In more civilised debate, Trump and Biden offer opposing views on America

They laid out their different visions with less shouting but still plenty of personal attacks

US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden offered sharply contrasting views on the still-raging coronavirus pandemic at 22 October final presidential debate, seeking to persuade the few remaining undecided voters 12 days before their 3 November contest.

In the televised encounter in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump adopted a more restrained tone than he did during a chaotic first debate in September, when he repeatedly interrupted Biden. But last Thursday’s clash still featured plenty of personal attacks between two men who evince little respect for each other, and Trump kept fact-checkers busy by leveling unfounded corruption accusations at Biden and his family.

The absence of disruptions yielded a more substantive debate over a range of topics including the economy, race, climate change, healthcare and immigration. But the coronavirus, which has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States, loomed over the proceedings as it has throughout the campaign. “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Biden said.

Trump, who has put his stewardship of the economy at the center of his campaign, defended his approach to the outbreak and said the country could not afford to close businesses again despite fresh surges. “We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump, who has played down the virus for months. “We have no choice.”

Trump, whose instinct remains to run as an outsider, portrayed Biden as a career politician whose nearly 50-year record was insubstantial. But he did not lay out a clear agenda for a second term, while Biden returned again and again to Trump’s four years as president, pointing to the economic damage the virus has done to people’s lives.

After an opening segment on the pandemic, last Thursday’s clash pivoted to rapid-fire exchanges over whether either candidate had improper foreign entanglements.

Trump repeated his accusations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in unethical practices in China and Ukraine. No evidence has been verified to support the allegations, and Biden called them false and discredited.

Biden defended his family and said unequivocally that he had never made “a single penny” from a foreign country, before pivoting to accuse Trump of trying to distract Americans.

“There’s a reason why he’s bringing up all this malarkey,” Biden said, looking directly into the camera. “It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family’s hurting badly.”

He accused Trump of avoiding paying taxes, citing a New York Times investigation that reported Trump’s tax returns show he paid almost no federal income tax over more than 20 years.

Trump, who has broken with decades of presidential precedents in refusing to release his tax returns, said he had paid “millions.” He again said he would release his returns only once a longstanding audit was completed.

The candidates argued over foreign policy, immigration and - after months of anti-racism protests - race relations, with Biden saying Trump was “one of the most racist presidents” in history.

“He pours fuel on every single racist fire,” Biden said. “This guy has a dog whistle as big as a foghorn.”

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