Nine days before Election Day, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered radically divergent visions for the country – including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign policy – in broad talks on “60 minutes”.
In substance and in demeanor, the two presidential candidates cut remarkably different numbers on one of their last big opportunities to reach a national television audience during the campaign.
Mr Trump was combative and irritable during his interview with “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, insisting, as he has done several times in recent days despite the surge in coronavirus cases, that the country is “turning the corner. corner ”of the pandemic.
“We did a very, very good job,” he said at one point, mistakenly arguing that the increase in cases was due to “we are doing so much testing”.
Speaking at a time when family, business and government finances have been strained by the pandemic, the president also painted an optimistic picture of the country’s economy, which he said was “Already roaring.” Pressed to spell out his top national priority, Trump said it was about “getting back to normal” and “beating the economy up and being great with jobs and everyone being happy”.
But perhaps the biggest headline to come out of his interview was his behavior. As he grew increasingly irritated by the interrogation, he interrupted his interview with Ms Stahl, then laughed at her on Twitter and posted a 38-minute clip of the interview on Facebook.
“Look at the prejudice, hatred and rudeness on the part of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday with a link to the clip.
Mr. Biden, for his part, was more measured in his interview with CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell.
But Mr. Biden was blunt in his criticism of Mr. Trump. Asked about the biggest domestic problem the country faces, he replied “Covid”.
“The way he’s handling Covid is absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said of Mr. Trump.
As he has done before, he also rejected the suggestion by Mr. Trump and the Republicans that he was a “Trojan horse” to the left wing of the Democratic Party.
“Mr. President, you are running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, stiff and successful record over a very long period of time,” he said.
In response to a question of whether Mr. Trump could still win the election, Mr. Biden said he could.
“It’s not over until the bell rings,” he said, saying Mr. Trump could win because of “the way he plays”. Mr. Trump, he added, “is sort of trying to delegitimize the election” in a way that “aims to get people to question whether or not they should – whether it is worth it or not. go and vote ”.
Mr Biden’s newest response concerned the Supreme Court. When asked if he would increase the number of judges in the country’s highest court if elected – a question he has faced on several occasions since the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month – Mr Biden gave his clearest answer in weeks, saying he would. set up a bipartite commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the judicial system.
“I will ask them, for 180 days, to come back to me with recommendations on how to reform the justice system because it is going out of order,” Biden said.
For “60 minutes,” the episode continued its tradition of interviewing the top US presidential candidates ahead of the presidential election. It also featured talks with Vice President Mike Pence, who is Mr. Trump’s vice president, and Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s vice president.
The interviews aired on a day when the candidates had very different schedules, reflecting their different approaches to campaigning during the pandemic.
Mr Trump drove through New England, speaking to a crowd in a hangar at a New Hampshire airport, then touring an apple orchard in Maine. He attacked Mr. Biden’s economic proposals, which he called “a missile targeting the hearts of the middle class.”
Mr Biden did not organize any in-person campaign events on Sunday, although he attended church near his home in Delaware. And on Sunday night, he and his wife, Jill, made a cameo appearance at a virtual concert hosted by his campaign, which included performances from a long list of artists, including Sara Bareilles, Jon Bon Jovi, Cher and John Legend. Mr. Biden highlighted the stakes of the election and told the concert hosts, in a nod to the star-studded lineup, “You make us heroes with our granddaughters.