In this space in early September in a post entitled “Will He Debate?” I asked the question as to whether readers thought Donald Trump would participate in the traditional quadrennial exercise we call the Presidential Debates.

While virtually everyone responded that he would, a week later I offered a contrary opinion that he would not: I will swim against the tide, though, and predict that he will not debate. He will find a reason and be convinced that the debate has been rigged against him. He will then convince his base of this bias and respectfully decline because he (and his supporters) are not shown respect (besides, the controversy will make good television)…I hope he does debate because I think Joe Biden will demonstrate superior honesty, character and knowledge of the issues, thereby further shrinking the number of the President’s die-hard supporters. Not willing to risk this, I think Trump will decline.

While I would argue that, while my reasoning was faulty, my ultimate conclusion was correct: Donald Trump did not debate Joe Biden. However, never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned the circumstances under which this would play out. In Tuesday’s “debate,” the President bullied and blustered his way through the evening in a manner that was at best a gross embarrassment to most Americans and perhaps even a national security threat as we imagine how viewers around the world perceived his performance.

The President repeatedly refused to abide by the rules that his own team had approved. His constant interruptions made the exercise almost unwatchable (as commentator James Carville quipped, “even for me and I am paid to watch”). There was no outreach to undecided voters, no effort to explain his agenda for a second term, no promise to peacefully abide by the results of the upcoming election, and no condemnation of white supremacy.

When Joe Biden turned the conversation to honoring the service in Iraq of his son Beau, the President offered no words of empathy or compassion but rather saw an opening for his pre-planned attack and asked, “Are you talking about Hunter?” Trump then launched into an unfounded diatribe about Hunter Biden. Trump’s understanding of Presidential Character was on full display and showed an inhuman inclination that was personally revolting and publicly dangerous.

This was not a debate. Like he did with coronavirus press conferences, Donald Trump turned the exercise into a reenactment of his political rallies—rabid charges against his perceived enemies and flagrant untruths about his accomplishments—long since disproved and discredited.

But the President did succeed in one thing that matters a lot to him. Talk about him dominated the post-debate conversation, feeding his narcissism. Under the old marketing adage that any publicity is good publicity, Trump won. But a result of this “victory” flipped the question in my early September post on its head, prompting thoughtful supporters of the former Vice President to to ask the question, “Should Joe Biden debate again?”

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5 thoughts on “This Is No Debate, Sir

  1. Very predictable in retrospect, Bob. Trump has nothing to say, and didn’t want to give Biden an opportunity either. Your comments were spot on. After the VP debates, they should pull the plug on the Presidential debates. Unless they have a “Mute Mic” option for the candidates!

  2. This wasn’t a debate. Rather, this was a mud-flinging show with Trump merely reaching down into the muck in which he currently resides to try to spread it on Biden and Wallace. It was a futile exercise and merely served to remind us all what he’s truly full of.

  3. I was distressed by some of the commentary afterwards. False equivalency was the name of that game – Biden was as bad as Trump. Well, we all know that was just not true. Joe Biden did a very creditable job under the very worst of circumstances. He kept his cool (mostly) and managed to communicate well on several issues. He showed his warmth and his heart. But every time one says, “The debate was a disaster” Biden gets tarred along with Trump.

  4. I’m a week (or two?) behind and so figured I’d start here.. In a sense, you were right: he didn’t debate. I say this because – if I remember correctly from H.S. days – a debate is a structured event with rules. (One person must remain silent until the other signals that they are finished. OR the moderator informs that debater that “times up”.) They are strictly timed. They are not meant to be embarrassing free-for-alls like that circus we witnessed last week, thanks to DJT.

  5. You have ultimately been proven right, though! Since Trump has now refused to partake in the second debate because he didn’t like the terms. One disgusting mud-slinging. One refusal. Let’s see how number three plays out. Also, tell EVERYONE you know to watch Biden’s town hall on Thursday, not Trump’s. I would LOVE to see Biden get better ratings that night. 🙂

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