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Thoughts on First 2020 Presidential Debate


An absolute train wreck. 

That is my walking away thought of what SHOULD have been a Presidential debate. 

This was no debate. It was a battle of demonstrative gestures, interruptions, name-calling, attempted slander, and ego-checking chest-pounding, all adding up to a sum that rendered a unanimous decision: America lost. 

I found myself embarrassed not only for what we were watching but for us - all of us - Americans. Because quite frankly, this is the kind of fight you keep inside of your house, instead, we were on global television for all to see. Every single second revealed just about where we are in our politics, our grace, our poise, our empathy, and overall, our global reputation. 

I cringed at the moment President Trump attacked Beau Biden, and then Hunter Biden, just to hear Joe Biden retort with his pride for his son's recovery from drug addiction. 

I smirked at Joe Biden issuing, "Shut up, man", but it wore off quickly as I realized this is what we've deteriorated in terms of the articulation of policy and our nation's prospectus. This was no different than children arguing on a Brooklyn stoop about who the best ballplayer in the world currently was. Except, with far less harmony. 

I thought about first time-voters - young, old, excited, and tired - and what they must be thinking in regards to the process they were told was so important to engage in. For these guys?!! 

I thought about the rest of the world looking on. What the...?!

And I thought about the severe damage done to our psyche when it comes to politics. Over it. 

All of it, an absolute train wreck. 

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Here are some other quick thoughts on this mess:

- The idea that Trump's camp agreed to no opening statement is such a head-scratcher for me. I understand that prepared speeches are not the President's strength, but in waiving the opening statements, Trump's camp basically forfeited their biggest advantage heading into the debate - his incumbency. 

The incumbent office holder has the opportunity to solidify to the viewer what they've done, and why another term is necessary. It locks in the viewer to a sense (and eases their questioning) of continuation and sets up an immediate barrier for the opposition to break for the rest of the night. 

Trump is the haymaker boxer with no other style, and that has been clear throughout his Presidency. His lack of gears in public speaking (and probably his ego) cost him here. 

- I admit it. I was concerned about Biden's ability to last in a debate. Again, admittedly, age, stuttering disabilities, physical stamina, and the constant talking barrage that is Trump - that is a lot - no matter what the age. However, he held it together nicely. It's a shame many continue to use his speech disabilities as a sign of "mental ability."

- Staying on Biden for a second, the biggest win tactic from this debate was in fact his ability to somewhat "pause the chaos" look directly in the camera and address the viewers. It not only was refreshing but really allowed much of that rhetoric to stick in what was a constant atmosphere of mudslinging. 

He was solid, but I didn't think he was great, or really memorable. Why? Biden never had that moment that pinned Trump against the ropes. He never quite answered or retorted the false claims Trump was sending his way. There are a lot of people hoping for that big moment where he takes down the dragon, and it just felt like he won this on the cards, and never had a moment where he was in complete control. At times he felt unsure and possibly too reserved in his "ride it out approach" as Storm Trump bellowed on. 

- Chris Wallace tried. He really, really did. I'm not sure what else he could have done besides what he did - yell at the President for interrupting, thus himself, adding to the chaos. 

How about we just go full pro wrestling with this spectacle and have a special guest referee moderator. Give me George W. as the moderator and let's turn this thing into a huge circus. 

But seriously though, Trump spoke to Wallace with no regard. Substitute teachers everywhere probably could empathize with Wallace. That's what it felt like. 

Here's my easy fix. Give the moderator a cut switch on the candidate's microphones, and also, end the split-screen presentation. Give the appropriate speaker the full attention to do so. 

- The choice of attire was interesting. Trump wore his usual red, white, blue themed ensemble (black and red tie though!) for him (and for politicians). However, Biden went with a black and white look, shaking things up. I thought that was a nice touch. It instantly gave him contrast from his opponent, which is definitely what he is going for, and needs. 

