The first debate could have gone worse. Possibly. Somehow.

By Paul Wiele for Pyramid

Welcome to my self-inflicted purgatory: the first 2020 general election debate!

First off: as you know, I am not much of a Biden fan and absolutely despise Trump, so I will be replacing my primary “worst point by someone I like” and “best point by someone I dislike” with:

Worst Expression of a Good Point: Trump is actually right that his tax returns mainly show he legally takes advantage of a tax code absolutely stuffed with benefits that advantage businesses over employees. But it’s frustrating at best that he plays that as a “gotcha” against Biden instead of even taking the weak/disingenuous Warren Buffett/Bill Gates route of “I should pay higher taxes but LOL I’m not going to do so voluntarily”.

Best Expression of a Bad Point: Although I do think the administration handled the pandemic very poorly, and this way of phrasing it might work rhetorically, I’m not enthused by Biden’s attempt to blame Trump personally for the recession rather than blame Congress for failing to provide the kind of public assistance that is keeping people afloat in many other countries.Moving on…

Best Debate Performance: The abstract concept of contempt.

Worst Debate Performance: Chris Wallace. Jesus fucking Christ. Cut off Trump’s mic. Or shout over him. I have never seen a moderator fail this catastrophically to control the candidates being moderated. Including Wallace himself in previous debates.

Point on Which the Candidates Most Agree: Interrupting Biden, apparently, given how much they both did it.

Most Surprising Legitimate Point: Trump is in fact correct that economic shutdowns are driving an increase in alcohol* and divorce**. This happens in economic shutdowns generally, probably because confinement and forced closed quarters and above all the uncertainty of people’s immediate financial future.

Most Surprising Stupid Point: …did I hear that correctly? Did Trump really try to claim that he fixed the economy in part by causing the NFL to resume games???

Hardest Claim to Evaluate: At the very beginning, Biden claimed about 100 million Americans will be left without healthcare if insurance companies are no longer required to cover preexisting conditions. Trump claims that’s far too high. It’s almost impossible to answer this, because the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services*** says it’s anywhere from 50 million to 129 million (of those not old enough to qualify for Medicare), depending on how you define a “preexisting condition”.

Most Obviously Wrong Claim: Not only is Trump wrong about the number of court vacancies when he took office, he’s also wrong about the reason: Obama submitted nominees for most of the vacancies, but Mitch fucking McConnell refused to hold votes on most of them****.

Shut Up: Shut up! SHUT UP!!

Quote that Sums This All Up:
Chris Wallace: “Mr. President, would you let him finish?”
Joe Biden: “He doesn’t know how.”
[shouting over each other]
Donald Trump: “You’ve already lost the Left. You’ve already lost the Left.”
Biden, addressing the camera: “You see what this clown is doing?”




Cover photo by Christopher Dilts for Obama for America

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