[The transcript is here]
I’ll make my comments regarding last night’s debate relatively brief. Right now I’m going to give the floor to Chris Marschner, whose lengthy comment shortly after it concluded is both fair and thorough. This is an ethics blog that has been forced into commenting on politics far more than it should or that its writer wants to, and for that I blame, as a depressed friend said yesterday, “the politicization of everything.” I am going to try, as I have all along in matters relating to President Trump and the unconscionable methods the Axis of Unethical Conduct has employed to undermine and remove him regardless of the long- and short- term harm they inflict on the nation, to keep my observations on the debate to ethical issues . I think, for the most part, Chris does too, which is one reason I admire his Comment of the Day.
One of his main complaints is the incompetence of the President in failing to clearly explain and defend his response to the Wuhan virus. I won’t touch on that at all; Chris is right, but it’s Julie Principle territory. Yes, it would be great if this President could articulately marshal facts and statistics to kill false narratives, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could. The man just doesn’t do that, can’t, and never will. It is true that Biden provided many opportunities that a more verbally adept President could have exploited, but complaining that Trump is Trump seems pointless now.
My own observations, which I will restrict to just ten, are here—I wrote them up before reading Chris’s analysis.. Meanwhile, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on last nights debate, nominally on the post, “Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It”:
I can’t believe American politics has devolved in to the one of those circuses elsewhere when the the two sides clear the benches for physical free for all. Chris Wallace is ill suited for what our debates have become and his questions being so long allowed the two candidates to go off into their preferred areas of attack instead of giving relatively succinct answers.
It also appeared to me that the questions were structured in such a way that Trump had to defend his decisions while Biden was given the opportunity to lay out his ideas. Having to defend the measurable and complex issues of a pandemic response coupled with widespread unrest in major cities fomented by race-baiters while your opponent merely has to give unmeasurable platitudes is sort of unreasonable. The only one challenging Biden on his record was Trump while Trump was challenged by Wallace and Biden.
Trump may come across as overbearing tonight but I recall Biden’s debate with Paul Ryan in which he behaved as Trump did tonight. Perhaps the game plan was to not let Biden pull that again.
The Charlottesville reference was a bald face lie and Wallace knew that yet he positioned the question about race to reflect the events in Charlottesville. Why did he do that? If you are going to ask a question about race relations in the US why put one side immediately on the defensive?
What if Wallace had asked Biden about Obama’s remark that had he had a son he might look like Trayvon when it was demonstrated in court that “little Trayvon” was in the process of bashing Zimmerman’s head into the ground because he thought he was a gay guy trying to pick him up? Or what about the narrative that the Kenosha shooting was racially motivated when in fact the police were called to protect the woman from her estranged boyfriend who had raped her, had a protective order against him, had a history of violence against police officers ,and failed to comply with lawful orders from the police which resulted in him being shot as he walked around the car and reached inside. Do these narratives promote divisiveness or social cohesion?
Wallace’s statement that Trump defend his decision to end Critical Race Theory was conflated with more benign “sensitivity” trainings. These are two very different things and the question was used to create division. If you want to ask why he stopped funding Critical Race Theory that is fine but to confuse the public with the term “sensitivity training” is wrong.
Why not ask, ” Going forward how will your presidency seek improve social cohesion and harmony among different groups in the US?” Why do we care what happened yesterday when we are electing a President to lead us in the future?
I truly believe that the Covid issue is one that should not have been up for discussion in tonight’s debate. Debating what is being done is not helping the ongoing situation. With that said, Trump missed a great opportunity to call out Biden’s late to the game positions. He did say that Biden called him a xenophobe and racist for shutting down travel. He should have then moved on to state that he allowed Fauci and Birx to run the public health advisories and that any deviation from one recommendation resulted from Fauci and Birx coming to new assessments regarding the virus. He should have said that so many claim he doesn’t follow the science but everything he stated was provided by Fauci and Birx; that he was told by Fauci that the virus was no worse than the flu early on and that warmer weather would mitigate its spread. When we got better information we changed how we advised the governors. Unfortunately not all the governors acted upon that information properly.
He should have pointed out he mobilized the industrial base to shift production into PPE and medical devices in need, he build additional hospitals in hot spots and put the USS Comfort in New York harbor where it stood empty while the governor was pushing Covid patients in to nursing homes infecting thousands. He could have pointed out that Governors take point on state pandemic plans and the federal government is to back them up. Trump should have pointed out he has no authority to make state decisions. Because of that over 25% of the Covid deaths were attributable to two states New York (36K ) and New Jersey(14K) Finally, he should have hammered home the point that it is PfIizer , J&J, and others updating him on vaccine development. And he should have demanded that Biden stop implying that he (Trump) has anything to do with the scientific development of the vaccines and suggesting that the vaccines cannot be trusted.
Trump would have done better to have simply stated that every country measures infections and deaths differently. He should have pointed out that in the US if anyone dies and also tests positively for Covid it is treated as a Covid death even if the person died from lung cancer or auto accident. He could have pointed out that excess deaths are only 66,000 over the same period a year ago and that some of these excess deaths were a function of delayed treatment as hospitals shut down elective treatments, and higher suicides and overdose deaths from being quarantined for extended periods. He could have pointed out that only 6% of the deaths are from only the Covid virus. He lost points where he could have nailed Biden to the wall.
I am sick of all of it. I have very little respect for any politician or media figure right about now.