I don't know quite what I expected from the first presidential debate, but it wasn't that
At this point in the Trump presidency, I shouldn't be surprised by anything, but the childish, erratic display in Ohio still shocked me. Donald Trump rowed with debate moderator Chris Wallace, shouted over Joe Biden, hurled insults, and made personal attacks. It was similar to what we saw in 2016 when the now-president steam-rolled Hillary Clinton at every turn, stalking her around the stage. With coronavirus restrictions in place, Trump couldn't hunt Biden down as physically as he did Clinton, but that didn't stop him from dealing a barrage of blows. It is the angry president we have become all too familiar with, yet, I was still stunned by the embarrassing performance.
The debate began with two subdued candidates being questioned on the Supreme Court - but that mood didn't last long. A sedated Trump soon turned into a combative one. He spoke over Wallace, even at one point saying to the moderator,"I guess I'm debating you now!" As expected, he repeatedly clashed with his rival, pushing Biden to say the line of the night - "Will you shut up, man?"
Biden's performance was far from perfect. He was pushed and pulled around the entire time, falling into several easy traps laid by Trump on climate and past cringe-worthy comments - but I still feel that he responded exactly how he needed to. If he had risen to the bait, shouting and being as churlish as Trump, would anyone really have respected him? Would that really have convinced anyone to change their vote from red to blue? In times as hard as this, America does not need politicians shouting at each other and not listening. Yes, Biden hit back when he was pushed - particularly during a tense exchange about his sons Hunter and Beau - but he did not bulldoze.
The Democratic party should be targeting non-voters, but that seems pretty much out of the question in their already bland campaign. So the best I could expect from Biden tonight was to not embarrass himself, and I feel he just about managed that. Trump made a mockery of the debate. All Biden could do was show us what a "clown" the president is.
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