Middle East Factors into US Presidential Debate, Trump Leads, Biden Blunders

 Trump and Biden debated MENA issues and US border security. Trump criticized Biden’s border policy, claiming it allowed terrorists into the US

By Clint Van Winkle/The Media Line

Last night, former US President Donald J. Trump and current US President Joseph Biden squared off in the first Presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle. During the 90-minute debate, which was hosted in Atalanta and moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, exchanged barbs over a plethora of topics relevant to the MENA region, including Islamic terrorism and the handling of the Israel/Gaza war.

The US border, which has been a hot-button political topic in the US, was barely mentioned, but Trump did accuse President Biden of allowing a record number of terrorists to cross the US border during his tenure.

“We have the largest number of terrorists coming into our country right now. All terrorists all over the world, not just in South America, all over the world. They come from the Middle East, everywhere, all over the world. They’re pouring in. And this guy just left it open…People are dying all over the place,” Trump said.

“The only terrorists who have done anything across the border is the one who came along and killed three [unintelligible] … killed Al Qaeda … [unintelligible] … killed three American soldiers. Killed three American soldiers. That’s the only terrorists [unintelligible],” President Biden said in response.

President Biden’s retort was disjointed and somewhat unintelligible, a feature of his debate performance against Trump, which has had many analysts asking if he should step down from running. According to a CNN poll broadcasted immediately after the debate, 67% of viewers believed that Trump emerged as the winner, while 33% felt President Biden had the upper hand.

Reports of an ISIS human smuggling ring, which allegedly brought over 400 people into the US illegally this year, surfaced this week.

Although the moderator attempted to move on to another question, Trump took his next turn to point out that the people they killed while he was president were ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. The former was killed in Operation Kayla Mueller, named after the murdered aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, that  ISIL had held hostage. The latter was blown to pieces in Iraq by American warheads.

“Iran attacked American troops, and he didn’t do a thing,” President Biden said in response.

The war in Gaza and Israel featured several times in the debate as well. Both Biden and Trump showed support for Israel, and each attempted to show they were a better leader to keep that country safe.

“Israel would have never been invaded in a million years by Hamas. You know why? Because Iran was broke with me. I wouldn’t let anybody do business with them. They ran out of money. They were broke. They had no money for Hamas. They had no money for anything. No money for terror,” Trump said.

Biden, who has been friends with Netanyahu for four decades, discussed the proposal to solve the conflict, saying that “the first stage is to treat the hostages for a cease-fire” and that the “second phase is a cease-fire with additional conditions.”

He went on to say that he was supplying Israel with everything they needed, minus a 2000-pound bomb, because “they don’t work very well in populated areas. They kill a lot of innocent people. We are providing Israel with all the weapons they need and when they need them.”

In one of the more memorable moments of the debate, Trump threw a zinger at Biden, which caused debate viewers to double-take: “[Biden] has become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him because he is a very bad Palestinian. He is a weak one.”

While the eight US citizens currently being held in Gaza—five living and three dead—received very little airtime and were only mentioned in passing. Furthermore, when asked about a two-state solution, Trump punted and said, “I’d have to see,” before moving into another topic he wanted to cover.

Biden, who left Democrats disappointed early on, had warmed up by the end of the debate, provided a zinger of his own, and referenced Trump’s handling of the neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017.

“That American president would ever say, Nazis coming out of fields, carrying torches, singing the same antisemitic bile, carrying swastikas, were fine people. This is a guy who says Hitler’s done some good things. I’d like to know what they are. The good things Hitler’s done, that’s what he said. This guy has no sense of American democracy.”

Other than the two men more or less agreeing about Israel, the debate was as expected, with both men accusing each other of being the worst president in US history. It is unclear whether there will be a second debate, but if there is one, the American electorate can expect the same rhetoric from the two rivals.

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