President Donald Trump brought his bullying and interrupting act to the first presidential debate, overwhelming rival Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace so much that a disgusted Biden said at one point, “Will you shut up, man?”
Trump hijacked this debate, but it doesn’t mean he won it.
But at the same time, with Trump constantly interrupting and not letting Biden answer — or talking over Biden — Trump energized his base with his overdoses of bluster and bombast at the cost of winning over the few undecided voters in swing states.
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“It’s hard to get any word in with this clown,” Biden said. Trump is the “worst” president “America’s ever had,” said Biden, who a few minutes later told the president, “Just shush for a minute.”
Biden was thrown off at the start of the 90-minute event in Cleveland — because even though Trump’s hurricane force wind was expected, it was something else to actually experience it.
The Chicago-born “Fox News Sunday” anchor Wallace — who early in his career reported for WBBM-TV in Chicago — went into this debate wanting to be “invisible.” Instead, he became a player in this brawl as he struggled to contain Trump.
Wallace, who at one time asked the combative Trump if he wanted to switch seats, had to tell the president that the country would be “better served” with “fewer interruptions,” a comment that had absolutely no impact on Trump.
- Overall, did Biden do what he had to do in this debate? No. He needed to not to take Trump’s bait, and all too often he did. Trump was just uncontrollable. Biden lost an opportunity to look strong and commanding.
- Still, Biden was effective in making the point — several times — that Trump was not looking out for the people who were viewing the debate. Biden was at his best talking about Trump’s moves to junk the Affordable Care Act. When Biden said, “It’s not about my family or his family,” he broke through.
- The problem for Biden was he did not break through enough.
- Following The New York Times revelations from Trump’s tax returns that he paid little or no federal income taxes, Trump was pressed specifically on what federal taxes he paid. After some dissembling, Trump claimed he paid “millions of dollars,” and Biden didn’t bring anything to the table to knock this down.
Under the rules of the debate, from the Presidential Debate Commission, Wallace was not supposed to be a fact-checker. Still, letting that one hang — the claim that Trump paid millions in federal taxes — was a big flaw of the proceeding.
- On the issue of race, Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups and militias, pivoting instead to his fall-back, that problems are caused by left-wing forces and cities run by Democrats.
- Biden worked his way out of the corner Trump tried to pin him down on regarding law and order, when Trump pressured him to say those words. Biden gave his version — he’s for law and order and “justice” for all people.
- Wallace said at the end the debate, the first of three, that it had been “interesting.” Perhaps another word would have been more apt.