Wow. That was about an hour and a half of my time I can’t get back. The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden looked less like an exchange of ideas than a casting call for a remake of Grumpy Old Men.
Both candidates continued to show little respect for the other
Trump’s debate strategy was clear from the get-go. He wanted to hammer Biden, confound him, trip him up and get him to deliver one of his patented incoherent thoughts we’ve grown accustomed to hearing.
To some degree, the strategy worked. Biden is a canned, catchphrase machine. As a longtime, seasoned politician, he has mastered the art of saying much while revealing little. I have no doubt that Biden’s team equipped him with clever one-liners and crowd pleasers that continue to dupe the American public.
However, once Trump began his onslaught, Biden had to drop most of the stump speech talking points and he came out swinging in defense. He, too, began to interrupt Trump while the President was speaking. But unlike Trump, Biden resorted to name-calling, referring to the President as a “clown” at one point.
Trump’s strategy succeeded in forcing Biden to play a different game than he wanted to, and lay waste to this idea that Biden is so much more “presidential” and above the fray than Trump.
Yes, Trump started the interrupting. But Biden engaged in it and took it to another level with the name-calling. The fact that the mainstream media is giving Biden a free pass just proves their bias. You can admit that one candidate started it and did it more often than the other. But to remove blame from the other candidate is grossly negligent.
Wallace wallows as debate moderator
Normally, I would call on the debate moderator to give the Billy Madison line, “What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that can be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.”
But the problem is that moderator Chris Wallace was simply awful as well. No, I’m not blaming him for the two candidates hijacking the process and breaking the rules both their campaigns had agreed upon. They should have been able to cut off the microphone of one candidate to enable the other to speak unencumbered for two minutes. Maybe they can work that into the next debate.
But Wallace did fail as a moderator by not pressing for answers to questions the candidates avoided. He let them beat around the bush without pushing for a direct answer. Americans missed out on getting answers to key topics such as the packing of the Supreme Court, the public denunciation of extremist groups, and what Biden would do differently than Trump on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, Wallace — supposedly a registered Democrat — did little to show he could remain a “fair and balanced” neutral moderator. For starters, he laughed at (maybe it was a nervous tic?) jokes that both candidates made at the other’s expense, which wasn’t very professional. He trampled on the candidates while they were answering questions, too. Wallace cut off Trump far more often than he did Biden. Yes, Trump interrupted Biden more than Biden did Trump. But it’s not a moderator’s job to interrupt either candidate when he’s speaking, let alone doing it to one more than the other.
My main takeaways from the first presidential debate
As much as it feels like the first presidential debate was a big waste of time, there were still things to be learned from the spectacle.
Trump is Trump. Those who have come to know President Trump over the past four years didn’t even bat an eye at Tuesday’s debate. And those pundits claiming to be shocked by his behavior are engaging in a charade. Trump is a fighter. When people attack him, he’s going to swing back. He’s been hammered by the media and Democratic politicians since entering the 2016 presidential race. Thus, he’s been swinging back throughout his entire presidency. Trump is also prideful and stubborn, arrogant and self-aggrandizing. Nothing except the fervency of his interruptions surprised me about his performance Tuesday night.
Biden, while exhibiting cognitive decline, is not yet full-blown senile. If you can look into my eyes and tell me with a straight face that Biden, at 77 years of age, hasn’t experienced some cognitive decline, you’re every bit as competent a liar as these two candidates are. The video clips of Biden’s stumbling, bumbling, and often incoherent stream of consciousness are plentiful. He loses his train of thought, he confuses facts, figures and numbers, and he can’t remember things as important as the Pledge of Allegiance and perhaps the most well-known statement in the Declaration of Independence. However, despite his cognitive decline, he showed — at least for one night — that his brain isn’t complete mush.
