I must admit that the first Presidential US Debate in 2020 was painful to watch (much of this has to do with the lack of ideology today in public discourse, despite what we are constantly told about record polarization, and general decay of traditional western values, but all that is for another time).
Trump and his team clearly agreed upon a failed strategy, though Trump seemed to notice this and adapt as the debate went on. Regardless, the damage was done.
The media will undoubtedly report that Biden “won” the debate. He did no such thing, if winning a debate means what it typically means; that is using arguments, hopefully logical arguments, and evidence to prove your position(s) correct and that of your opponent incorrect. Biden said nothing of use, nor did he prove anything of any kind. He did not seem very well informed, and had a few clearly rehearsed typical Democratic party platitudes to spell out; and even for these, he needed to constantly check his notes.
Democratic party platitudes….You know, the meaningless sentences where you use words like “infrastructure”, “innovative”, “sustainable”, “plan” and big numbers with decimal points in them like in “2.7 billion dollars” and “29.8 million jobs”. At best they mean nothing, and at worse, are code for massive government spending, entitlement programs and intrusive government power grabs.
It was Trump, that beat himself.
He looked bad, and his strategy backfired, all while he, as opposed to Biden, seemed very well informed about the whole range of topics. He was unrehearsed, had no need of notes and could easily jump from topic to topic comfortably and energetically. If you were paying attention, you could see a successful executive and manager there (as opposed to a typical politician adept as saying nice sounding nothings aimed at equally uninformed swing voters). Trump appeared well informed and appeared authentic, as if he had just jumped out of an important Presidential meeting and said “oh man, yea I have this debate now”.
Incredibly it was Biden that was much more insulting. Trump was aggressive and interrupting, but not personally insulting. Trump called him “Joe” throughout the debate, while all Biden could muster to call him at the best of times was “this guy” and “he”, while a “clown”, “liar”, and “racist” at the worse times. Forget “Mr. President”, there wasn’t even a “Trump” or “Donald”, but there was a “shut up” for good measure from Biden.
All of that however, was probably missed by most viewers due to the chaotic nature of the debate, and admittedly, in large part due to Trump’s tone, style and frequent interruptions.
Why did this Happen?
To begin with a good pat on the back, quite often, my positions likely agree with those of some of the intelligent conservative and GOP pundits and thinkers (or so I hear). However, I do have a knack for disagreeing with them from time to time when they err. A recent and most unfortunate example of this, was early on in this endless covid19 circus. While at first, most GOP pundits thought the end of the world was upon as well, and supported the inefficient, unconstitutional and incompetent lockdowns… I did not. From the very beginning I pegged this virus for what it was, not more nor less, and predicted much of what would occur, sometimes with an uncanny accuracy as in the case with the social unrest I warned the long lockdowns would foster.
Here it happened again. A Democratic strategy slowly and naturally evolved in which the Republicans fell into their own trap. Biden had clearly been tightly sequestered in the campaign for the last many months. And undoubtedly, as the lockdowns, panic and social unrest spread, the Democratic strategy was for Trump to run against himself and lose, rather than bring in too much of Biden. He is not a stellar candidate, and he definitely does put his foot in his mouth quite often to put it kindly. However, the GOPers started to spin their own wheels on this and decided that Biden must be a senile bumbling pile of goo. And that therefore that there was no way he would even debate. As the Democrats saw this taking shape, they encouraged conservative complacency, thereby also lowering expectations for Biden (if Biden merely showed up and made it through it would look like a win), and lowering Trump’s guard for the debate.
I warned against this potential stratagem repeatedly. I went back and saw a bit (as much as can be tolerated) of the Democratic Primary debates. Biden, though far from an inspired speaker, not only held his own but came out on top of the exchanges in most of what I saw. So he could be expected to debate reasonably just some months ago. Therefore, he either deteriorated very much and very fast, or this is a trick. And Trump I warned, should be well prepared, especially after the 4 year break from debating. He is much more well versed with the issues than he was back then, and he has plenty of experience speaking in public and dealing with the press, but that is different than a debate. Biden on the other hand, not only has decades of experience in political debate in general, but recently has engaged televised debates against his Democratic rivals.
That is not to say that I expected much from Biden, nor did we see much, but it did mean that I would be surprised if the Democratic candidate for President of the United States could not put a few sentences together. Trump should assume the opposite and prepare well for the debate.
Instead, the GOP strategists convinced Trump that Biden could barely stand for 90 minutes let alone speak coherently, and that if he just badgered him, he would crumble. They also were worried about a possible ear piece or other type of cheating, in which case attacking him incessantly would also work. You can’t listen to a guy on a mic and Trump attacking you at the same time. This was a failed strategy.
Trump started to notice it was not a good strategy but he is tenacious. And while successfully changing strategy in hindsight can be called “adapting”, in the moment it is only thinly distinguishable from “quitting”. Perseverance will often enough win the game, and so Trump continued this tone and style to press Biden to crumble. Eventually, Trump did make the determination that a change was needed but the damage had been done.
