The final presidential debate of campaign 2020 came in with another lie from serial prevaricator Donald John Trump (“the COVID-19 virus is going away”) but was, at least, a far-less rancorous debacle than we saw in the first clash between him and Joe Biden three weeks ago.
Biden used the debate that included a “mute” button to cut off Trump’s interruptions to lay out his plans and proposed programs for the net four years if he wins the presidency 17 days from today. If polls are correct — and accuracy of polls are always a big question — Biden should be our next president and Trump will be headed for needed judgment by New York prosecutors.
Biden correctly calls this election a decision by American voters for the future of democracy and our nation. Will the white supremacists, racists, bigots, and haters who form the core of his “base” complete Trump’s goal of turning us into an autocratic dictatorship, or will normalcy, decency, and common sense return?
America’s fascination with turning to a “businessman” to lead this nation proved to be a fiscal and primal failure. Perhaps a businessman like Ross Perot might have done better but, instead, a minority of voters, aided by a gerrymandered Electoral College elected a con man whose claimed business successes were an illusionary sham. He is his tax returns which show massive losses, encumbering debts, tax fraud, and looting of investors.
Trump successfully plays on the paranoia of the misinformed. He lives lavishly on other people’s money, cheats those who stupidly trust him, and displays an illusion that should have been revealed years ago.
We saw more of his antics Thursday night in a debate that Biden clearly won. When moderator Kristen Walker asked both candidates to talk directly to African Americans, Biden laid out an America where Black parents, poor or well off, must warn their children to avoid any movements that could bring gunfire from cops who shoot first and ask questions later when dealing with people of color.
Trump, on the other hand, launched into an attack on Biden with misstatements and lies about a 1994 prison reform act he voted for in the Senate, an act that Biden has said, over and over, was wrong because it imprisoned those with drug and alcohol problems that needed treatment, not imprisonment.
When Walker asked about the cornonavirus, Trump tried to steer the conversation towards Biden’s son, who worked for a company in Ukraine, which had nothing to do with the topic. He tried to do the same on questions on other topics. Multiple investigations, including one by the Senate GOP majority, found nothing wrong with Biden’s son’s actions in Ukraine.
And for Trump?
“Too often — and despite his best efforts on Thursday — this latter case has tended to collapse in a hail of misstatement and self-congratulation,” noted Matt Flegenheier and Maggie Haberman in The New York Times.
He still made virtually no attempt to outline a comprehensive second-term agenda that might appeal to any remaining political fence-sitters — to the extent that there are many left, in an election where many millions have already voted and most others are largely set in their views, according to polling.
Most agree Biden won the debate simply because he didn’t do anything stupid to lose, just as polls say he is almost certain to win the election.
“Biden did not do a face plant,” said Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “That is all he needed to do.”
“Continuing to press the fact that young people are less likely to die will not help to close that gap with old people,” former George W. Bush aide Tony Fratto said of Trump’s performance.
Republican strategist Tim Miller said that while Trump did attempt to demonstrate rare self-control, “Was the president’s task there to convince Americans he has a plan to deal with this pandemic or to convince Americans that he can behave like a good boy for 4 minutes? Because it was a whiff on the first one.”
Vox editor at large Ezra Kein noted: “It is amazing how easy it is to distract Trump from the one attack he clearly prepared for tonight by needling him on his tax returns and finances,” he said. “It’d be funny except for that same total absence of focus defines his presidency.”
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