STOP the 2020 Presidential Debates

STOP the 2020 Presidential Debates

© David Burton 2020


     On 29 September 2020, I planned to watch the first 90-minute presidential debate of 2020. But, after 15-minutes, I turned off the so-called “debate” and channel surfed to find something else. I was ashamed, embarrassed and totally disgusted with what I saw and heard. What was portrayed as a presidential debate, was anything but a debate. It was a disgrace, principally because of the unpardonable behavior of President Donald Trump. Like me, “those who watched the heated exchanges overwhelmingly called the debate's tone negative, and most said they felt annoyed watching it.” (Ref. 1) I was embarrassed by the behavior of my president on world-wide television, as should have been all other Americans.

     This was touted as a debate between two presidential candidates on the critical issues of the day. “The debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace of ‘Fox News Sunday,’ selected six topics . . . with each segment expected to get approximately 15 minutes: Trump's and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election -- the final topic coming as Trump over the weekend wouldn’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power.” (Ref. 2) Instead, the important issues of the day were, for the most part, either ignored or just buried under a constant flood of taunts and insults – mostly from the sitting president.

     “President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden battled fiercely over Trump’s record on the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare and the economy in a chaotic and bad-tempered first debate marked by personal insults and Trump’s repeated interruptions.
     “Trump bulldozed his way through the 90-minute debate, trying to goad Biden nearly every time he spoke, claiming that Democrats were trying to steal the November presidential election with mail-in ballots and declining to condemn white supremacist groups when asked to do so.
     “Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News never established control of the debate, with Trump repeatedly ignoring his calls to let Biden speak. The two White House contenders talked over each other and lobbed insults in a breathtaking political brawl that made it hard for either to make a point.
     “At one point, an exasperated Biden said after Trump’s repeated interruptions: ‘Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.’
     “Wallace tried in vain to reel in Trump, who ignored his time limits and talked over Biden.
     “ ‘I think that the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that,’ Wallace said.” (Ref. 3)

     According to NPR,” This was maybe the worst presidential debate in American history. [Emphasis mine]
     “If this was supposed to be a boxing match, it instead turned into President Trump jumping on the ropes, refusing to come down, the referee trying to coax him off, and Joe Biden standing in the middle of the ring with his gloves on and a confused look on his face.
     “Trump doesn't play by anyone's rules, even those he's agreed to beforehand. He's prided himself on that. But even by his standards, what Trump did Tuesday night crossed many lines. [Emphasis mine]
     “More than 200,000 Americans are dead from the coronavirus pandemic. And instead of a serious debate about the direction of the country, Trump sent it off the rails.
      - - -
     “Here are six takeaways from the first Trump-Biden debate.

“1. Even for Trump, he went too far
    For part of the debate, Trump looked like he was controlling the stage. He interrupted constantly and tried to distract, deflect and interject. That's fairly typical Trump behavior, but a few things in particular were egregious.
     ”When Biden, for example, was talking about his late son Beau's military service, Trump went in on Biden's other son, Hunter, and brought up his past cocaine use. It backfired.
     “Biden, looking directly to the camera, turned something he rarely talks about into a positive, sympathetic moment.
     " ‘My son, like a lot of people you know at home, he had a drug problem,' Biden said. 'He's overtaken it. He's fixed it. He's worked on it. And I'm proud of him.’
     “Later, when Trump was asked to denounce white supremacists and militia groups — and specifically the far-right extremist group Proud Boys — he instead said this: ‘Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.’ And then he denounced left-wing groups. (Proud Boys is now using Trump's words as part of a new logo.)
     “What's more, Trump would not urge his followers to remain peaceful as votes are counted, including if there are delays in reporting the results. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
“2. Trump likely did nothing to expand beyond his base
      - - -
     “Trump repeated his 'law and order' appeal to white, suburban voters and tried to force Biden to repeat the words. But Biden didn't take the bait and pivoted, calling for ‘law and order with justice where people are treated fairly.’
      - - -
“3. Biden missed opportunities
     “This was not Biden's cleanest debate. He was not crisp, was often flummoxed — as was moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News — by Trump's antics.
      - - -
“4. Trump tried to tie Biden to the far left, but it didn't work
     “Trump tried his darndest to paint Biden as a socialist, or at least beholden to the ‘radical left.’ But on issue after issue — ‘Medicare for All,’ defunding the police, the Green New Deal — Biden disavowed policies the Trump campaign has tried to lasso to him.
      - - -
“5. Trump's response on his handling of COVID-19 was more of the same
     “More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and coronavirus cases are spiking again in some parts of the country.
     And yet Trump's tactic when defending himself on his management of the pandemic was to insult Biden's smarts.
     " ‘He panicked or just looked at the stock market, one of the two, because guess what?’ Biden said. ‘A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter a lot quicker.’
      - - -
     “Trump said he disagreed with his own experts on a vaccine timeline, insisting it would soon be widely available. But making rosy assertions to the public is exactly what got him in trouble after Bob Woodward's latest book, Rage, revealed that Trump privately knew the virus was worse than he let on publicly.
      - - -
“6. Good luck to the next moderator
      - - -
     “Before the debate, Wallace said his goal was to be ‘invisible.’
     “By the end, he might have wished he was. . .” (Ref. 4) Based on the history of Donald Trump and the results of this first Presidential “debate” of 2020, the remaining two “debates” should be “invisible” or rather non-existent. With Donald Trump present, there can be no honest debate. His loud-mouth egotistical bullying and name calling make debates with him impossible. Rather than listening to his pompous and self-aggrandizing boasting, his spouting of unsubstantiated assertions and his disregard of facts and expert opinions, the American people would do much better to simply examine Trump’s real record over the years, as well as that of his opponent, Joe Biden.

