Late In Tuesday’s Presidential Debate, Anchor Chris Wallace Asked The Candidates A question about climate change, a topic that hadn’t
appeared on an advance list of issues likely to be addressed.
President Donald Trump tried to veer away from the subject until Wallace pressed him on whether he thought climate change was driven by human activity (“to an extent, yes,” he said). Former Vice President Joe Biden attacked Trump for rolling back climate initiatives and pushed his own green jobs program.
But some climate experts said there should have been more of a focus on the issue, especially given the past summer’s extreme temperatures and out-of-control wildfires. And younger voters weren’t impressed by either candidates’ answers on the subject.
Alice C. Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Chris Wallace was pressed by advocacy groups to ask a question about climate change.
Hill, coauthor of the 2019 book “Building a Resilient Tomorrow,” was concerned that Wallace asked about the candidates’ belief in climate change and if they believe it’s human caused.
“To ask whether someone believes in climate change, the science of climate change, is like asking them if they believe in the science of physics,” she said. “It is a science and science is not a question of belief.”
Trump has long tried to sidestep the question of how human activity has contributed to warming temperatures and predicted last month that the climate would start cooling off again soon.
Hill said people will continue to press politicians for answers as the effects of global climate change manifest themselves in a nation that has no plan to address the issue.
“I think that climate change will dominate more and more of the public discussion and public discourse simply because the impacts are here,” she said. “People are suffering and they want solutions.”
Sareya Taylor tuned into Tuesday’s presidential debate to learn about each candidate and where they stand on key issues like climate change before she casts her first vote in November.
Like a lot of other people, she was disappointed.
“I got a headache because of the constant interruptions and speaking over one another.” said Taylor, 18 and a citizen of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. She said she noticed a disregard for debate etiquette, particularly by President Donald Trump.
“Vice President Biden gave into what Trump brought to the debate when he told Trump to just shut up,” Taylor said.
She said Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy was concerning: “Trump needs to realize there are boundaries and he needs to not cross them.”
And, she said, the climate change questions should have focused more on pipelines and monuments such as Bears Ears instead of wildfires.
“President Trump should do more research about wildfires and to look more at science,” she said. “My uncle is a hotshot and works hard to deal with fires.” She believes her tribe’s forests are well managed.
Dylan Baca, 18, will also be voting for the first time. He said he was disheartened by what he saw.
“It reflects what American politics currently looks like,” said Baca, also a White Mountain Apache tribal member. “People watch debates to learn issues, but Biden was on the defensive, Trump was projecting falsehoods, and the voters are confused,” he said.
He thought Biden did better, but not great, during the debate. Baca said he has watched Trump’s term and had hoped he would become more presidential and professional, but those hopes have been dashed.
Baca said Trump has failed on climate change.
“We understand climate change is a real thing and that humans are responsible for it,” Baca said. “But Trump chooses to ignore that and rolls back Obama-era policies.”
He said he believes Biden would be the better candidate to deal with climate change and make the U.S. recognize it as an important issue.
Kylie Hunts-in-Winter is just 17, so she isn’t yet eligible to vote. But like Taylor, Hunts-in-Winter is interested in the election and the candidates. And she didn’t like what she saw during the debate.
“The level of professionalism was below even the average student’s level,” said Hunts-in-Winter, a Standing Rock Sioux descendent and like Baca, a member of the Indigenous People Initiative, a rights group that recently advocated for the governor to proclaim Oct. 12 as Indigenous People Day. “He didn’t know what he was talking about
Hunts-in-Winter believes Biden would come up with a new climate plan.
Hunts-in-Winter also took note of Trump’s failure to stand against white supremacist groups, saying, “If there was any question Trump was a racist, it was revealed last night.”
All three youth are in the current class of the United National Indian Tribal Youth’s “25 under 25 Native Youth Leaders,” a national recognition program that honors Native American and Alaskan Native youth.
Phoenix public relations professional Jackie Wright called the debate a “dumpster fire.” Wright said that in her 24 years in the industry, she’s never seen anybody who can manipulate the media like Trump.
“There’s a general lack of respect and decorum by a sitting president,” she said. “He was just a complete bully.”
And, she said that when Biden told Trump to shut up, “he said it for us.” Wright said she turned the television off after the first 30 minutes because she couldn’t handle the acrimonious atmosphere.
“The debate was appalling, mostly, but not entirely, because of Trump’s behavior,” said Tom Wright, an archaeologist from the Phoenix area, via email. “The next time the organizers need to establish a format and enforce it, even if that means soundproof isolation booths and microphone cut-offs.”
“Give each candidate their full uninterrupted time, keep them on topic, and have a moderator capable of asking meaningful questions and keeping the proceedings under control,” said Wright, who’s no relation to Jackie Wright.
“My ears are still recovering from the cacophony of oftentimes unintelligible sound,” said Phoenix PR relations consultant Barrett Marson.
He believes Biden has a lot to answer for, such as the possibility that he would push legislation to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court with two liberal justices by adding two positions, but the constant interruptions, yelling and screaming prevented the opportunity for Trump to press Biden on that and other issues.
“To use the word ‘clown’ and to tell Trump to shut up showed that the president got under his skin,” said Marson. “That was a poor move on Biden’s part.”
But Trump’s talking over Biden was also a bad move on the president’s part, he said.
“We could have been talking about the issues instead of getting on white supremacy because of the president’s inability to clearly denounce white supremacists,” he said.
Kim TallBear had a different take on the debate. TallBear, an associate professor of Native studies at the University of Alberta, said viewers shouldn’t compare the debate candidates to children.
“The children are better than that!” she said. She questioned that anybody is learning anything from the debates, but would continue watching them because as an anthropologist, she studies white society.
“Trump was telling lies and Biden was not up to countering them,” said TallBear, who’s enrolled in the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and also descended from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
She said the televised debacle goes beyond the debate.
“It’s hard to see clearly when you live in a global superpower,” said TallBear, who said she moved to Canada from Austin, Texas, in 2015 due to increased gun violence and her fear that the U.S. is becoming a police state. “There’s too much navel-gazing in the U.S.”
Jackie Wright said she doesn’t see the need for another debate but said if a second or third debate goes forward, organizers should get Trump off the stage.
“He has to be a PR pro’s biggest nightmare,” she said. Wright was also appalled when Trump didn’t condemn white supremacy. “It was just disgusting,” she said.
That tendency to drive a wedge is going to bite Trump, Wright said. If Trump wins a second term in office, she said, “We’ll have to come up with a plan B — maybe move to Costa Rica or Canada.”
This news was originally published at azcentral.com