Donald Trump apparently listened to his advisers not to be the rabid beast he was in the previous debate. This may have firmed up some Trump voters who had been wavering. But the fact that he was reined in by the mute button didn’t hide, and may even have emphasized, how lacking he is in a vision for a second term or meaningful plans for everything from health care to climate change. As always, his lies were rampant.
Joe Biden, ahead in every poll, just didn’t have to make any mistakes (drool, misspeak, lose his train of thought, or appear to be caught off-guard) in order to maintain the apparent trajectory of the race. While at certain points, he seemed sick of it all and even a little tired (glancing at his wrist watch a la George H. W. Bush), he did just fine and held his own. He appropriately set aside the claims that Trump made about Biden and son Hunter making millions from corrupt practices, a story spawned (according to the U.S. intelligence community) by Russia and Iran and promoted by Trump disinformation specialist Rudy Giuliani. Biden’s restraint in not attacking Trump’s grifter family for their corrupt practices was noteworthy.
Biden challenged Trump on his lack of transparency regarding his taxes and all of his ongoing business affairs. He also hit Trump hard on his immigration policies, one result of which is that 545 children ripped from their parents at the border remain in terrible conditions while their parents can’t be found. The President showed not one scintilla of empathy.
The former Vice President scored heavily on all aspects of COVID-19. While Trump says, “We’re learning to live with it,” Biden says, “We’re learning to die with it.” Nor did Biden let go unnoticed that the Trump administration, in the middle of the pandemic, is in court trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, leaving people with no coverage for preexisting conditions, one of which is now COVID-19. Biden laid out his plan to build on Obamacare, the addition of a public option making it “Bidencare,” a term we heard for the first time in last night’s debate.
Race was also hotly debated, with Trump trying to capitalize on Biden’s having voted for the omnibus 1994 crime bill (along with 94 other Senators including Ted Kennedy), which included the Violence Against Women Act and a ban on assault weapons but resulted in disproportionate incarcerations for drug crimes. The President did sign the First Step criminal justice reform act, the creation of “Opportunity Zones,” and more money for historically black colleges. But that gets lost in his dog-whistle racist comments, his tacit support of white supremacist groups and his misleading attacks on Black Lives Matter.
No doubt Trump will create commercials from Biden’s comments on phasing out fossil fuels over time, but, in contrast to the Administration’s systematic and reckless reversals of environmental protections, Biden’s comprehensive climate plan includes the creation of millions of jobs in renewables and other aspects of moving to a green economy.
Bottom line? Kristen Welker gave a master class in debate moderating. Her opening questions were carefully worded and she professionally asked necessary follow-up questions to highlight candidate evasions. Little, if anything, changed with last night’s debate. Biden remains a person of decency, substantive plans, empathy, dignity, and a healing vision for our nation’s future. Trump remains the corrupt, divisive, lying, anti-fact, crude person he has always been, a testament to why we would have benefited from a mute button for the last four years.