Scott Young, Editor in Chief
If 2020 hadn’t yet claimed your sanity, I can almost guarantee that Tuesday night’s debate did the trick.
What happened in the debate was an embarrassment to our country and a slap in the face to the American people, who are set to head to the polls in just 33 days, and no, it wasn’t “both sides.”
As a matter of fact, President Donald Trump interrupted his opponent former Vice President Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace a total of 71 times, compared with Biden’s 22 interruptions of Trump and Wallace, according to a report from The Washington Post.
“Mr. President, your campaign agreed that both sides would get two-minute answers uninterrupted,” Wallace said to Trump. “Your side agreed to it. Why don’t you observe what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule. OK, sir?”
What we saw on display was a president in distress, resorting to personal attacks against Biden’s family and embracing deflective tactics designed to distract against his failures and missteps as president.
His performance showed just how deplorable he really is, to coin a word from Hillary Clinton in 2016.
After all, when you have no tangible accomplishments and a mishandled viral pandemic that has cost the lives of over 200,000 Americans, what better way to suppress that truth than to speak louder than your opponent.
‘I’m proud of my son’
Though debate interruptions dominated the evening, some of the things said in between were just as bad.
One moment that stands out to me was when Biden was discussing his late son, Beau Biden, a veteran of the U.S. Army, in response to a report from The Atlantic that Trump referred to fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”
“My son was in Iraq,” said Biden. “He spent a year there. He got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot and the people left behind there were heroes.”
Trump interjected, saying “I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter,” referring to Biden’s other son.
“Hunter got thrown out of the military,” said Trump. “He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use.”
The issue of substance abuse is a sensitive one. There is no excuse for a sitting U.S. president to publicly litigate his opponent’s son’s former drug use in a presidential debate, especially considering Hunter was never dishonorably discharged. He was given an administrative discharge in 2014 after he tested positive for cocaine the prior year.
As Biden mentioned, there is a laundry list of attack lines that could be made against the Trump family, but he chose not to stoop to that level.
“My son, like a lot of people we know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden responded. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it and I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”
Refusal to denounce white supremacy
Though it likely doesn’t come as a shock, when asked if he’s willing to denounce white supremacy on Tuesday night, he quickly threw out a red herring, claiming that “most” of the violence comes from the left-wing.
“I’m willing to do anything,” Trump continued. “Who would you like me to condemn?”
Biden twice responded, “Proud Boys,” the name of a male-only organization that describes themselves as “western chauvinists” and has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Proud Boys: stand back and stand by,” said Trump.
Given the opportunity to denounce white supremacy and hate groups, Trump instead gave them an order to “stand back” (or “take a few steps backwards”) and “stand by” (or “to be or to get ready to act”).
Who’s surprised? I’m not. Just take a look at history.
During the 2016 election, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump whether or not he rejects the support of white supremacists groups and, specifically, David Duke, a former KKK leader, claiming, “I don’t know anything about David Duke” (he does) and “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”
A year later and months after his inauguration as president, Trump insisted that there were “very fine people, on both sides” at a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017.
It’s very clear why Trump tap dances when asked to condemn these white supremacists and hate groups: his campaign feeds off of and relies on their support.
Takeaways from the unruly debate
This debate was a disgrace. Period.
CNN’s Jake Tapper described it best: “That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.”
The amount of crosstalk and lack of substance overshadowed any policy discussion that may have creeped its way into a few sentences. It’s truly a disservice to American voters.
If a candidate talks when it’s not their turn, cut their microphone off. It’s really not that hard and the Commission on Presidential Debates should finally recognize this issue which was overlooked in 2016.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. We don’t have time for childishness.
We need a leader who knows how to take responsibility, can conduct themself in a presidential manner and actually wants to have a discussion about how to fix the problems America faces.
It is what it is, I suppose.