Debate 2020: Joe Biden was disgusting

On the night of what was supposed to be the most watched televised event of the (football-less) season, I found myself seated in the lounge of my apartment complex where about a half dozen other residents had settled in front of the TV set, munching pizza and sipping wine.  Five minutes into the first presidential debate, I knew I would break my vow not to imbibe.

It was more of a shouting match than a debate.  Most of the pressure this time was coming from the right.  But both President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden talked over the other and interrupted at will.  Chris Wallace, a stickler who had vowed to maintain the upper hand, seemed increasingly frustrated. 

The handful of neighbors sitting around me were also shouting, and after an hour and a half and a glass and a half of pinot noir, I took my headache up to my apartment to view the reviews.  I shouldn't have bothered.  The mainstream media wasted no time in branding Trump a bully and Biden a beleaguered saint.  They completely overlooked the nasty side of Biden, who, among other things, had called Trump a liar, a loser, and a clown, as well as effectively a murderer, a traitor, and the worst president in the history of the United States.  Most of the Fox News team hailed Trump as a gladiator who would not remain silent in the presence of such outrageous lies. 

Were I judging this debate in an academic setting, I would have long ago torn up the score cards.  The winners of traditional debates score "points" on issues.  But nobody in the wide audience really learned anything new about issues.  Verbal confrontation has become political entertainment.  And to the ultimate victor, as the saying goes, belong the spoils.  Nothing Joe Biden said revealed any practical meat on his plans for America's future. Most of what Trump said has been heard time and time again — the stuff that rallies are made of.  It was a recycled performance in which both candidates appeared to reveal more of their faults than their virtues. 

As for temperament and body language, Joe seemed glassy-eyed with concentration.  He looked pale next to his ruddy challenger.  Trump came across as arrogant almost as many times as Biden came across as confused.  And Joe seemed mean-spirited as often as Trump looked rightfully offended.  Neither of them managed to take the high ground.  Perhaps there is none left.  Frankly, I feel sorry for them both. 

In Trump's favor, he never took his eyes off of his opponent. He was "tuned in" completely, focusing his attention on Biden.  On the other hand, Joe seemed to drift during The Donald's statements, as if searching for a memorable rebuttal.  But the best line of the night was Trump's claim to have done more for America in 47 months than Joe did in 47 years.

Despite all the hoopla, I doubt that most Americans were proud of the show.  A big complaint about our current political climate is that it is too contentious.  All the chatter about having a "national conversation" falls on deaf ears.  And if opponents do get into a discussion, it ends up as an argument.

In the end, it does not matter who "won" this debate.  Most Americans are already locked into their choice.  The question is whether any viewers changed their minds.  I did.  I may watch the next two presidential debates, but I won't look forward to them with my customary enthusiasm.  Maybe more wine and pizza will help.

Image credit: YouTube screen shot, Fox News.