A largely contrarian view of the final debate

A largely contrarian view of the final debate
Image: PBS screen grab

People who wanted a more decorous debate than the first one had to be gratified by Thursday night’s performance.  I admit, I wasn’t as thrilled with the moderator’s (Kristen Welker’s) handling as some were.  Basically, she didn’t have as much to try to control as Chris Wallace did in the first debate, because of the muted microphones.  But she did OK.

It’s not the moderator’s fault that his or her assigned role is to put the Republican on the defensive with loaded questions and set the Democrat up to recite approved talking points.  Welker stepped up to the plate and got that job done.  Someone on Twitter passed on an unofficial tally of the “Trump versus Biden” cutoff count; i.e., how many times Welker cut off Trump versus how many times she cut off Biden; and the numbers look pretty accurate to me.

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It might have been one or two more times than that for Biden.  It was typically lopsided though.

After the debate, the general agreement on the pro-Trump side seemed to be that Biden blowtorched his own goose by promising to shut down the U.S. energy industry and end energy independence.

Probably more than half the people in America hear that as meaning higher energy prices and more foreign wars.  That’s a simplistic formulation (more so on the foreign wars side; we don’t actually fight for oil and never have), but nevertheless, it’s what people hear.  So it did Biden no good to say it.

I’m not sure Trump slam-dunked it in the debate to the extent many viewers seemed to think.  But for the most part he did come off well.  Biden didn’t seem to have any really strong moments.  Of all the things he could have put energy into, he seemed most frenetic and off balance about Trump’s taxes – about which, to the extent we actually know anything reliable, we know it because someone feloniously leaked Trump’s tax information to the New York Times, and we’re depending on NYT to report this ill-gotten information truthfully.

Yeah; no.

The big dearth in the debate was foreign policy.  We’ve had close to zero on foreign policy and national security in the debate and/or debate-ish events this season, which is as odd as everything else in 2020.  There was a little bit on North Korea, and a little bit on Iran pretending to be the Proud Boys (whom Biden later referred to as the “poor boys”) and sending threatening emails to some Democrats.  This was characterized as “election interference” when it was briefed to the public by Homeland Security and the DNI this week.

All in all, the debate struck me as mostly irrelevant, focusing on ground covered before.  Biden made it clear he’s a miserable-eyed pessimist on COVID-19, for which he foresees a “dark winter.”  Trump has a much more positive determination to defeat COVID-19.  He has no intention of letting a coronavirus dictate a “new normal” to us.  We’ll decide what normal we want, thank you very much.

I did notice that Biden’s rehearsed patter was mostly non-resonant in the extreme.  With each talking point, I kept thinking the same thing: tired, unrealistic, wispy, no one wants to hear it anymore.  The riff on the kitchen table and the bald tires fell flatter than the coyote under the giant anvil.  The heroic promise of 50,000 vehicle charging stations on America’s highways came off like vowing to equip every bathroom with as much hemorrhoid cream as you could possibly want.  Americans – I hate to break it to Mr. Biden – not only don’t care about having 50,000 charging stations, they actively dislike the prospect, assuming (correctly, no doubt) that their taxes will be subsidizing charging stations to the end of time.

Of course, the elephant in the room was the breaking news this week about the “laptop from hell,” as Trump called it: the Hunter Biden laptop, which is at the center of a growing stream of revelations about the Biden family’s financial dealings overseas.  Kristen Welker sought to squash any burgeoning discussion of that topic, which has untoward implications because no one involved is in an actual business, trying to manufacture or distribute something.  It’s about leveraging political pull in the U.S. to gratify foreign interests.

Trump got a few references to it out (and Biden invited references to it by bringing up Rudy Giuliani).  But I don’t think anyone really expected Welker or CNN to allow it to break the surface as a debate topic Thursday night.

I’m happy for people who thought this was a better debate than the first one.  However, I think we’re kidding ourselves by going for form over substance that way.  This was a meatless debate.  Its only virtue was being quieter than the first one.

In that sense, it didn’t reflect reality well.  If it gave people hope, that hope is frankly misplaced.  Observing debate rules well not only won’t save us; it lulls us into complacency as we steam at top speed toward the iceberg.  I’d rather have the yelling, because it’s more real and accurate.

Constrained by his backers, the money-men and planners behind the intentions of the Democratic Party in 2020, Joe Biden wants to sally forth and transform 4,000,000 residential dwellings in America to fight “climate change.”  Believe me, it will ruin your life for years to come if he shows up to transform yours.  Just think about it for a minute.  What are you going to do while your home is being rebuilt out from under you, on someone else’s schedule, to meet arbitrary “green” standards?  What will you get back at the end?  Very possibly not the cozy, maybe even frumpy, but beloved single-family dwelling you started with.

He wants to confiscate your firearms from you, something not addressed at all in the debates.  He wants to “study” plans to rearrange and pack the courts, add two states in order to put the Senate permanently in Democrats’ hands, and do away with the Electoral College.  The debates haven’t addressed that either.

These and a laundry list of others are things that can’t be compromised on.  No, there is no middle ground between a right to keep and bear arms, and a plan to confiscate them; there is no middle ground on a program to transform your residential dwelling whether you wanted it to be transformed or not; and there is no middle ground on utterly undoing the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution.

There should be yelling.  There has to be yelling.  Muting microphones is childish and escapist when things of much greater importance are on the line.  Thinking we’ve accomplished something by having a quieter debate is everything that has been wrong with America for the last 90 years.  It’s believing – falsely! – that decorum signals virtue and quiet means things are on the right track.

Former president Obama made a telling comment campaigning in Pennsylvania this week.  The whole mainstream media slate took up the theme; the Washington Post’s op-ed on it was typical, with the headline “Obama reminds voters of a Trump-less America.”

Emphasis added:

The [Obama] speech invited us to close the door on an infuriating, debilitating and scary chapter in our history. “With Joe and Kamala at the helm, you’re not going to have to think about the crazy things they said every day.” You can get through Thanksgiving without fights, Obama joked. “It just won’t be so exhausting.”

The appeal here is to believe the false proposition that when the media are speaking soothingly to you, and it seems like things are quiet, nothing bad is happening.  The media can make it seem like nothing bad is happening by simply not covering it, as they’re doing with the Hunter Biden laptop and the emails that show his father closely engaged with him in peddling influence abroad. (Click through for thread.)

Conversely, the media can make it seem like everything is awful – “infuriating, debilitating, scary” – when very little is, by writing it up with an endless parade of scare words and constantly hammering themes of chaos, vice, hatred, gore, and death.  They’ve done this about the Trump White House for nearly four years, and many people still think they actually “know” that the Trump White House is a cesspool of chaos and insanity, in spite of the fact that it objectively keeps functioning and getting the business of state done every day of the year.

On the other hand, the actual chaos, gore, and death, such as the arson, looting, vandalism, and violence in America’s streets, caused by radical leftist rioters – those, the media insist on referring to as “fiery but mostly peaceful ‘protest.’”

Muted microphones and decorous debates are the worst things to reassure ourselves with when the fate of the Republic hangs in the balance.  They aren’t making us better.  They can be manufactured by a complicit media for 90 minutes at a pop, but if we think they are going to save us, and we dream only of them – of not being “exhausted” – we will lose our chance to turn back the tide of a government poised to spear us in every organ like the “iron maiden” torture device of the Middle Ages, and we will never have peace again.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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