     Apparently, I am not the only American who was totally disgusted by this first presidential “debate” of 2020. “To quote CNN's Jake Tapper, Tuesday night's first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was ‘a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.’ While a debate is supposed to help the American people learn more about the two candidates and use that information to make an educated vote, this particular debate was so chaotic - with Trump constantly interrupting and spewing insults - that some are now suggesting the other scheduled debates be cancelled. [Emphasis mine]
     “TIME's Judy Berman wrote a review of the debate titled, ‘Just Cancel the Last Two Debates. America Has Suffered Enough,’ while Frank Bruni wrote an op-ed in the New York Times with the headline: ‘After That Fiasco, Biden Should Refuse to Debate Trump Again.’ In a piece published right after the debate, Washington Post's media critic Margaret Sullivan wrote, ‘Failing some radical reform in the debate format, there’s no reason for the next two debates to take place as scheduled on Oct. 15 and 22.’ “ (Ref. 5)

     And how about this, condensed and paraphrased from Boston’s WGBH?

     Following what was surely the worst presidential debate in our nation’s history, it’s useless to try to make sense of it. We all saw what we saw, and if you didn’t see it, count yourself among the fortunate.
     There is commentary after commentary calling out President Donald Trump for his unhinged performance, in which he lied promiscuously and constantly shouted over former Vice President Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace.
     A presidential historian and Biden supporter tweeted during the closing minutes that “the incumbent’s behavior this evening is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency since Andrew Johnson’s racist state papers.” He appeared to be referring specifically to Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists. But it could be applied just as accurately to the entire hour-and-a-half fiasco.
     The most consistent theme that’s emerged following the debate is that we shouldn’t have any more.
     Moderator Chris Wallace probably did as well as anyone could, given that Trump was completely out of control. Wallace was perhaps a bit too passive early on, but, starting about halfway through, he repeatedly called out Trump for his abusive behavior. You have to ask yourself: What could Wallace have done other than walk off?
     Given that Joe Biden constantly had to talk over Trump and keep his train of thought, it seemed that the Democratic presidential candidate had a pretty good debate. Biden did fine. Not great. But fine. He had a B performance with some B+ or even A- minus moments. But for him that’s fine. He’s ahead. He’s not running as best debater. He’s not running as most dynamic figure. He’s not competing for most unstable affect. He’s running as the guy who will end the nightmare. If that’s the goal he turned in just the right performance. As opposed to Donald Trump, Joe Biden did not embarrass himself, his party, the American people or this country.
     Clearly, the debate was a “depressing spectacle,” and Trump’s “boorish” behavior undermined his cause. We witnessed something truly awful Tuesday night, and yet little has changed. Much like the Trump presidency, it was a national embarrassment.[6]

     Once more, Donald Trump proved that he is a con man, a carnival barker and has one true calling: Trump is a reality-television game show host. It’s the only thing he’s ever actually been good at. A good part of the Trump’s show at the “debate” was replete with narcissistic words and phrase - whether implied or explicit. According to Trump, only he could save the world and, also according to him, he has already done so. The facts concerning such chest thumping were irrelevant. His tirade was filled with lies, misrepresentations of facts, exaggerations and irrelevancies. A presidential debate? NO WAY!

     So, my advice to the organizers of the 2020 presidential debates is: Stop wasting the time and money of the broadcast media and cancel the last two presidential “debates” of 2020. I, for one, wouldn’t waste my time watching another spectacle like the first “debate”. Let the TV stations put Three Stooges movies up in place of the scheduled “debates”. The movies would be considerably more meaningful. As George Stephanopoulos said: “I have to speak personally here, as somebody who's watched presidential debates for 40 years, as somebody who's moderated presidential debates, as someone who's prepared candidates for presidential debates, and someone who's covered presidential debates, that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life -- a lot more heat than light over some 90 minutes.(Ref. 2)



  1. Debate-watchers say Biden won first debate - CBS News poll, Jennifer de Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Elena Cox, CBS NEWS, 30 September 2020.
  2. 1st presidential debate between Trump and Biden spirals into chaotic clash, Libby Cathey, Lauren Lantry,
    and Matt Zarrell, abc NEWS, 30 September 2020.
  3. Insults and interruptions mar first Trump-Biden debate, Jarrett Renshaw, Steve Holland, REUTERS,
    30 September 2020.
  4. Trump Derails 1st Presidential Debate With Biden, And 5 Other Takeaways, Domenico Montanaro, npr,
    30 September 2020.
  5. After That Biden/Trump Disaster, Some People Are Calling For an End to the Debates, Madison Feller, Yahoo Life, 30 September 2020.
  6. No More Debates? Following Tuesday’s Fiasco, Some Pundits Call For Just That., Dan Kennedy, WGBH NEWS, 30 September 2020.

  6 October 2020 {Article 440; Politics_60}    
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