Debate Post-Mortem

Debate Post-Mortem September 30, 2020

You know, it started out being funny, watching the debate turn into a shouting match.

But it just wouldn’t end.  I know that the days of “yellow light means you’re almost out of time, red means you are” are over, that It Was Decided that this sort of interchange was preferred over fixed time limits.  But it’s a disaster.  Depending on your perspective, I suppose, either Biden let Trump walk all over him, or Trump is just an ***.  A twitter account I follow relayed the outcome of a focus group of undecided voters:  they are now leaning towards just not voting at all.  Maybe this is what the Commission on Presidential Debates wants, and, hey, there was no fist-fight, but for crying out loud, this little experiment in “more discussion” is not working.  Fixed response times. Microphones cut when they’re over.  Bring back the red lights!

So, writing from memory, mostly:

One:  “Good people on both sides” 

Moderator Chris Wallace repeated the “good people on both sides” hoax (that is, the claim that Trump called the Neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville “good people” rather than, in fact, using that phrase at a different point to describe the two sides of the debate about removing monuments), then Biden seized the opportunity to claim that this moment was what led Biden to run for president.

Some on my twitter feed are claiming that Wallace was a biased moderator for repeating this line.  At the time, knowing that “‘good people on both sides’ is a hoax” is something that folks on the right believe but have pretty strong feelings about, it seemed like a perfect set-up for Trump to say, “actually, that’s fake news, and I didn’t say that about the Nazis.”  But he didn’t.  Idiot.

Two:  “Stand back and stand by” 

Ugh.  Wallace asks Trump to call out “white supremacists.”   Trump says, “sure.”  Wallace wants something more specific, so Trump demands, “give me a name” (that is, who exactly should I call out?), there’s some cross talk during which Wallace says “white supremacists something something Proud Boys,” and Trump says, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”  (This one I had to check, here.)

What on earth did Trump mean?

Lefties are saying that this is not a condemnation, but instead a call to arms.  The Federalist says, “of course not, you dummies.”  I find it unlikely that Trump really meant to say, “wait for my signal to begin fighting,” but at the least he’s a fool for saying something ambiguous.

The public option

In an extended bit of the debate about Biden’s healthcare plan, he revealed a new claim to get around accusations that his “public option” is a back-door path to single-payer.  He claimed that the “public option” would only be available for people on Medicaid.

I can’t find this anywhere (and CSPAN only has excerpts transcripted, with very few of them of Biden), but this really made my head spin.  A “public option” for Medicaid makes no sense because Medicaid is already a single-payer plan, except that states have generally chosen to contract out with insurance companies, because the “public option” wasn’t working.  

Green New Deal

Biden categorically rejected the “Green New Deal.”  That’s not his plan.  His plan is a moderate plan to weatherize houses.

Sorry, his campaign website specifically says, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

Court Packing

The was early in the debate, but, eh, I’m not writing this in order.

Each of Trump and Biden were asked about the Supreme Court nomination.  Biden said, “we’re in the middle of an election.”  Trump said, “I am still president until my term ends” and tried (though blundered his way through) to say that in 2016, it was a different situation because the president and the Senate were not of the same party.  Biden then claimed that the stakes were too high because if Barrett were installed, Obamacare would be overturned — but didn’t make any sort of meaningful case here.

Then Wallace asked Biden to commit not to court-pack or end the filibuster, or at any rate to state his position.  He refused.

Yes, I know, it’s a small thing, but it angers me that Biden categorically refuses to state a position on this topic.

The pandemic and the lockdown

Look, there’s nothing much new to observe here.  It’s clear that Trump would say that he handled it magnificently, and Biden would say that Trump was a failure.  I was a bit surprised that Trump didn’t work in jabs of Cuomo and DeBlasio, and that, with respect to masks, he didn’t work in the CDC’s and Fauci’s mixed messaging and early rejection of masks.  I was a bit startled to see Biden blaming the lockdown itself on Trump when up to now the message had been that Trump and the “red states” had not locked down sufficiently tight enough, and I have no idea if that’s a claim that he’s made repeatedly, or only in this debate.


Yes, Trump was asked how to square experts’ statements that the vaccine is a mid-2021 event with his statements of “very soon,” and he could have said, “of course it’ll take a while to get everyone vaccinated, but we hope to be able to start vaccinating the most vulnerable much sooner,” and he blew it.  Wallace was even helping him, I thought, with his strong statement of a vaccine being “generally available” providing an opening to differentiate between “generally available” and “getting to those most in need.”  But he blew it.

Biden, however, couldn’t take the opportunity offered him, either, repeating, instead, his anti-vaxxer stance that “I don’t trust Trump, and you don’t trust Trump,” which, again, I think is very dangerous, because the American people, after being told repeatedly that vaccines can’t be trusted because of politicians, aren’t going to decide, come winter or spring, “Biden is in office now, so I will get vaccinated.”

Fair Elections

It’s going to be hanging chads all over again, isn’t it?

Biden claimed that mail-in ballots will be counted if they arrive late but there’s a postmark.  Various states are now declaring, contravening their existing legislation on the matter, that ballots will be counted that arrive a week or two after the election even if there is no postmark.  Then Biden said, when asked if he’s concerned that the Supreme Court would be making decisions about the election, “I’m concerned any Supreme Court would, because when you get a ballot and fill it out, you are supposed to have an affidavit, if you didn’t know, someone said this to me, you should be able to — if in fact you can verify before the ballot is thrown out, that is sufficient to count the ballot because somebody made a mistake and not dotting the correct I, who they voted for, testify, say who they voted for, say it’s you, that is totally legitimate.”

I really don’t know what he meant here, but given the reports about people filling out their absentee/mail-in ballots incorrectly, it sounds like they are gearing up to have the maximal number of those ballots counted even if the law in a given state specifies otherwise.


The empty wine bottle

Ugh.  Today’s meal was planned to be a beef burgundy recipe in the instant pot.  So the immediate practical outcome of the debate is that I let my husband drink the rest of the wine without saving 1/2 cup for the recipe, and now I have to go to the store or change the recipe.

So happy Wednesday – and time to get started with the rest of the day’s agenda.


Image: V0050236 A fist-fight between Lord Brougham and Lord Melbourne as Pea
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
A fist-fight between Lord Brougham and Lord Melbourne as Peachum and Lockit. Coloured lithograph by H.B. (John Doyle), 1837.
1837 By: John DoylePublished: 22 October 1836
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Yes, this is my all-purpose image to skip out on finding a debate-specific public domain picture.

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