WASHINGTON — In the hours leading up to the second and final debate Thursday, President Donald Trump and his team laid out a strategy that left the impression, no matter the question, the answer will be Hunter Biden.
But Trump had difficulty in executing that gambit and he didn’t show up with a plan B or C to preview what a second Trump term would do for you. Joe Biden, who only needed to make no mistakes and run out the clock, was able to deflect Trump’s accusations — and limit the damage, if any.
Trump did exhibit remarkable self-control. He was subdued. His voice was modulated, as if he were on NPR. After bulldozing his way through and hijacking the first debate — which gained him nothing — he had no alternative. The debate was civilized, and for that the public benefited.
Biden came across as a cheerful warrior while Trump was on the defensive.
It took Biden awhile, but he finally spit out what was his core argument. “You know who he is. You know his character. You know my character, you know our reputations for honor and telling the truth.”
Trump hit back, “He’s a corrupt politician, so don’t give me this stuff about how you’re this innocent baby, Joe.”
Trump went on to go down a rabbit hole about a laptop, which I am betting not a lot of people knew about.
To set the stage for you, before the debate, Trump’s team brought over to the White House press pool a man identified as a former Hunter Biden business associate — Tony Bobulinski — to read a prepared statement going over his business dealings with Biden, promising to turn over to the FBI some unspecified “evidence” he has.
During the debate Trump seemingly made a reference to him — he called him a “somebody.” If you were scratching your head over what this is all about, you are forgiven.
Last Wednesday, the New York Post wrote a story — that has not been verified — based on emails — not authenticated — supposedly found on the hard drive of a laptop Hunter left for repairs at a Delaware shop in in April 2019 that — who would believe this — ended up in the hands of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The gist is the emails — which we don’t know are real — help build Trump’s case that Biden, while vice president, promoted policies helpful to Hunter’s business pursuits in China and Ukraine.
At Belmont University in Nashville, Joe Biden, 77, and Trump, 74, slugged it out under new measures imposed by the Presidential Debate Commission to avoid a repeat of the first debate.
Enter the commission’s weapon of choice, the threat of a muted microphone. It worked.
Trump, who spent days trashing NBC’s Kristen Welker, the moderator, stopped during the debate to compliment her. She did a very good job of keeping the debate under control.
“The debate is test of presidential temperament,” Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders told reporters at a briefing Thursday morning.
Did Biden show “presidential temperament?” Yes.
Did Trump show “presidential temperament?” He was better than usual.
Was Trump able to focus on an issue? No.
Was Trump able to not interrupt? Yes, most of the time.
Was Biden able to not lose a train of thought? Yes.
Did either Trump or Biden make a mistake that will change the course of the election? No.
Was Biden able to effectively deflect Trump’s pounding that son Hunter profiteered off his father’s position when he was vice president? Yes
Was Trump able to effectively deflect Biden’s hammering for how he handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic collapse? No.
Winner: Joe Biden