Lots of heat, but little light

To borrow a phrase from the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, “I was watching a fight the other night and a presidential debate broke out.”

Those who watched Tuesday’s presidential debate hoping for enlightenment on issues of substance, like the pandemic, the economy, taxation, unemployment, the climate, domestic violence or foreign relations, have to be disappointed. There was very little said that could be considered illuminating or educational. Instead, we got 95 minutes of the president of the United States lobbing accusations and insults at his challenger. President Donald Trump and Joe Biden spent almost the whole time talking over each other and trying to shout each other down.

Trump set the tone through most of the debate, interrupting Biden whenever Biden leveled a criticism or accusation. Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to maintain order, at times chastising the president and asking him to let Biden finish his sentences.

Attempt to hold the president to account for things like the nation’s COVID-19 actions were turned around, the president posultating that if Biden had been in office, we’d have a million “China Plague” deaths instead of 200,000.

Perhaps the low point of the debate came when Wallace asked the president whether he would once and for all repudiate right-wing militant groups, white supremacists and others. Trump asked them to name one, and Biden said, “Proud Boys,” a far-right men’s only organizaton of “western chauvinists” that believe white men and culture are under siege.

Far from repudiating violent, right wing groups, Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Trump added that the real threat is from the far left and the “anti-fa” movement.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which organized Tuesday’s event and set the ground rules, announced Wednesday that it would add “additional structure” to the remaining debates, saying “more orderly discussion is needed.”

Perhaps a time-out chair might be in order.


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