My heart goes out to debate host, Chris Wallace.
Moderating while two septuagenarians tear into each other with the fervor of hyenas, is akin to watching a runaway train careen off broken tracks. It is near impossible to look away, and there are still two more debates to go.
Tonight, saw the clash of two diametrically opposed debate styles. Former Vice President Joe Biden championed the reserved, though not passive form, while President Donald Trump angled for as much screen time as possible. Not a single issue failed to elicit an aggressive response from the candidates.
With a starting topic of the Supreme Court, viewers were not allowed to wade in gently; they were catapulted into the world of uncivil political contention. Hypocrisy reigned for 15 minutes, while both sides argued over who gets to decide the fate of judicial review.
If you thought it would slow down, then you would be sorely disappointed. Decorum and debate rules flew out the window at record speeds. Wallace himself was accused of debating in place of the former vice president while Trump hurled insults and call lines.
Lest Biden be accused of falling asleep, he was very much awake for the next segment: COVID-19. The Democratic candidate spewed death tolls and infection rates in his “uninterrupted” two-minute block. His period of peace was ended with an attack on rebuttal where the president criticized the Obama-Biden administration’s handling of the Influenza H1N1 outbreak.
Here we saw Biden lose his stoic demeanor and denounce Trump as a “liar,” bringing the debate to a fever pitch. Welcome to the first 30 minutes.
Wallace now struggles to drag the candidates into the economy portion. Here Biden scores a few points on a softball, allowing for heavy criticism of this administration’s economic downturn. The American people are given a full serving of optimism from the president, while the typically soft-spoken vice president hits hard on the newest revelations of Trump’s tax returns.
Policy was sacrificed tonight on the altar of entertainment. The third topic collapsed into an insult match so juvenile and petty that it took an immense amount of willpower to not extricate myself from the television. “Mudslinging” doesn’t cover half of tonight’s distasteful display of verbal jabs.
From matters of intelligence and family, to childish nicknames, the country’s two choices for president showed a shocking lack of integrity.
The structure of the debate devolving into anarchy and Chris Wallace was forced into visibility. He chastised Trump and his inability to follow the agreed-upon first two minutes without interruption allotted to Biden. Of course, Biden used this to throw a crafty jab angled at Trump’s failure to keep his word.
If verbal abuse was abundant, straight answers were not. Whether it was the former vice president dancing around his plans for economic salvation, or Trump running out the clock on his opinions of climate change, the debate was depressingly devoid of substance.
Perhaps it was fitting to end on the question of election integrity. The query begged an ambiguous answer, and what we received was just that. Nothing can bring an audience back like a cliff-hanger, and the people of the United States were given something no author could come up with.
Will the president yield peacefully? Will his rival accept defeat?
I would love to decry one side or the other, to be confident enough to promote a candidate. I alas, am not. I am nauseous and disappointed, yearning for nobility to grace our politics.
I don’t know who won, and I won’t postulate for you. There is a clear loser though, the viewer who hoped for civil debate.