Fox News’s Chris Wallace hosted 2020’s first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Fox News political analyst Brit Hume compared Trump to a “bucking bronco” and Biden as “competent”. Though I’m not usually inclined to agree with the folks down at Fox News, I’d partially agree this time — though I’d say Trump’s style is actually a little more like a chainsaw-wielding squirrel.
With all the yelling going on during the debate, my three-year-old daughter understandably couldn’t sleep. She plunked herself down beside me to sip her apple-grape juice and watch the event on the couch while I watched our current president do the only thing he knows how to do well: peddle conspiracy theories, yell, insult and interrupt. I didn’t want my toddler to think this kind of yelling and name-calling was acceptable. Hearkening back to my days as an educator, I decided to make a teachable moment out of the event. “Honey,” I told her, “the guy with the orange face on the left side of the screen who doesn’t make any sense and is being really mean and interrupting is our president, but you shouldn’t act like that, OK?” Needless to say, it was a lot to take in for her but she understood the fundamental fact that the president was a meanie-head; that he doesn’t pay attention or do his homework, and so he’s not making good decisions or doing a good job at work. Big shout out to her Montessori teachers who have helped her understand such simple yet complex concepts – concepts that Donald Trump still doesn’t seem to quite yet grasp.
I’ve said before how I’m not a huge Biden fan, but he kept his cool for the most part and didn’t let Trump get too much under his skin (except when he called Trump a “clown” and told him to “shut up”). And he deserves a lot of credit for that – debating Trump must be a Sisyphean task, not because he’s a skilled debater, but because his debate style is an ad hoc hodge-podge of ranting and raving – and it’s hard to argue with a chainsaw-wielding squirrel attack. If you don’t yell back then you look weak; if you yell back too much then you look like an asshole, too. It’s a fine line to walk, really.
But let’s not mince words – no minds were changed in Tuesday night’s debate. As Biden repeatedly said, “Trump has no plan”. Biden didn’t waste too much time dispelling Trump’s lies about his record, his finances, and his intentions because he knows that Trump supporters aren’t going to suddenly decide against backing the President when he reveals indisputable facts like numbers of Covid-19 deaths or job losses. What he did clearly prepare for, however, was that bully-in-the-corner, squirrel-attack debating style, and it showed.
I was left cringing all the times moderator Chris Wallace had to tell Trump to not interrupt – but was so glad he did. During debates in Mexico, other parties have their microphones turned off when their opponents answer questions so they can’t interrupt. Maybe we should do that in the US, too. Trump shouldn’t be allowed to go ad nauseum on these ad hominem attacks in the upcoming debates — America deserves better than that.
Wallace did a good job calling Trump out on his contradictions of his own scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Team Warp Speed on the timing and possibility of a finished vaccine versus an available vaccine, but he was allowed to push his forest management conspiracy theory for the wildfires in California. Is it responsible to let him push fake science on national television when the stakes are so high? Those behind the scenes have that to consider for the future.
For those who thought back in 2016 that Trump was the candidate of change, for those who found some kind of mystique in the billionaire reality show star who miraculously became president, there can be no real question after his four years in office whether this outsider could effectively, justly and efficiently run our government. Pundits said that the President had to reassure voters that he has a plan for the economy and the pandemic. But the only reassuring Trump did last night was to show people that he has no idea what he is doing and never has – and even my three-year-old knows better than that.