Trump is always playing offense. Trump ran as the outsider in 2016. And as a businessman with no political experience, he legitimately was just that. But now that he’s the incumbent who is seeking re-election, he has a record to defend. Trump knows the secret that sometimes the best defense is a better offense. Clearly, he employed that tactic throughout the first debate. There were only a few instances I can recall when either Biden or Wallace put Trump on the defensive in which he didn’t immediately pivot to offense. One of those is when he was asked to denounce white supremacy. Trump initially said “sure”, but then when pressed to say it more pointedly, he had an awkward moment of silence before turning to offense again and asking why Biden couldn’t denounce Antifa (which Biden claimed was an idea rather than an organization — an incredibly stupid thing to say, by the way). But that was not a good moment for Trump.
Biden refused to answer an important court-packing question. In addition to refusing to denounce Antifa, perhaps the most startling — and alarming — pivot that Biden made was in regards to Supreme Court packing. When asked if he supported the idea to do so, Biden remained non-committal. Let’s be honest, while not illegal, it would be an egregiously dangerous precedent to raise the number of Supreme Court justices from nine. This reeks of sour grapes. Trump was right: elections have consequences. The GOP has controlled the Senate for a decade now and has the constitutional authority to approve judges. The Democrats are bitter about that, so like a petulant child in a toy store, they’re going to kick and scream and change rules and procedures until they get their way.
Trump erred in going hard after Hunter Biden. The laundry list of issues that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has endured is well-documented. Between a paternity case with a stripper and a failure to pay child support, a drug problem which led him to getting discharged from the Navy, and his shady business deals overseas, Hunter clearly has problems. I’m not going to go into any further detail on this for one very specific reason: Hunter Biden isn’t running for president. And aside from me, as a Christian, wanting to see him correct course and live a life that is pleasing to God, I couldn’t care less about his issues as it pertains to the presidential election. I’ve always believed that politicians’ families have no business in the political discussion. Keep discussion to the two candidates and what issues they may have.
Biden lost some credibility to attack Trump on “presidential” behavior. Remember when Trump first started campaigning in 2015? Critics immediately decried his personality and behavior and called him “not presidential.” Five years later, the “presidential” label is still tossed around. Frankly, I don’t care about presidential behavior. I care about presidential action. But now, after Biden took the bait and devolved into interruptions and insults, he lost some credibility to accuse Trump of not acting presidential.
Both candidates lie, thus neither can use it against the other. Similar to the presidential behavior quip that Biden likes to sling in Trump’s direction, the “liar” label is just as hypocritical. I’ve got news to both Trump and Biden supporters: these men both lie. All politicians lie. Heck, all humans lie. Don’t listen to either side try to brand the other as compulsive liars, because they’re both being hypocritical. Biden’s surrogates secured the rights to the @truth Twitter handle (as if they have some kind of monopoly on truth, which they surely do not). They’re trying to take the moral high ground, but as the Trump campaign noted on Trump’s official website, there were 33 false or misleading statements that Biden threw out on Tuesday. Bottom line: don’t take either candidate’s word as gospel. Follow their policies.
Biden will continue to ignore the first three Trump years and focus on the past six months. I don’t blame Biden for going after Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tactically, it makes sense. It’s the number one concern on many Americans’ minds right now, especially with the mainstream media shoveling a false narrative on the lethality of the disease. Basically, it’s a scare tactic, and Biden — aided by the media — wants you to believe Trump is the Grim Reaper. But even more important than playing off Americans’ fears, Biden wants you to forget how America was thriving during Trump’s first three years in office. The numbers are indisputable. With a soaring stock market and record low unemployment across the demographic spectrum, not to mention increased peace and security for Americans at home and abroad, Trump was thriving as president. He was doing his two primary duties of protecting the American people and making this country prosperous. Biden tried to jump on the fact that unemployment went up and the economy went down, but of course that’s not Trump’s fault. That’s China’s fault, thanks to their virus. Hopefully American people are smart enough to recognize and admit that.
The needle hasn’t moved — and probably didn’t even vacillate. At the end of the day, neither candidate won the debate Tuesday night. Frankly, both of them lost. But the biggest losers were the American people who tuned in to watch that spectacle. The most unfortunate ones were the undecided voters who wanted to hear more policy discussion. Instead they got personal attacks back and forth. Let’s be honest: neither candidate gained or lost much support after the first debate. Those who were staunchly Trump or Biden supporters remain so today. And undecided voters might have to wait another day before figuring out which grumpy old man to support.