The first presidential debate: A quagmire and a farce

The first televised debate between President Donald J. Trump and his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, took place on Tuesday night, Sept. 29.

Each candidate was given two minutes to respond to a question.  Then there could be an open-ended back and forth.  In typical formal debates, response time is also limited, but the two sides had agreed to this open-ended approach.  Both candidates often talked over each other.  Each interrupted the other, but President Trump was the more aggressive interrupter of the two.

President Trump came on stage looking grouchy and tired.  Former vice president Biden came in his casual street persona, greeting the president by saying "man." 

There were some exceptional low points from both sides and from the moderator.  Chris Wallace asked President Trump about his taxes, basing his question upon a story that had just appeared in the New York Times.

This was extremely irrelevant.  What does the amount of money Trump paid in taxes have to do with his re-election or non-re-election?  Moreover, the question was based on a newspaper story that reviewed his taxes and found nothing illegal.  So what if his lawyers beat the system and found some good write-offs and deductions for him?  Isn't that why people go to professionals to have their taxes completed?  Moreover, the Times article was based on information illegally obtained, since tax forms are confidential, and it is illegal for the government or anyone to share the information with a third party.  Wallace's question was underwriting the legitimacy of the Times article, which the said article did not deserve.

President Trump, for his part, brought up the question of Hunter Biden's gaming the system (or worse) with his work for Burisma in Ukraine, with the notoriously corrupt Moscow mayor's widow, and in the People's Republic of China.  These "jobs" seem to be a source of ill gotten gains and a way for Ukraine, Russia, or China to exercise some undue influence on his father. 

Trump did not ask the former vice president why he was not concerned about the appearance of impropriety, which was obvious, or tell his son that he was against these ventures.  Instead, it's well known that Biden pushed the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, the Ukraine company on whose Board of Directors Hunter Biden sat, to drop the case or lose U.S. aid in the amount of $1 billion.  Then he also had the prosecutor fired.  In short, the president failed to articulate his concern about the connection between Hunter's actions and his father's intervention.  He did not connect the dots between Hunter and Vice President Joe's possible — and likely — corruption.  So without that connection being made, the viewer might logically ask: So the son's a screw-up or manipulator?  What does that have to do with Biden's candidacy?

Biden ruthlessly blamed the president over and over again during the debate for events that had nothing to do with Trump's judgment or behavior — namely, the COVID pandemic and the riots in many of our large, Democrat-controlled cities.  The president did not create the virus and did nothing to bring it to our shores.  In fact, as he affirmed multiple times in the debate and on many previous occasions, he halted travel of non-Americans from China to the U.S. early on as news got about the apparently new and deadly disease.  Vice President Biden at that time called the president xenophobic, as did Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Trump attempted to make that point but couldn't get a word in edgewise. 

The action by the president vis-à-vis travel from China to the U.S. did more to prevent COVID deaths than any medical action that could have been taken, as he attempted to say.

Both with COVID and the urban riots, Biden stated that they "happened on your watch."  This is a stupid statement, but there are many stupid people who might consider it valid.  It is stupid because if someone breaks into my house, would it make sense to blame me for having the house?  Disease or riots breaking out during his presidency in no way demonstrate that they are "his fault."  That is the new woke morality we are dealing with. 

Are we to blame the presidents of the past because various flus attacked the citizenry?  Polio was rampant when I was a kid.  Would anyone have thought to blame Presidents Truman and Eisenhower?  Was Lincoln to blame for the violent New York City draft riots of 1863?

The president in response to the riots kept insisting that he is for law and order; he should have gone on the offensive in the debate and specifically called out Biden and all other Democrat leaders as well as the mayors and governors of Democrat-controlled cities and states for not putting the riots down.  He should have pointed fingers instead of saying merely he was for law and order. His was a somewhat weak rejoinder because in a certain sense that claim fed into Biden's portrayal of Trump as ineffectual and a fomenter of the urban disturbances.  His claim of being for law and order gives rise to a question that Biden did not ask, but which was implied: if you are for law and order, why have you not achieved law and order?

To informed citizens, the answer is obvious.  Only governors can call out the National Guard.  Trump attempted to say this but was shouted down. Yet despite this, only Trump could only act definitively vis-à-vis the military under the Insurrection Act of 1807, but to date he has not invoked that law even though it was used to quell riots in Los Angeles in 1992.  More to the point, it seems to this writer that Trump did not act more aggressively to put down these riots because he did not want to fall into the trap of being portrayed as a military-style dictator willing to use the military for police power against our citizens. But that wasn't brought up.

The president was surly, brusque, and ill-humored throughout, the opposite of his persona at his rallies where he is forceful, good-humored, and really rock 'n' rolling as he moves from topic to topic.

Biden managed not to appear flustered or mentally ill, which was, for him, quite an achievement. He was so dismissive of the president and more than once called the President a liar.  He was completely contemptuous of the president of the United States which many, like myself, will find completely unwarranted and offensive in the extreme.  

Although this was a debate for the presidency of our country, it seemed more like a schoolyard argument between two aggressive personalities lacking a mature concern for policy.  Mr. Biden denied his collaboration with Bernie Sanders which the president attempted to bring up intermittently throughout the 90 minutes.  Yet, this was a patent deception as we know that Biden has moved closer to the socialist/green new deal/anarchist agenda of woke morality than any presidential candidate in history. President Harry Truman had repudiated the politics of Henry Wallace in 1948, so Wallace needed to start another party.  But Biden has not repudiated Sanders or the openly socialist green sycophant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Although the Trump presidency is serving the country very well, tonight's debate did not define the president at his best, and Mr. Biden, while adept at political platitudes, showed himself to be accusatory and devoid of a positive vision for our country.

Image credit: Fox News screen shot via shareable YouTube.