It cannot be overstated that Joe Biden didn’t have to do Thursday night’s debate. Biden was already so far ahead in the polls that he had nothing to lose by bowing out. He could have even done so with a minimum loss of face. After all, refusing a debate with a chronic late night hate-tweeter, liar, rapist and racist is hardly something that requires much justification. Donald Trump is an awful man, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to be in the same room with him.
But a point Joe Biden kept making during the debate — possibly the most valuable point Biden made the whole night — was that he doesn’t see blue states and red states, he sees American states. If elected Biden plans to be, in stark contrast to the late night hate-tweeting toddler, the President of the United States of America.
In order to win Biden just had to show up and make no major mistakes. He did better than that. He demolished Donald Trump and showed him up to be the liar and cheater that we all know him to be.
My only major frustration was that Biden didn’t chase Trump down on the question of Trump’s tax returns. It’s baffling to me that no one does. Biden pointed out that he released 22 years of his own tax returns and Donald Trump won’t release even one year of his. Trump resorted to the same tired lie he always falls back on to justify the breaking of his promise, the one where he said if elected he will release his returns. Trump said he will release them “soon” but that he can’t because he’s still under audit.
That’s a lie, and we know it’s a lie because the head of the Internal Revenue Service said so, under oath. The IRS chief said that Trump can release his returns whether or not he’s under audit. The one has nothing to do with the other. Why no one holds Trump’s feet to the fire over this is the perennial question.
Trump’s comment that “kids in cages are very well taken care of” may have been the tonedeaf statement of the evening. First of all the kids who were separated from their asylum-seeking parents are being treated abysmally. Second, that they are still in cages is an ongoing crime against humanity, one so dire that, as soon as the American criminal justice system is done with Trump for his economic malfeasance and other crimes, he should be put on trial for crimes against humanity at The Hague.
Trump’s claim that America is going to flatten the curve on coronavirus this winter and that there will be a vaccine soon are lies. Those two statements are contradicted by both by the current statistical reality and Trump’s own previous words on those subjects.
As I write this, 228,381 Americans are now dead from coronavirus, almost a thousand more than I reported in my Thursday article. And we know that Trump has drastically understated the peril from coronavirus because he told Bob Woodward as much.
Trump said he’s been “congratulated by the heads of many countries” because of his response to coronavirus, an obvious lie. What head of any country in his or her right mind would congratulate a leader of a nation with 4.2% of the world’s population but more than 20% of the world’s coronavirus deaths? Not one, and it’s no accident that Trump didn’t name any of the congratulating “many.”
Trump’s baseless, conspiracy theory-laden lies about Joe Biden and his “corrupt family” certainly did him no good and possibly may have done him harm. The only people who lapped it up were people who were going to vote for him anyway.
Trump’s shameful record on climate change probably didn’t help either. Again he resorted to wild claims that Joe Biden is going to destroy the oil industry. This is the point where a certain subtlety of mind and an aversion to sound bite mentality is required. Biden isn’t going to destroy the oil industry, he’s going to stop investing in it as if it’s America’s future and eventually phase it out in preference to cleaner, sustainable industries. But that’s too subtle for a Trump supporter, who again is going to vote for Trump anyway, so there’s no net gain for Trump.
It’s clear Trump still has nothing to replace the Affordable Care Act with and that he only wants to replace it because he hates Barack Obama because Obama is black. Trump is desperate to get rid of this powerful Obama legacy, and no lie is too shabby or transparent in the service of that goal.
On balance I thought the moderator, Kristen Walker, did a marvelous job. She was fair but kept strict accounting to the timetable. It’s also telling that Trump was on better behavior this time. Trump’s handlers must have finally gotten through to him and convinced him that his scenery-chewing chessboard-flipping ways were not a good look and were going to hurt his re-election chances.
This was a good debate for Joe Biden, and a disastrous one for Trump. Trump needed a miracle and he spectacularly failed to deliver. I’m delighted it happened, because it probably added votes to the blue column in the battleground states where they are very much needed.
No only did Trump lose but we learned two things during the debate. The first is that Trump was unwilling to do the preparation work necessary to give him a desperately needed win in the debate, and second that his handlers are either incompetent or unable to convince him of that necessity. Whatever the case, I think that was the final nail in the Trump coffin. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.