September 30, 2020

Presidential debate

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden had their first scheduled debate. C-SPAN

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From the Left

The left criticizes Trump for interrupting, failing to clearly condemn white supremacists, and stoking doubt about the election.

“President Donald Trump’s grand plan to demolish Joe Biden at tonight’s first presidential debate was shockingly simple: He merely wouldn’t let the former vice president complete a sentence. Trump talked over his Democratic challenger—and the frustrated moderator, Chris Wallace—from the opening moments of the debate…

“Biden at first seemed shaky in parrying Trump’s attempt at dominance, unsure of how to handle him. He soon decided to respond to Trump’s unrelenting attacks and interruptions with a simple smile and a laugh—a reaction that implied a shared bond with viewers at home. ‘I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar,’ Biden said at one point. Still, Trump talked—and talked, and talked, and talked… Trump’s refusal to play by the debate rules created something of a fog, preventing a coherent back-and-forth that might allow people to decide which man has the better vision for the country.”
Russell Berman, The Atlantic

“Biden had his stumbles, Trump had far more lies—and yet somehow Chris Wallace emerged the worst for wear. The Fox News anchor has a reputation as a tough and crafty interviewer, someone with a knack for clever traps and unexpected questions. At times, you could almost discern the shape of the debate Wallace had hoped to moderate; the contours of some of his ornate stratagems… Trump steamrolled all of this. The Commission on Presidential Debates and the next moderators may now want to consider an option where they can cut the president’s microphone.”
Alex Shephard, New Republic

“For months now the Trump camp has been lying and saying that Biden won’t leave his basement, and for weeks they’ve been increasingly explicit in arguing that he has dementia… But then the debate happened, and Biden was … fine… There’s a reason his 1988 and 2008 campaigns didn’t set the world on fire — he just does not have the charisma level of a Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama. But he’s a totally normal politician who can stand up there and do his talking points and zingers for 90 minutes just like anyone else. Throwing the ‘my opponent is senile’ Hail Mary may have made a certain amount of strategic sense for Trump given that at this point, he is not going to come up with a viable plan to fight Covid-19 or alter the public’s entrenched perception of him. But it just doesn’t work because it’s not true.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) writes, “Trump has no health care plan, but relentlessly tries to tear down our health care even amid a global health crisis… Trump admitted in a recorded conversation with journalist Bob Woodward to downplaying COVID-19’s threat… Trump failed to set up adequate supply chains for personal protective equipment and other resources to fight the pandemic, failed to let science guide our response and public information, and failed to support Americans who lost jobs and businesses. Now he has the gall to say, ‘We’ve done a great job.’…

“[By contrast] The former vice president’s public-health plan ensures widespread free testing, prompt and safe vaccine development and distribution, and the supplies, resources, personnel and facilities that our states and communities need. And Biden’s economic relief plan offers real, consistent help for workers, families, and small businesses.”
Eric Swalwell, Fox News

“[Wallace] challenged President Donald Trump to condemn white supremacists. Instead of doing so outright, Trump called on hate groups to ‘stand by.’... The Proud Boys are a ‘strange amalgamation of a men’s rights organization, a fight club and what some may see as a hate group — one that loves Donald Trump, hates Muslims (and Jews and trans people), but permits nonwhite membership.’ The Proud Boys have become known for their violence and their ‘tactical defensive arm’ where members attend protests and incite violence in order to defend the right wing…

“One Proud Boys leader, Joe Biggs, wrote on the social media platform Parler, ‘Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy,’… Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio, who organized the recent Portland event, wrote ‘I will stand down sir!!! Standing by sir. So Proud of my guys right now.’… The president not only didn’t condemn white supremacy, but actively stoked it.”
Fabiola Cineas, Vox

Regarding Trump’s comments about the election, “There have been ominous signs on the peaceful election front already. Trump supporters have already disrupted early voting in Virginia; Donald Trump Jr. called on supporters to join a Trump ‘army’ that would provide ‘election security.’… Trump’s behavior is the sort of thing you expect in very weak and young democracies, especially ones that had recently experienced civil war. These are places where key political actors don’t accept the rules of the democratic game and are willing to take up arms if they’re defeated. These are the kinds of places where leaders call on friendly militias to ‘stand by.’ But Trump clearly doesn’t care about democracy.”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

From the Right

The right is disappointed by the debate in general and argues that it is unlikely to impact the presidential race.