And while many GOPers will cite how Trump early on noted that he would have to debate Chris Wallace (more on Wallace’s impartiality) as well as (or instead of) Biden, this was (one of the few) clearly rehearsed parts of Trump’s performance. Since the strategy was to aggressively attack Biden, expecting him to lack the warewithal to continue coherently, then inevitably Trump would be in early and frequent conflict with the moderator. Setting up that the moderator was not impartial and helping Biden (which is true) was important to note. And while Wallace, who is not only a socialist with a typical pseudo-intellectual air of self-righteous superiority but the worse kind who pretend (thereby increasing the self-righteous aura even further) to be a Republican or at least some sort of center-rightist, certainly expended all of his energy in helping Biden; Trump certainly helped him do more of that than he had planned to.
Ironically, the strategy was not just a failure because Biden did not crumble, though he was clearly shaken at times, but rather because it played into Biden’s greatest strengths. Biden has never been a deep thinker nor an ideologue. He is also prone to gaffs and putting his foot in his mouth, recently much more frequently than in his earlier years. But what he CAN do is say “No, hey YOU man.. No you suck man” as good as the next guy. And he has a well known bit of a temper and character, so he actually thrives (or at least thrived) in that kind of environment. He can’t make incoherent statements if you don’t let him speak.
The debate devolving into short, aggressive tit-for-tats was to Biden’s benefit. All Trump had to do was let him speak. By speaking, Biden’s inconsistencies would show, his shallow rehearsed platitudes, his current forgetfulness and confusion (whenever he wanted to remember any term, you could see the poor man shut his eyes tight and concentrate). Trump was on message, there was nothing really wrong with his message, and his mastery of the subject matter and ideology were clearly better and more coherent than Biden’s. They alone would have carried the day if each had allowed the other to speak.
Thus, any reporting of Biden “winning” the debate is not accurate in any sense of the usual implications of such a statement. Trump simply hurt himself, and looked less than stellar to be kind.
What is amazing is that this is in tone and style alone, not in content! As mentioned previously, President Trump referred to Biden as “Joe” throughout the debate. Just called him Joe the whole time. Biden on the other hand could not refer to the President of the United States as anything more polite than “this guy”. But while Biden was more insulting, and Trump’s arguments and message were clearer, better (and obviously more correct), all of that would have difficult for an average viewer, especially a swing vote viewer, to see. Trump’s tone, interruptions and overall style overshadowed all else.
And believe it or not, this I speculate, is why Telemundo Spanish speaking viewers overwhelmingly had President Trump winning the debate! Telemundo’s own left-leaning staff were confused and horrified by what they were reporting, but they had to report it none-the less.
Telemundo’s Spanish speaker viewers though Trump won the debate overwhelming, because they actually heard what each of the candidates (and moderator) said!
I watched a bit of Telemundo’s recorded broadcast, and assuming it was the same as their polled viewers watched, it was clear to any Spanish speaker that the dubbing, or simultaneous translation, made all the difference!
Without probably too much forethought, they naturally chose a more assertive and clear speaker as Trump (the current President of the USA), and an older sounding less imposing speaker for Biden. The differences were not drastic in tone, but they were noticeable. Then much more importantly, it was impossible to recreate the level interruptions in the Spanish version.
Inevitably, both translators, not to mention the third playing Chris Wallace, largely let each other speak. They did not and could not speak over each other. What happened then is that the Spanish viewer got a clear idea of what President Trump and Joe Biden actually said, without the nasty tone and theatrics which favored Biden and hurt Trump.
If you read their words in a transcript, it is clear that Biden was much more insulting, but if you watch the debate live in English, you would be forgiven to think Trump was. If you read the transcripts, you will not miss Biden calling the president of the United States a fool, a liar, a racist, a clown, and nor would you miss him telling him to “shut up man”. Biden’s points also make less sense and Trump’s much more. This was true to such an extent that even a Spanish speaking audience which would not be expected to heavily favor Trump, thought he trounced Biden in the debate.
So there you have it, now though on content Trump was ok, and certainly superior to Joe, there were a few questions where I expected better, and we will highlight here along with what could have easily been far superior answers. Easy and straightforward answers… the kind I never know why Republican’s candidates don’t use. The kind of answer Trump did use on the very first question, to paraphrase:
Why are you appointing a supreme court judge? Because I am the President, it is my constitutional duty, and am elected for a 4 year term, not for a 3 year term. The Senators that confirm or reject my appointment are also elected for specific terms, in which they can and ought to do their duty.
Mr. Trump excited me with that first answer, unfortunately it went downhill from there.
Joe Biden’s ego will hopefully, see him go through with at least one more debate if not the two. Trump is a fast learner, and I am sure he will be much better prepared next time, Biden can no longer surprise by simply not collapsing and being half coherent.
Question – Chris Wallace:
.. there is a new report that in 2016..and 2017… that you paid 750 dollars a year in federal income tax each of those years. I know that you pay a lot of other taxes but I am asking you the specific question, is it true that you paid 750 dollars in federal income taxes each of those 2 years..
