Friday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2020: Oh, Might As Well Talk About The Debate…


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…

30 thoughts on “Friday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2020: Oh, Might As Well Talk About The Debate…

  1. You know the rules by now:

    1. #metoo accusations are only valid if they are used to bring down heterosexual, white males, especially those who will throw out Roe v Wade the minute they take their seats on the SCOTUS…or the occasional disposable Democrat like Al Franken.
    2. Joe is the same person he’s always been. Good ole moderate Uncle Joe is going to sail into office this January and make everything right.
    3. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly.
    4. Don’t confuse them with facts, their minds are already made up.
    5. If you repeat a loud loudly and often enough, it eventually becomes true. (We’re certainly not going to see a bunch of anecdotal articles about people who can counter Biden’s claim).
    6. If we can just save one life…
    7. Words only mean what the Democrats and their enablers say they mean.
    8. If he did use those words, what would they mean? See above.
    9. If Biden is fact-checked at all: Biden was kinda mistaken, but not really. Trump lied.
    10. The United States was a friend of Hitler’s because it’s a racist country that was bigoted against the Jews and only got involved in the war due to self-interest while the Soviet Union did all the hard work.

  2. One point of clarification — Obama had two debates with which to recover from the first one. Fair to say he won two of the three.

    I thought the most striking policy thing last night is Biden coming out in favor of eliminating ALL mandatory minimum sentences. I thought Trump would pounce on that, but not a peep.

    • I think the real damage Biden might have done to himself is talking about transitioning the country away from the oil industry. We’re finally a net oil producer, and he wants to shut that whole industry down? What’s next shifting from industry to agriculture?

  3. #6) Meanwhile, I think I saw an analyst mention (I’ll have to look it up), that suicides among the young have increased beyond typical levels to more than the deaths by COVID among the young. So there’s a dire trade-off.

  4. 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

    Indeed. Neither are values that the Democratic party embraces — except, of course, for other Democrats.

    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.”

    Apparently, Joe has never heard of Godwin’s law, much less demonstrating so effectively how true it is.

  5. This was by far the best debate. Did I watch it? No. I judge debates by how much I laugh afterwards. Right now, I can’t get enough of the blue checkmark dolts on Twitter who think the president made up a racial slur for illegal border crossers by calling them “coyotes”. Some of them believe he’s suggesting that a wild coyote is carrying humans across the border like giant direwolves. It’s flippin awesome.

    See: David Hogg, Dar’shun Kendrick.

    • Is it ethically wrong to laugh at stupidity? If so, I have a serious ethics deficit. Plus, we’d have to cancel the Three Stooges.

    • Dar’shun Kendrick takes the cake with her tweet however.

      She’s an elected State Representative in Georgia…in fact she’s the Whip for her party (Democrat) in the Georgia State Legislature.

      Then she tweets something to the effect of “How are the States supposed to come up with a minimum wage?”

    • I don’t watch them because:

      1) They are not debates.

      2) Anyone who needs to know anything they want to know about a particular candidate, can find out 100 times MORE about them in a 30 minute browse of the internet than they’ll ever learn from a 2 hour “debate”. Therefore, they are a waste of my time.

      3) As a follow on to #2, as they don’t reasonably inform us about something we can’t more efficiently discover … they actually help to misinform voters by convincing the people that their president or potential president will even ever have to interact with people as president in the way they do on the “debate” stage.

  6. I hate to defend Joe Biden, but I think you’re overlooking the “that’s like” part of the Hitler remark. He’s not saying we had a good relationship with Hitler, he’s saying that pursuing a good relationship with North Korea is analogous to pursuing a good relationship with Nazi Germany. We didn’t pursue such a relationship because it would have been patently absurd to do so with such a belligerent regime, and Joe’s saying that North Korea is a similar situation.

    Disclaimer: I didn’t watch the debate or read the transcript, I’m just going by what’s quoted here. If there’s more context that invalidates my interpretation, feel free to disregard everything I wrote.

    • “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe.”

      That was the quote. Who knows what either of these guys mean? I took that to mean “that’s like saying it was wise/beneficial to have a good relationship with Hitler, and look what he did!” I guess Joe might have meant it the way you mean, but how would that be a reasonable response? Trump said we had a good relationship with North Korea (or at least better than when Joe was VP.) In fact, FDR tiptoed around Hitler, avoiding direct insults and confrontations. Why? Because that might allow the US to exert some influence. FDR even originally congratulated Chamberlain for his hopeless deal with AH.

      Does Joe assume everyone has forgotten (or has HE forgotten) that Obama was criticized for saying he would meet with Iran or any leader? The theory: having good relationships with countries is better than having bad ones. Like what Trump said.

      • Both of these guys are human Rorschach tests. Neither one of them speaks clearly and precisely enough to be unequivocally understandable, so there are always multiple possible interpretations of anything either says. They’re also both desperately uninformed about history, civics, current events, and, actually, most other topics. It’s infuriating that the most powerful person in the world is going to be one of these two dim bulbs. Really, America, if this is the best we can do, then we deserve to have China unseat us as the de facto political leader of the world.

    • And Trump’s retort should have been ” remember that famous photo of HRC and the Staples button with her Russian counterpart. The idea was the Obama administration was trying to restart relations with Putin; which of course got screwed up because of incompetent translation

      • That whole play never made sense. Can you imagine what the Russian counterpart said after the photo-op? Probably: “Hey, Vlad! I just met with Hillary Clinton. She gave me this big, red button. I don’t know what it means but it might be the nuclear missile launch button. I’m bringing it back. If they can’t launch their rockets at us, we are gonna have a great time in Ukraine!”


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