The right is disappointed by the debate in general and argues that it is unlikely to impact the presidential race.

“The event was a spectacle of insults, interruptions, endless cross-talk, exaggerations and flat-out lies even by the lying standards of current U.S. politics… Mr. Trump no doubt wanted to project strength and rattle Mr. Biden, but he did so by interrupting him so much that he wouldn’t let Mr. Biden talk long enough even to make a mistake…

“The former Vice President wasn’t much better, interrupting nearly as much. And for the candidate who says he wants to bring people together, he was ready with his own name-calling. He called Mr. Trump a ‘racist,’ a ‘clown,’ and told him to ‘shut up, man.’ He spun out falsehoods as fast as the President, notably in asserting that 100 million people would be vulnerable to losing their health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. The Obama Administration set up a special fund for pre-existing conditions in the transition to ObamaCare, and the takers were only in the thousands…

“We hope for better when the two vice presidential candidates debate next week. Maybe one of them will act like a President.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“God help you if you tuned in, hoping to learn more about the candidates’ policies. Biden came to win a debate, and Trump came to win WrestleMania. Like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, Trump just expanded to fill the whole room, filling up his time and spilling over into Biden’s time, hammering home whatever he wanted to talk about, whether it was related to Chris Wallace’s question or not…

“Trump fans will look at this and conclude their man won. He certainly made it impossible for Biden to make his points, and Trump had way more time to make his own arguments, so by that standard, Trump ‘won.’ But I’m not sure a performance like this is what dislodges Biden supporters and brings them over to the Trump side, or wins over whatever remaining undecided voters are out there. Maybe on the margins, soft Biden supporters found the Democratic nominee overwhelmed by Trump’s relentless barrage this evening, and wonder if Biden can handle the pressures of the presidency. But I wouldn’t expect to see much movement in the poll numbers.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“The Trumpian primary approach may not be the right way to win the presidency in 2020, not with the headwinds Trump faces on coronavirus and the enduring problem of his own trustworthiness and truthfulness. It isn’t like Biden doesn’t have problems with the truth and wasn’t playing fast and loose with the facts. He blamed Trump for the corona-caused recession, which is ridiculous. He denied the existence of antifa, which has been lighting American cities afire for months…

“He simultaneously declared himself ‘the Democratic party’ at one point when Trump pressed him on his party’s hard-left radicalism and then, like Hyman Roth in ‘Godfather II,’ insisted that it wasn’t his place to call Democratic mayors and governors about the summer unrest…

“But Trump’s need to dominate every exchange meant he never let up and let Biden harm himself… Face it: If you didn’t love Trump when the evening started and weren’t already a fan of his WWE approach to politics, there had to be at least one moment, maybe two, when you listened to the leader of the Free World and thought, ‘What a jerk.’ There’s a very small number of people who haven’t made up their minds yet, and if the polls are even remotely accurate, Trump has to win a landslide among them to make up the gap with Biden. Last night was not the way to do it.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

“Generally speaking, Trump doesn’t need a script. However, he missed out on several opportunities because he didn’t offer specifics to back up some of his potentially explosive statements. For example, Trump asserted that Biden would destroy the suburbs, but he didn’t explain why. He didn’t mention the key [federal housing] measures Biden supports that would accomplish this. Thus, Biden was able to get away with calling Trump’s claim a dog whistle from the 1950s, whereas, in fact, the claim stems from a very specific, very recent Democratic agenda item which Biden supports and wants to expand…

“The same kind of thing happened on the question of Trump getting rid of federal ‘sensitivity training’ and ‘critical race theory’ programs. Trump called the programs in question anti-American propaganda, as indeed they are. But he failed to give concrete examples of their radical content… Trump may have hoped that Biden would wilt under the pressure of the onslaught, but Biden didn’t. I think, then, the debate was either a draw or a Biden win.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“Even if you could prove that the president was the champion of interrupting every person on Earth, let's talk about what Biden did: He told the president of the United States during a nationally televised debate to ‘shut up,’ to ‘keep yapping,’ and he called Trump a ‘clown.’ All of that actually happened, and not once did Wallace reprimand the former vice president. He might have perhaps even asked that Biden keep things civil, given that, you know, Biden's whole thing is ‘restoring the soul of America.’”
Eddie Scarry, Washington Examiner

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