The first US presidential debate was a rough and tumble affair, to say the least, more akin to a bare-fisted brawl than a rhetorical spectacle.
Trump was rude throughout and landed all the punches, hectoring both Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace, who did not appear that moderate. Biden looked very old, grey, physically weak, and he spent most of the 90 minutes clinging to the ropes, praying for the bell. There is no way any reasonable observer could imagine him serving out a robust four-year presidential term.
Biden did not have any major calamities though, and that was his aim. He looked very shaky at times, but avoided falling flat on his face. The gaffes were minor, and he was duly assisted by the short answer periods and the intervention of Wallace. Trump’s attacks were brutal, but he made the mistake of interjecting too much. The wiser strategy would have been to stir Biden up, which he did, but then hand over the silence and allow Joe the opportunity to blunder badly. Prod him for specifics and allow the rusty cogs to do their work.
Spanish viewers scored resoundingly in Trump’s favour 66% to 34%, but Spain is the home of bullfighting, and they love an uneven contest more than most. Many Americans scored it a draw. The contest gets to the core of what a nation wants of its leader. Do they prefer the nicer option, the politer man, or do they like a little swagger and bravado? Do they want a bare-knuckle champion to represent their interests, a Goliath, or a quiet political insider who is frail and easily manipulated? Do voters respect the fire and pugnacity of Trump, or were they put off by the sight of him pummelling his defenceless opponent?
Biden struggled most when confronted with the politics of the far left. He failed to disavow ANTIFA and their lengthy spree of rioting and looting. He was very sketchy on law and order, and he spoke against the Green New Deal, which is bound to alienate much of his base.
He was forced to defend his son Hunter, who is now apparently over his cocaine addiction, and does NOT receive millions of dollars from mysterious Russian and Chinese donors. Biden also tried to speak down the camera a lot, pleading directly with the viewer. This didn’t seem overly sincere, but it was a clear strategic decision.
So now what? Betting markets swung hard against Biden early in the debate as his stumbles looked apparent, but levelled off as his survival looked more assured. He is now a clear favourite, but his age and frailty are a constant spectre. Trump looked 20 years younger and kept pounding away even as the moderator attempted to close down the telecast. Trump is a 12 round fighter. He lives for the contest. He did not haul his way to the top of real estate, television, and politics by accident. He’s a brawler, bully, and he is fighting like the very soul of his nation depends on it.
We can be sure that this election is real. There is nothing choreographed about this contest. We are not watching the fake wrestling of years past. The 2020 election is a death match between an establishment desperate to evict the dangerous outsider before he can expose their manifest corruption and a man who loves his country more than any of his 320 million citizens. Trump is a man of conviction, Biden is a weary old thrice failed candidate who is merely hoping for his turn.
Perhaps the words of his former boss can guide us.
“Never underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.” Barack Hussein Obama
G G Novack – Political Pundit and Commentator