Well, that was a much better debate compared to the first meeting. The threat of having mics cut reined in even the likes of Donald Trump. Such a simple tactic, only utilized a couple of times over an hour and a half, presented us with a much more level-headed and composed debate performance from both candidates.
The night doesn’t come without its controversies, though, and a copious amount of lying, primarily from the President. With more than 48 million votes already cast, more than one-third of 2016’s total, very little from tonight changed the minds of undecided voters or voters who have yet to cast their ballot.
I was surprised there were no questions about marriage equality or LGTBQ+ rights, given the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. In fact, no debate, both presidential and the sole VP outing, featured questions on these topics. A missed opportunity to bring attention to the millions of Americans who will have their rights stripped away if Barrett is ultimately seated on the Supreme Court.
The coronavirus pandemic dominated the first portion of the debate, and it played out fairly predictably. Trump denied any wrongdoing, and Biden promised to fix it. Both men were entrenched in their beliefs, and no one was surprised by their answers. However, a few other moments did stand out to those of us watching.
Donald Trump tried making Joe Biden look like he wants to kill and destroy the oil and gas industry in the United States tomorrow. That is simply not true. Biden has made it abundantly clear that he wants to start the transition toward green energy production.
There is no doubt that the climate is changing, and if we don’t move away from fossil fuels soon, we are doomed as a species. The President did what he could to paint Joe Biden as a killer of jobs and companies. Admittedly, the moment was likely effective for some voters in those battleground states. However, Biden has been fairly clear about what his plan looks like, and the immediate risk to these industries simply does not exist.
Trump did not help himself with minority and impoverished communities that border refineries and fossil fuel companies. When presented with the information that many people in these communities are suffering from long-term exposure and health issues, Trump stated that they have also made a lot of money working for these companies. A heartless response, Mr. President.
This was the weakest moment for Joe Biden. The former Vice President was asked why they couldn’t get anything passed while he was in the executive branch under Barack Obama. His response: “We had a Republican Congress.”
A long, curious silence followed. Everyone was expecting him to elaborate because the answer felt incomplete. The point was technically true, but it was also damaging for Biden because he bills himself as someone who can work across the aisle. How can he do that if just ‘a Republican Congress’ can stimy his administration's potential progress?
The answer he should have given was, ‘We tried, but at the time we had Congressional leadership who vowed on day one to make Obama a one-term President and to block all of our legislation.’ A response like that would have provided a justifiable answer and turned the onus of responsibility onto the Republicans.
Racism and Criminal Justice Reform
Quick Fact Check: Trump accused Biden of calling minorities ‘super-predators.’ That is false; Biden never said that. It is another Hillary attack Trump has repurposed for the 2020 campaign.
This was a segment of the debate that made it clear that Donald Trump doesn’t understand sarcasm. After claiming to have done more for Blacks in America than any other President since President Abraham Lincoln, Biden jokingly called Trump Abraham Lincoln in his response.
Instead of taking the quip on the chin, Trump questioned why he was being called by the former President’s name. It became a classic explain-the-joke moment that Trump’s campaign will surely twist into a dementia narrative against Biden. ‘Sleepy Joe, suffering from mental decline, thinks he is actually debating Abraham Lincoln!’ It will be a cheap, predictable campaign ploy.
Trump continues to claim he has done more for Black Americans without presenting any proof. Biden continues to play the empathy and compassion card to moderate effectiveness. So far, we only have plans from both candidates.
If we truly want to start down the path of fixing systemic racism and reconciling with the Black community, we can start with legalizing marijuana (including expunging criminal records) and passing comprehensive policing reforms.
Trump is a Mirror
The President spent a lot of time accusing Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, of receiving millions of dollars from Russia, China, Ukraine, and other foreign governments. This is the pinnacle of Trump’s projection of his own guilt, with reports of the existence of a secret Chinese bank account that received millions of dollars after he took office in 2017.
I have said it for a long time, Republicans and Donald Trump, in particular, are a mirror. Whatever wrongdoing they accuse their opponents of, it is very likely to be true about themselves.
Donald Trump and his family have become grossly enriched while he has been in office. Continuous violation of the Emoluments Clause, along with exclusive business deals and access to fast-tracked patents from China, the Trump family effectively won the lottery when Donald became President.
Another Fact Check: Donald Trump did not say ‘good’ in response to Biden while he discussed the 545 children on the border who were put in cages and whose parents cannot be located. He lied a lot, but he did not say that.
Trump instead asked Joe Biden several times, “Who built the cages, Joe?”
While it is true that the Obama administration built the facilities that Trump is now utilizing for his child separation program, the previous administration never used the facilities they built to separate families. They housed them together while they waited for their asylum request to be processed.
An incumbent President provided a weak red herring to deflect from the fact that he said our border is stronger than ever now. He indicated to the American people that he was proud of his policy outcome. A policy that has resulted in more than 500 children becoming orphaned by the United States government.
‘You want to come to the U.S. to give your family a better life? I’m going to destroy your family.’ That is the message Trump and his administration have communicated to the world for the last three years. There is a better way. We can have safe and secure borders without compromising our principles as Americans.
In a night that felt like a return to normalcy on the debate stage, the result was predictable. One side spewed an endless string of mistruths and lies, and the other side scattered desperate appeals to America’s conscience. Depending on where you began the night, it is very likely you found yourself in the same spot at the end of it.
Trump continues to employ the 2016 playbook of suspicious emails and familial corruption. It worked once, but like a good trick play in football, it is very unlikely to work again. Especially not in the very next game. Your opponent is ready for it, and more importantly, your audience is unimpressed.
The President is out of strategies. If he can’t make Biden look as unfavorable as him, then he cannot win. Prepare to witness an even more unhinged Commander-in-chief over the next two weeks. A blue wave is coming, and not even Donald Trump can stop it.