That debate was a hot mess.
Joe Biden called President Donald Trump a clown (twice), a fool, a racist, the worst president in the country’s history, and literally told him to shut up, but it’s Trump who’s being labeled non-presidential.
In truth, though, no one looked good in this debate, and Trump, who couldn’t stop interrupting, surrendered a chance to definitively define Biden to the country as the weak torchbearer of a party that’s trending toward socialism and enabling rioters. After all, what are we all talking about? Not that.
Left to his own devices, Biden will shoot himself in the rhetorical foot every time. But Trump got in the way. You know it wasn’t a good debate when everyone watching it ended up with a migraine.
It’s unclear what we all expected, though. We already knew that Trump is pugnacious, uncouth, and a junkyard dog street fighter who plays by his own rules. We already knew that he refuses to “act presidential” in conventional terms. Trump was just being Trump. It’s worked for him so far. Did anyone really expect him to be nice? C’mon. Trump doesn’t do nice. That’s not why we elected him.
First Debate Expectations
As Pres. Trump repeatedly interrupts Joe Biden, Biden says, "Will you shut up, man?"
— ABC News (@ABC) September 30, 2020
Biden had the lowest of expectations due to all of the dementia talk. All he needed to do was make marginal sense and not babble incoherently on stage, and he would outperform them.
Biden has a habit of making exceptionally goofy (scratch that, ridiculous) remarks, from references to lying dog-faced pony soldiers to tales of gang members named Corn Pop. He lost it a few times during the debate to be sure, sounding angry and crotchety. That seemed to be Trump’s goal. He approached Biden like an aggressive prosecutor would go at a defendant on the stand, hoping to provoke an eruption or mistake. That did happen.
Sean Hannity was calling Biden “cranky” within minutes of the debate’s conclusion, but the other cable news channels were in full anti-Trump lather. Biden also dodged answering several important questions, such as whether he supports packing the Supreme Court. But no one will remember much of that because Trump’s interrupting style is the story today and his comments on white supremacists will be the story tomorrow.
Did Trump refuse to condemn white supremacists? The mainstream media narrative is that he did.
Asked if he would condemn them, Trump said, “Sure, I’m willing to do that. I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace”
“Then do it, sir,” said Wallace.
“Give them a name,” said Trump. When Wallace mentioned the Proud Boys, Trump said, “stand back and stand by,” and pivoted to Antifa and the left. “This is not a right wing problem. This is a left wing problem.” Biden said Antifa was an “idea, not an organization.”
The exchange, however mischaracterized, gave the media an issue to flog for days. Condemn them more explicitly. It’s not that hard. We do. They’re talking about Trump’s personality tonight, but they’re going to be talking about white supremacy and the Proud Boys tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that too. This angle will overshadow Biden’s record on the 1994 crime bill (although we support that, lots of his supporters don’t), and his ridiculous comments on race over the years (When accused of being a racist, Trump might have brought some of those up, especially the comment Biden once made about not wanting his kids to grow up in “a racial jungle.”)
Look. Here’s the bottom line.
Trump is right on most of the issues. He supports law and order as cities burn. He’s pro police and supports our nation’s veterans. He’s made a great nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court after two other great picks. He’s better for business and the economy and tax policies. He’s supportive of pro life measures. The stock market prefers him. He’s done more for the Black community than he gets credit for. He’s right that the country can’t afford to shut down again. He’ll be better at bringing back jobs. Biden’s party is weak on rioting, derisive of police, hateful of the military, and awful to the unborn. They’d like to remake the American economic system. They want to change America as we know it and create a state of dependence on government. It is true that Trump, by dominating the debate with his personality, prevented it from being dominated by something else; say, COVID-19 deaths. He was dominant, which is better than being weak. But there’s a thin line between dominance and obnoxiousness here.
Trump needs to get out of the way next time. Let Biden be Biden. Let the contrast be on the issues, not personality.
Trump interrupts Biden ten times in under 3 minutes after health care questionpic.twitter.com/tzwZKReHwJ
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 30, 2020
Will this debate change many voters’ minds? It might make people want to sit this one out or wish for a viable third-party candidate. However, a month is a lifetime in politics, as they say. People are so polarized on the issues, and the contrasts are so clear here, that it’s probably unlikely to move the needle much with people who have already made up their minds. Fence sitters? Neither candidate looked good, really. In all truth, Biden looks one step out of the nursing home.
When it comes to Trump, the old cliché comes to mind: “He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”
Does this country want or need nice? We want someone to restore order and the economy, get tough with Antifa and stop our cities from burning to the ground.
It will probably take a bastard to do that. In that way, Trump delivered.