President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden faced off in the second and final 2020 debate Thursday evening. While the 90-minute event covered a broad range of topics, there were a few questions that never came up.
NBC’s Kristen Welker received praise from both sides of the aisle for the way she handled the event — especially after the first contentious debate moderated by “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace. Wallace himself responded to her performance with just two words: “I’m jealous.” (RELATED: Did The Debates Have An Impact On The Race? Here’s What The Data Says)
In the final presidential debate, Kristen Welker managed to restore order to an institution that some believed could not be tamed. “I’m jealous,” said Chris Wallace, the moderator of the unruly matchup last month, just after Thursday’s debate. https://t.co/M1A4mS8GvC
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 23, 2020
And although the tone of the second debate was a world away from the first, there were still a number of topics that did not rate a mention. Chief among the major topics that never came up were: abortion, Second Amendment rights and the possibility of packing the Supreme Court.
Abortion has been a hot-button issue in American politics since long before the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, and pro-life activists have made no secret of their desire to overturn the legislation. The issue has returned to the forefront of public discourse with some regularity — usually during a presidential election cycle or when a Supreme Court Justice is being replaced.
Recently-sidelined CNN political analyst Jeffrey Toobin has said more than once — first when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018 and again when Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — that the next nomination would be the one to ensure the end of Roe. (RELATED: ‘He Provided A Public Service’: Joy Behar Thanks Jeffrey Toobin For Distracting From Trump)
The fact that Barrett’s confirmation fight coincides with one of the most contentious presidential races in recent history has only made the issue more prominent, as pro-life activists and protesters in “handmaid” costumes gather outside the Capitol to make their voices heard.
Meanwhile, a pro-life protester and a pro-choice protester are having a megaphone battle. pic.twitter.com/89ZexfGZrx
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) October 17, 2020
But despite the heated opinions on both sides of the issue — and the fact that Judge Barrett’s Senate confirmation vote is scheduled for Monday — the topic was not raised during Thursday’s debate.
No mention of abortion. https://t.co/mNiB4exJI5
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) October 23, 2020
Second Amendment rights:
The Second Amendment has come up repeatedly throughout the 2020 election cycle, particularly during the Democratic primary. Trump has said on a number of occasions that a Biden presidency would mean the end of individual gun rights as Americans know them.
Biden has said in the past that he supports gun rights but would make some changes, namely a ban on “assault rifles” and buybacks of certain types of firearms. And although his stance on gun control might have initially seemed less extreme, especially compared to some of his primary opponents, a few key interactions along the campaign trail have raised more questions about how far a Biden administration might actually go.
First, Biden announced that he was going to put former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who ran his 2020 primary campaign on a platform that included confiscation of “assault weapons,” in charge of gun policy.
Then there was the testy exchange with the Detroit auto worker who asked Biden whether he planned to take guns away. Biden said something about “taking AR-14s away” and told the man not to be “such a horse’s ass.”
And finally, Biden chose Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate. Before dropping out of the primary race, Harris promised during a New Hampshire town hall event to take executive action on gun control if Congress failed to deliver measures she approved in the first 100 days of her administration.
Sen. Kamala Harris says if she is elected President, she will give Congress 100 days “to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws, and if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action” https://t.co/KFdn5Viqm1 #HarrisTownHall pic.twitter.com/Ds8DxObhAY
— CNN (@CNN) April 23, 2019
And despite the impact those things could have had on Biden’s position on gun control, the question never arose in either of the two presidential debates.
There Were No Second Amendment Questions In Any Of The Presidential Debates https://t.co/xJjgZ7yxmM
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 23, 2020
Packing the Supreme Court:
Another major question that didn’t make the cut for Thursday’s debate was whether or not Biden, following the potential confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, would attempt to pack the court by adding liberal justices.
Biden and his surrogates have repeatedly dodged direct questions regarding whether he would support expanding the court. The former vice president even told Chris Wallace at the first debate that he would not answer the question.
???? Thread of Chris Wallace’s worst moments from last night’s debate:
1) Refusing to push Joe Biden after he refuses to answer whether or not he will pack the court. pic.twitter.com/KMMDJvdX5V
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 30, 2020
Harris also evaded the direct question from debate moderator Susan Page, instead giving a dishonest history lesson about “Honest Abe” Lincoln.
But even as more and more Democrats call for the court’s expansion — especially if Barrett is confirmed to the Court — Biden has yet to state whether or not he would support the move. (RELATED: Biden Stonewalls On Court Packing While Democrats Scramble To Redefine It)
Instead, during a “60 Minutes” interview that will air Sunday, Biden floated the idea of a bipartisan commission that would address ways to “rebalance” the court.
In spite of the fact that “rebalancing the court” could dramatically reshape one of the three branches of American government, that question did not arise during Thursday’s debate.
In addition to those three broader topics, journalist Megyn Kelly noted that no one pressed Biden directly about the laptop obtained by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani claims the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden and contains emails and texts that could implicate the elder Biden in shady international dealings if authentic. (RELATED: ‘Russian Misinformation’: Symone Sanders Says Any Attack On Biden’s ‘Surviving Son’ Is A Smear)
Not heard from Biden: those emails are fake. The laptop isn’t Hunter’s.
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) October 23, 2020
Biden did not directly deny the veracity of the emails, saying instead that Trump was trying to put the focus on his family rather than the issues. (RELATED: ‘I Don’t Have All Day’: Nancy Pelosi Shuts Down Reporter For Asking About Hunter Biden Emails)
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg felt that there were a few questions that should have been asked of Trump as well — namely why it was that so many of his associates had been indicted or convicted of crimes.
Blows my mind that neither Trump or Pence got asked in the 3 debates about why so many of Trump’s top aides have ended up arrested or in jail. It’s everyone who’s been close to Trump – how can this not be something worthy of discussion?
— Simon Rosenberg (@SimonWDC) October 23, 2020
One last broader topic which was addressed but only in a few very specific questions was foreign policy. Normally a third presidential debate would have covered a wide range of questions under the umbrella of foreign policy, but the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis and the Debate Commission’s decision to make the second debate virtual, causing Trump’s refusal to participate, ultimately led to its cancellation and two competing town halls.