Biden, Trump presidential debate a complete failure: commentary | Phoenix New Times

Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s debate was a complete failure

Trump gave a factless performance while Biden used much of his time being speechless.
If this were an acting audition, Donald Trump completely steamrolled Joe Biden. But only one of the debate participants was acting.
If this were an acting audition, Donald Trump completely steamrolled Joe Biden. But only one of the debate participants was acting. Screenshot via YouTube
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There’s nothing quite like watching your democracy fail in real-time, with chyrons and everything.

I’ve had some long moments in my life, but few seemed more elongated than the 90-minute debate between your great-grandpa and an aspiring authoritarian.

As much as I was watching the debate, I was watching social media and came to realize that there was nothing good about Thursday’s CNN Presidential Debate.

I mean nothing.



In live-TV reality, unscripted, unrehearsed, and completely unhinged, it was like an MRI machine peering slice-by-slice into the rot that has gripped us, and if you haven’t been scared before the debate about the fate of this country, it’s time to start fretting.

The thing that has most made America seem like the world’s spontaneous and thrill-seeking cousin is what proved to be our most ugly reality: We value style over substance.

Former President Donald J. Trump was poised and gave a flawless factless performance that left the anchors dumbfounded — or at least that’s what I have to assume was the stunned feeling that should have washed over them as Dana Bash and Jake Tapper left absolutely no lie checked.

And that’s the problem: If this were an acting audition, Trump completely steamrolled President Joe Biden. But only one of the debate participants was acting.

Unfortunately, Biden used much of his time being speechless. And sadly, it showed.

Trump’s sheer blitzkrieg of bullshit completely overwhelmed Biden, leaving him not knowing where to start, or how to make sense of the nonsense and lies.

If we’re scoring the debate on factual accuracy, there is no question who won.

And that’s exactly the problem: No one was watching this debate, looking to be swayed or hoping to be inspired. Indeed, no one was scoring the debate.

We weren’t carefully considering the policy points, discussing them because we wanted information. Instead, the headlines declared that Trump won the debate based on public perception. The buzzkill fact-checkers among us, though, would tell a different story.

But seriously, how many voters went watching the debate searching for facts? Let’s face it, many went there to rubber-neck this 90-minute train wreck. Few probably expected to have it validate so many bad things so quickly.

That’s the worst part of it. We’ve had almost 249 years of history, and these two are the best we can do?

I don’t know if I am mad, or scared or resigned.

Trump’s performance was smooth in the way the devil bribed Robert Johnson — a deal done, but at a helluva price. Just like that deal, the devil promised glory, but didn’t say for how long. How many times can we trick ourselves into believing we can get the better end of the deal from a man who has made his career going bankrupt and stiffing average workers?

Trump’s popularity concerns me because if Trump’s first term was an exercise in allowing us to be our worst selves, the second term may be a mandate for something even worse.

But the Republicans can be credited for giving their base what it would seem to want, which is the opposite way Dems have treated their voters.

The vanity of the Democrats to believe that their cause is so righteous, and the voters so desperate for an alternative, that they would blindly accept a knowledgeable, but ancient, octogenarian makes them every bit as guilty as anyone for not seeking out a candidate who could blow us away or at least blow out his own birthday candles.

Finally, the most heartbreaking moment of last night’s debate was the failure of journalism.

Often, journalists are called on to be moderators — well-researched so they could keep factual sideboards on the often wily debates.

Bash and Tapper weren’t unprofessional in the way they treated the candidates, but they completely failed journalism.

Trump spewed a torrent of lies and both moderators seemed fearful or unwilling to call out even the most outrageous falsity. Moderating is holding a candidate to account, pressing them for answers. Without that, the debate became less than neutral, it had a corrosive effect on our democracy by allowing lies to perpetuate unchecked.

Because of the role both of those journalists play, especially on their own cable television shows, when they do not let politicians squirm away from difficult questions, the lay audience on Thursday was left to think that silence might have equaled approval.

It wasn’t so much a debate as a platform. At other times during the debate, it was something more sinister but not unlike watching a couple of grumpy old men argue over the TV remote in the nursing home’s communal lounge.

At a time when journalism has a chance to shine a bright light, helping to re-assert the inextricable role a free press plays in free society, it, like everyone else involved in the debate, failed.

This article was first published by the Daily Montanan, a sister publication of the Arizona Mirror and a member of the States Newsroom network of local news sites.

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