- I don't believe President Trump earned himself any favors with his constant interruptions and rude behavior. I watched clips from his first Presidential debate in 2016 in preparation for this post (yes, I'm such a debate nerd), and shockingly, he was far less rude, and much more engaging than he was last night. He bullied Hillary Clinton with the same tactics (i.e. adlibs after her comments, and subtle instances of disvaluing her statements), but they were definitely timed, and dare I say, carried legitimate purpose. This debate he seemed desperate. His base will love it, because, they love everything about him. I just don't see how it appeals to moderates and independents. 

- I will say this - the attempted format of the debate was a good one. I loved the topics, the allotted time for answers, and the open discussion rounds. What added to the frustration for this viewer is that President Trump behaved as he didn't know what the rules were. Candidates are ALWAYS well versed in the format, in fact, it's how you prepare your attack. Watching Trump become belligerent about wanting to retort Biden's point made him look weak, and yes, rude. 

Also, it is very ironic that some who chant Law and Order couldn't follow a basic debate format. That's just me, just blogging...

But then again, I'm no fool. This was his plan. This is Trump. It's about showmanship and performances, and he made sure he left his stamp on the night. 

- It was clear the one smoking gun in the Trump binder (does he even use one? The dude never wrote anything down?) was that of Hunter Biden. The weird "I'm just curious..." phrase to insert Hunter Biden felt incredibly disingenuous, almost as if he was running out of time to play his ace card. It was an unnatural segue and reeked of desperation once he jumped into the topic. 

It's unfortunate because Trump really had an opportunity to hammer Biden on his policy record. He touched on this during the "Race in America" segment (more on that in a bit) and really could have had a knockdown in this round of the fight. It was a rare moment throughout the debate, and one that I was hoping Trump would in fact leverage him to get those responses - why were those bills passed? 

Missed opportunity. That's why you have a binder - just saying. 

- The issue in our country is not "Race in America", it's Racism in America. Second, doesn't it scream America like three old white guys fighting over who has done more for black America? 

With that said, the minute I saw this on the format, I knew Trump was losing this round. He's been awful on social issues for - well, for forever - and has been unable throughout his primary debates, and throughout his Presidency to tactfully discuss or approach the matter. 

Yeah, yeah, black unemployment, prison reform, since Lincoln - wash, rinse, repeat. 

- It was also really tough to sit there and listen to those same white guys reference "blacks" repeatedly in regards to you know, black people. "Mr. President, you've claimed you've done more for blacks...". Come on...

- That was quickly overshadowed and forgotten when the moment of the night presented itself, asking the President to denounce white supremacy, we got this gem - "Proud Boys, Stand back, and Stand by." 

A President of the United States is unable to denounce white supremacy. That's all, folks.

- Trump loses me with "Forest management". What is that?! Also, those forests are National Parks, under your supervision. 

- I can do without the personal attacks on families. 

- "You are the worst President America has ever had." This by Biden, not needed. 

- Biden definitely sounded soft on that question regarding his energy plan. Is he for the Green New Deal, or the Biden deal? What's the difference? I didn't walk away confident from that at all. Big time flopping. 

- "Racial sensitivity training is racist." That's a real quote from our current President. 

- In referencing more bad quotes and moments: bringing up Big Ten Football when the topic at hand is the nation's recovery after 200,000 have perished to COVID, is a terrible choice. "I brought Big Ten Football back!". Yeah, thanks. 

- Early numbers on the ratings - which the President loves - is that this debate is down 36% from the 2016 First Presidential debate. 

As much as I love debate seasons, I'm not sure I care about watching another Trump v. Biden debate - what's the point? The format will include audience questions, which should dial Trump back a bit, however, haven't we seen enough? Biden has been around for 47 years, and well, Trump can't do anything else to change who he is in the final 30+ days. We know what we have. 

And finally...

- I feel so bad for the city of Cleveland. You don't get much and you were tabbed with the First 2020 Presidential debate you got...that

Bring on Senator Kamala Harris vs. Vice President Mike Pence next week. 

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