If you are going to have a bad and a good debate performance, is it better to have the better showing in the last debate? That was certainly the case for Barack Obama in 2012, after Romney aced him in the previous one. Allowing early voting makes the calculation uncertain—one more reason it’s a terrible policy that undermines responsible, informed elections.
(The debate transcript is here.)
1. By recent, horrible standards, the moderator, Kristen Welker on NBC, was relatively competent, fair and unbiased. How hard was that? Even so, she interrupted the President repeatedly while mostly letting Biden finish his answers, which was not necessarily in Joe’s best interests. The mains thing was that her questions to both candidates were pointed and tough, and she did not seem hostile to one or the other. Nor did she bail out the Democratic candidate—you know, the one she’s almost certainly voted for already, a la Candy Crowley in 2012.
Welker did not ask Biden about #MeToo and his repeated sexual harassment as VP, never mind the accusation from his former staffer. That topic has been verboten during the campaign, and of course Trump wasn’t going to bring it up. Astounding, really, that Biden sailed through the primaries and this campaign without anyone prominent officially raising the question of how the party of #MeToo could have an open sexual harasser as its standard bearer.
2. Joe Biden’s appeals to trust based on the public knowing good ol’ Joe were either audacious, cynical or stupid, depending on your degree of tolerance. I found them nauseating, and for me they raised the question of whether Biden really thinks the public is that inattentive. Biden has spent his entire run for the White House rejecting the positions and values he promoted during his career; how can he keep saying, “You know me! You know what I stand for!”?
3. As always, the President’s inability to be verbally precise was infuriating, as in the exchange about “catch and release.” The basic fact is that the policy is irresponsible, since there is no reason to trust someone who would illegally enter our country to appear voluntarily in court. Trump said that almost no illegals appear, which is a typical exaggeration; Biden, absurdly, said almost all of them do, which is flat out false.
4. Similarly, the President was too weak in countering Biden’s pandering to the minimum wage crowd. Biden actually said that the minimum wage doesn’t cost jobs—does he really believe that? Trump’s protest that a $15 mandatory minimum wage won’t work in all states was uninformed. It won’t work in any states. The research has been clear for decades: raising the minimum wage eliminates the jobs that aren’t worth the minimum wage, and devastates small businesses. Ann Althouse’s son, who live-blogs debates relatively competently, wrote last night that studies disagree on the point. No, they really don’t, John. But progressive economists spin the data.
5. I almost fell out of my chair when Biden repeated Obama’s legendary “if you like your plan” whopper and said that nobody lost their private health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. I wonder how that answer will be spun. It was either epically ignorant or seque to the lie.
6. I have a full post on this topic in the can, so I won’t elaborate now, but do Americans prefer Biden’s fear-mongering, “dark winter” approach to the pandemic, or Trump’s optimistic, “let’s get back to living” attitude? I found myself thinking, when Biden talked about how wearing masks could save 100,000 lives (highly dubious), “Gee, how many lives could have been saved if everybody always wore masks, since, say, the beginning of the 20th Century? Would that have been a good thing? How many lives could have been saved if we all socially distanced all that time? If we didn’t allow gathering in church, or theaters, or parks, or anywhere else? Proms, parties, you know, life?
7. Biden really did say his son did nothing unethical. He really did.
Pssst, Joe! Taking a high-paying phony job with a foreign entity while your father is Vice President is unethical. Influence peddling is unethical.
8. A trenchant and accurate observation by conservative blogger Stephen Green, who also live-blogs debates: “Biden talked about American values and didn’t once mention freedom or equality before the law. That’s all you need to know about Joe Biden.”
I’d put it a little differently: that’s all you need to know about the 21st Century Democratic Party, and why you should be very afraid of handing it power to control your life
9. I’ll be interested in the post-debate “factchecks.” Biden, for example, denied that he called Trump xenophobic for closing down travel from China early in the pandemic. He did. Nor was Trump’s “closing the borders” regarding travel all he claims, since thousands of Americans returned after China-to-US travel was “banned,” presumably spreading the virus.
10. Finally, in the “I can’t let this pass” category, we have Biden’s retort when the President said, referring to North Korea, that having a good relationship with foreign leaders is a good thing, “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe.” President Roosevelt was already working with Churchill before Hitler started World War II on May 10, 1940 with his invasion of Western Europe. The U.S. was officially neutral, but by no stretch of the imagination could the relationship between the U.S. and Nazi Germany be termed “good.”
Who knows, though: that may be the level of Biden’s knowledge of history. Trump’s as well, quite possibly; I bet most viewers thought Joe had delivered a zinger. If only we had some kind of system to educate Americans in the basic facts of our past, so our politicians couldn’t spread misinformation like this…