The Blame Game: Presidential debate edition


I’ve spent the last week reading the reviews of the first presidential debate between President Trump and the private citizen, Joe Biden (or is he the Democrat Party? I’m not sure). Some analysts said something like, Trump won, Biden was insulting and could only say the memorized lines and Chris Wallace was a liberal hack. Others said, Biden won, Trump was a rude, uncontrollable clown that even the brave Chris Wallace could not rein in. The one thing just about all the commentators seemed to agree on is that this wasn’t Lincoln-Douglas, the debates are broken, and we need to fix them.

Of course, no one agrees on what should be done, only that something needs to be done. Some suggested cancelling the debates altogether; others suggested changing the rules somehow; still others suggested cutting off the microphones at strategic moments. The best prescription I read for fixing these debates was right here on American Thinker, written by Ben Voth.

But, as any doctor will tell you, it’s unwise to prescribe a treatment before you do the diagnosis. That is, until you know who is to blame for this debacle, you can’t really fix it.

Most are blaming President Trump: he was rude, he interrupted, he was bombastic, he was mean. Others blamed Mr. Biden: he was insulting, he was evasive, he spouted allegations that he had to know were lies. Quite a few are blaming Wallace: he lost control, he was debating Trump, he gave the debunked liberal media spin on some of his questions.

Every one of those statements are both true and wrong. They are true in the sense that these things certainly happened, but they are wrong because none of them are the causes of that debacle, they are the symptoms of a much more invasive cultural disease.

The blame for this how low this debate sank lies squarely on the shoulders of the left-wing media, left-wing social media, and left-wing academia that shapes most of the culture in this country.

I’m not saying that because the moderators are “journalists” who think the only reason for staging these debates is because the people want to see them in action. The biggest reason to blame the media is because they have poisoned our national discourse by setting limits on what is believable. You see, as a nation we can’t have open discussions about the problems we face and about the various potential solutions to those problems because the media circumscribes every issue and any attempt to speak outside those boundaries will get you mocked, insulted, tagged, canceled, and even attacked.

The left understands better than most that knowledge is power and works really hard to make sure that the only knowledge that gets promoted is the kind that gives them power. For example, how are we supposed to have a discussion about immigration policy when any position aside from open borders is shouted down as racist hate speech?

They do this on every issue, but examine how they handle the environment, which was a topic in the debate. When Al Gore started spouting his convenient lies about the environment, the cultural influencers immediately created an echo-chamber that excluded contrary opinion from being treated as valid. Those who disagreed were not just looking at alternative theories suggested by the data, they were denying science. The media pushed this boundary of discourse on the public by constantly using the phrase “settled science” about global warming (which was unsettled enough that it had to be renamed climate change).

How does this ruin a debate? Here is Wallace’s question to President Trump about the environment:

O.K., the forest fires in the West, are raging now. They have burned millions of acres. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. When state officials there blame the fires on climate change, Mr. President, you said, ‘I don't think the science knows.’ Over your four years, you have pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate accord. You have rolled back a number of Obama environmental records. What do you believe about the science of climate change? And what will you do in the next four years to confront it?

This question is filled with the media’s worldview about the environment. Wallace sounds like a prosecutor reading the charges against the president for his crimes against the planet. The idea that short-sighted and stupid environmental policies burned the California forests or that the Paris accords were nothing but a money grab by greedy nations or that the Obama administration’s focus on the environment killed American industry isn’t even considered, isn’t allowed in proper discussion of the issue. The president wasn’t being asked to discuss environmental policy, he was called on to defend the indefensible.

The president’s answer to this question was terrible, but what was he supposed to say in the two uninterrupted minutes he had (during which Wallace interrupted him FOUR times)? He could try to explain that what environmentalists call science is really politics with a white lab coat on. He could ask why it’s assumed that a warmer planet is a bad thing. He could declare that the ridiculous cost of doing what the “scientists” want is absurdly out of proportion to the meager benefits they promise (but cannot guarantee). Had he said any of those things, how would the entire media react? They would howl at him with all the derision they could muster at his lies and stupidity and heartlessness.

Another reason the media is to blame for this debate is the way they have reported on both the Obama administration and the Trump administration over the last 12 years. Besides worshipping Obama and vilifying Trump, they also hid all the failures and scandals of the Obama years and ignored all the successes and victories of the Trump years. Can you even imagine how different this debate would have been if the media had been objective in their reporting?

Let me help you. First, Biden wouldn’t have been on the stage. He would have been tied to Obama’s lousy economy and immense corruption, including the attempt to destroy Trump’s presidency using the apparatus of the federal government, and wouldn’t have made it past the first primary.

But aside from that little detail, this debate would’ve been different because Trump could have talked about what he had done to people who were generally familiar with those actions and policies and Biden would not have been able to call those successes a failure. Biden was able to lay the deaths of all 200,000 Americans at the president’s feet solely because the media refuses to tell the story of how China sent this virus to us, how Trump took immediate action to protect our lives, how he mobilized the entire country to help the sick, and how he has tried to balance people’s risks and people’s need to work. If they had been objective about this all year, Biden would have been forced to explain what he would have done differently and how that would have been better. Instead, he was able to call Trump a mass murderer.

How about the question about “white supremacy”? The president has denounced racism in all its forms, including the couple of hundred idiots who think that the only thing you need to be better than another person is white skin, dozens of times. The only reason to ask this during the debate is because the media refuses to accept Trump’s answer so they can continue to blame him, and not the rioters themselves, for the riots.

Now, you might be thinking that the media have been like this for a long time, so that doesn’t explain why this debate was so bad. That’s true. There is one more piece to the puzzle: unlike other Republicans, Trump never surrenders to the narrative, he fights for the truth. We would have seen the same kind of debate if anyone—Bob Dole, either of the Bushes, John McCain, or Mitt Romney—decided to fight for America rather than surrender to the establishment. That’s why in the mind of any leftist this is all Trump’s fault. He spoke up instead of bowing in submission. And that’s probably why, even after this terrible debate, the polling moved in Trump’s direction.


Steve Matteucci has degrees in Economics, Law, Taxation, and Theology. His book, How to Be a Trustee: Practical Thinking on Settling a Living Trust, is available on Amazon.

Image credit: WSJ video screen shot, via shareable YouTube.


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