President Donald Trump argues with debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

You could have called it a wrestling match, if the WWE had a senior league. Instead, President Donald Trump and his opponent, Joe Biden, did everything but throw metal folding chairs and pull each others’ coiffed hair behind the referee’s back in what many called the worst  presidential  debate in history

Still, in between Biden calling Trump a clown and telling him to “shut up, man,” and Trump interrupting both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace half a billion times, the two did discuss – sort of – presidential policy. Here are a few takeaways from the debate:

  • Trump refused to condemn white supremacists after Wallace asked him directly if he’d be willing to do so. Instead, he uttered perhaps the most memorable line of the night by calling to his far-right and sometimes violent supporters: “The Proud Boys — Stand back and stand by.” When asked what Trump meant by that, his campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said it was “very clear he wants them to knock it off.” But the so-called Proud Boys saw it differently. 

“This makes me so happy,” wrote Proud Boy organizer Joe Biggs on the right-wing social media site Parler.

  • Trump challenged Biden on law and order and continued his assertion that the suburbs were threatened by protests, but Biden had a response: “I was raised in the suburbs,” Biden said. “This is not 1950. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore. Suburbs are, by and large, integrated. … What’s really a threat to the suburbs and their safety is [Trump’s] failure to deal with COVID.”
  • Wallace did attempt, many times, to restore decorum: “I think that the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions.”
  • Trump and Biden did manage to show their differences on the climate without interruption. Trump touted his rollbacks on Obama-era environmental regulations and said greenhouse gases were responsible for climate change “to an extent” but also said there were other factors. Biden boosted his preference for clean energy but also said his plan was different from the Green New Deal loved by the more progressive members of his party. Biden also said the future was shifting away from coal and oil. 
  • Trump reiterated his concerns about voter fraud and went after Biden’s son, Hunter, on several occasions. Biden went after Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, calling him “a fool on this,” and noted that Trump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, said antifa is more of an idea than an organization and said white supremacy was a greater threat. Trump said Wray was “wrong.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Proud Boys: who are far-right group that backs Donald Trump? – The Guardian – 9/30/2020
The organization, which admits men only, was classified in 2018 by the FBI as an “extremist group.

“This Is So Unpresidential”: Notes from the Worst Debate in American History – The New Yorker – 9/30/2020
What does the worst debate in American history look like? It looks like the debate that took place on Tuesday night between President Donald Trump and the former Vice-President Joe Biden.

Trump’s last best tactic: Burn it all down – NBC News – 9/30/2020
He decided to burn down the debate — by constantly interrupting, not engaging on the substance, offering falsehood after falsehood, and questioning the legitimacy of the upcoming election.

POLITICO Playbook: Do we have to do that two more times? – Politico – 9/30/2020
Was that even a debate? A boxing match? One of those preschool learning pods we keep reading about?

Debate fact-check: False claims amid disorderly fracas – Roll Call – 9/30/2020
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met on the debate stage Tuesday for the first time and stretched or mangled facts on several topics.

Who won the presidential debate? What Americans say about Biden, Trump in polls – McClatchy DC – 9/30/2020
Many Americans who watched the presidential candidates face off on Tuesday night think Biden came out on top, new polls find.

That Was No Debate. It Was a Brawl. – DC Report – 9/30/2020
Didn’t we know ahead of time that Donald Trump would slash viciously and personally and pretend that he is an outsider to Washington and that Joe Biden would try to look presidential,  mostly stick to his message while wryly noting that Trump was lying once again? If there was a substantive question or response that was a surprise, it slipped by me.

A Dismal Debate Underlines the Case Against TrumpBloomberg – 9/30/2020
Even by the standards of a bleak year, Tuesday night’s presidential debate was deeply dispiriting. 

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