I struggled through the entire 96-minute (yes, 96 — it was permitted to run over) train wreck that was the first presidential debate of 2020, and I have no idea what I watched. There were discernible fragments that registered as the fur flew, but the evening was pure chaos.
Donald Trump arrived with a carload of zingers to fire at Joe Biden (e.g., his son Hunter’s recently revealed $4 million in “questionable financial transactions” with well-connected foreigners), but he seemed to toss them out at random rather than tie them to specific criticisms of his opponent.
Trump’s biggest failing was his incessant interruptions. Ignoring the old baseball dictum about never helping out a pitcher who can’t find the strike zone by swinging, Trump repeatedly chimed in just as Biden was having one of his mental or verbal hiccups. (RELATED: MSNBC host has to help Biden remember what he’s talking about)
Biden’s performance, meantime, was enough of a nightmare to warrant this reaction from Democrat-friendly New York magazine:
Joe Biden looked old and tired. He repeatedly botched easy answers to predictable questions. Watching the Democratic nominee try to complete a sentence occasionally felt like watching a washed-up, shit-faced acrobat trying to wobble his way across a tightrope one last time.
To Biden’s credit, he seemed to follow his handlers’ instructions, which included looking into the camera and addressing the American people. Whether any viewers bought his “everyman pitch” remains to be seen.
If there is one area Trump needs to work on for the second debate, it is accentuating the positives in his first-term record and not just attacking his opponent. A missed golden opportunity came 28 minutes into the debate when Biden foolishly said:
This man is as a savior of African-Americans? This man cares at all? This man’s done virtually nothing. Look, the fact is that you have to look at what he talks about. You have to look at what he did. And what he did has been disastrous for the African-American community.
This should have been an open invitation for Trump to discuss the historic law black unemployment and record number of black-owned businesses achieved during the first three years of his presidency. Instead, he said this:
You did a crime bill, 1994, where you call them super predators. African-Americans are super predators and they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it.