the case in Denmark. And I never hope it will be like that. The harsh words polarize and split.”

Walter Veltroni, a columnist for Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and a former center-left mayor of Rome, said he had seen all the US TV debates since Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960, but “I have never witnessed a spectacle similar to the one last night.” He said the debate showed how there are two Americas that appear irreconcilable.

Hu Xijin, editor of China’s nationalistic Communist Party tabloid Global Times, wrote in the paper’s microblog that the “chaos, interruptions, personal attacks and insults” on display were a reflection of America’s “overarching division, anxiety and the accelerating erosion of the system’s original advantages.”

“I used to admire this kind of televised debate in American politics, but I have much more mixed feelings when watch it again now,” wrote Hu, who personally and through his paper routinely attacks American policies. The editor-at-large of The Australian newspaper, Paul Kelly, described the debate as a “spiteful, chaotic, abusive, often out-of-control brawling encounter with both candidates revealing their contempt for each other.” “The rancor engulfing America swamped the first Trump-Biden debate,” Kelly wrote. While Trump surely energized his base, he “never landed a political knock-out blow,” and Biden occasionally faltered but “showed he could fight,” he wrote, adding, “America faces a dangerous several weeks.”