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.