- The first presidential debate on Tuesday was a disaster.
- President Donald Trump spent the vast majority of the night lobbing personal attacks at former Vice President Joe Biden.
- Moderator Chris Wallace begged Trump to stop interrupting Biden, without much success.
- Presidential debates in the past have generally been little more than political theater. Tuesday night was a political horror show.
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The first 2020 presidential debate was supposed to occur on Tuesday.
But what transpired on Tuesday night was not a debate, which involves two people thoughtfully and reasonably engaging on the issues. It was a disaster that encapsulated the mess the country is in under a president who has repeatedly refused to take the job seriously.
President Donald Trump spent the vast majority of his time on the debate stage Tuesday night interrupting former Vice President Joe Biden and lobbing personal attacks.
Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to keep order.
Wallace repeatedly implored the president to allow Biden to answer his questions. When the president objected and said that Biden was also cutting him off, Wallace replied, “Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting.”
At one point, Wallace jokingly suggested to Trump that they should switch seats so the president could moderate the debate as he continued to talk over all parties.
Though Biden was not always perfect when it came to presenting the facts, there’s no comparison between the former vice president and Trump in terms of the barrage of lies and false information the president spewed over the course of the night.
Trump made false claims on his COVID-19 response and continued to push the erroneous notion Biden is a socialist, for example.
There were some remarkable moments amid the chaos.
Biden called the sitting president a racist to his face, for example. Trump also hesitated to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups when given the opportunity.
But the night generally involved Trump seeking to rattle Biden, with little success overall.
“Will you shut-up, man…Keep yapping, man,” Biden said to Trump early on in the night.
—The Hill (@thehill) September 30, 2020
Trump spent far more time throughout the debate attacking Biden than addressing the issues. Biden sought to offer substantive answers, but it was often difficult to hear him over Trump’s efforts to derail him.
“It’s hard to get any word in with this clown,” Biden said. “Excuse me, this person.”
The president has been characterized as a bully for years. He openly embraced that role on Tuesday evening.
—The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 30, 2020
Coming into the debate, Trump and his allies repeatedly painted Biden as senile and not up to the task of running the country. Trump went as far to suggest that Biden was taking performance enhancing substances. Meanwhile, conservative media figures pushed conspiracy theories that the Democratic nominee would back out last-minute or that he’d be wearing an electronic ear device during the debate. In the process, they set a very low bar for the vice president to easily rise above.
Biden joked about these unfounded attacks in a tweet prior to the debate. “It’s debate night, so I’ve got my earpiece and performance enhancers ready,” Biden wrote. In many ways, the tweet was a preview of his debate strategy. Biden refused to engage with the alternative reality that Trump presented to the country, brushing it off and doing his best to stay on topic.
If Tuesday night was meant to convince voters one candidate has a better temperament to lead the country, Biden won. But if it was meant to educate voters on where the candidates stand on the issue, there were no winners and the voters themselves were the losers.
In the past, presidential debates have generally been little more than political theater. Tuesday night was a political horror show.