No, it is not true. but I’ll tell you what is true Chris, I paid exactly the amount of taxes that the law required me to. Both income taxes, and other taxes that you don’t want me to mention. I did that in 2016, 2017 and every other year of my adult life. For the person holding high office, for some 47 years, to criticize a private citizen, a businessman, on his tax rate is absurd. I did not set the tax the rate, you did Joe. I didn’t make the rules about deductions or tax credits. You asked about 2016 and 2017, both years under a 100% Obama-Biden tax code.. a code that they had 8 years to work on.
I could ask Joe how many Federal budgets he voted for in his career. How many tax bills? What changes did he propose and enact during his 8 years with Obama? For him to attack me for the tax rate in 2016 and 2017 is comical.
Joe do you overpay your federal income tax? If so is it out of incompetence or just a hobby? Like all law-abiding Americans, I pay the taxes that I am required to pay. Not more and not less. The American people pay the taxes that they are required to pay. You want to raise taxes. I want to lower them. I hope you aren’t given the chance to raise them. But taxes are what they are any given year based on what the politicians have passed into law, not the private businessmen. Now after I have paid my taxes, like all the American people I am free to give charity to causes that I believe in. I have given millions to charity. But my charity does not come in the form of overpaying my income tax to the federal government.
Joe accused me of paying less taxes than my secretary, whichever fictitious person he is referring to. Now I am sure that isn’t true, but if it is, I want to ask him why his tax code allows that. Nay… demands that!
I am not a lawyer but it would be interesting to find out if overpaying your taxes is foolish only or also illegal. Tax forms ask what your income WAS… what your deductible expenses WERE, and the like. They don’t ask you to list what you would like them to have been. They don’t invite you to fill in lies in your forms. As a businessman, I followed the law and paid the taxes I was required to pay, not more and not less.
Question – Chris Wallace:
.. are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacist’s and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland. Are you prepared to specifically… go ahead sir… what are you saying.. then do it sir… White Supremacists and right-wing militia.
(and Biden, who has been interjecting, adds “Proud Boys”)
First of all Chris, that is not how it works. I don’t work for you. I am the President of the United States. I work for the American people. You ask the questions, and I’ll answer them how I see fit, but I will not denounce things on demand; Or not denounce them, either way, to produce fodder for leftist media headlines to quote out of context against me. I also will not be baited.
Will you call on me to denounce black supremacy as well, or just white supremacy? Left wing militias or just right wing militias? Will you call on me to denounce here and now all evils or just some? Do you wish me to denounce satan and all his works while I am at it? Will you call on my opponent to do the same?
If you want to ask me if I am a racist, no, of course I am not despite Joe’s very offensive and baseless accusations to the contrary. I do not return the discourtesy, despite the many racially insensitive comments, to put it nicely, that he has said over his decades in public service and more importantly the great disservice and damage by economic devastation that he has done to black and inner city communities with decades of failed policies that bring nothing but poverty and dependence. Despite all of this, I do not return the insult and call him a racist as he calls me without the slightest evidence.
Am I a white supremacist? No, of course not. Do I agree with white supremacists? No. But what I do denounce is criminal behavior and criminal violence! It is possible believe it or not for a white supremacist to legally be defending his home against criminal rioters. It is also possible for a black supremacist to be doing the same. It is possible on the other hand for a white supremacist to BE the criminal rioter. What I want to uphold is freedom and the law. In America, we uphold those two things. The constitution we swear to defend, demands that we uphold both those things. Not that we engage in politics of identify and race.
People can have different views on any subject matter including race. It is their right. What they cannot do is burn down America. What they cannot do is hurt their neighbors. What they cannot do is chase, beat up and hurt innocent bystanders, regardless of their race. What they cannot do is attack law enforcement agents, at least not without any repercussions!
So what I denounce Chris, is rioting and looting, the criminal violence and criminal behavior. My opponent has not done the same, and cannot do the same, or he will lose his radical left-wing support.
I say you can be white, yellow, brown or black, and you can have your opinions but you cannot burn down our country. At least not on my watch. And you can ask your questions Chris but I will not do your bidding on demand nor accept your denouncement challenges. As President of the United States, I will denounce what, when and if I see fit, in the best interest of our country.
If further pressed on Proud Boys:
No, I will not accommodate your game of denouncing specific groups. I am not an expert on Proud Boys, nor I do know each member personally. In fact, I don’t know any member personally. I am told, they officially reject white supremacy, but I know facts are not that important for Joe or the radical left. What the views are of each member, or even most members I don’t know and I don’t care. They, just like anyone else, will hear from my Federal Agents when and if they break federal law. I denounce violent criminal behavior, the job of the government, including the Federal Government is to uphold law and order and to arrest and charge people who are breaking that law and order, regardless of political or racial views. I also know that when government fails to do this, as is sadly the case in many Democratic-run cities and states today, people have the right to defend themselves. The quicker government can get back to ensuring safety and security, its primary if not sole role, the quicker all parties can stand down.
—Will update with some more Question and Answers tomorrow. Let me know if you wish to see one in particular.