Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Biden vs. Trump - The First Debate Shitshow
Live blogging the live bloggers.
But not really.

First 2020 Presidential Debate Preview
  Try to keep up. 
Welcome to the The First Presidential Debate of the 2020 General Election and the latest edition in the continuing saga of "Live Blogging the Live Bloggers blogging the Debates!"   The Dividist fondly recalls when he first conceived this series to cover the 2008 Republican debate and asked the question:

"There are plenty of live-bloggers covering the debate tonight, but who is covering the live bloggers? The Dividist rushes in where other, more sensible bloggers, fear to tread."
Problem being, this blog grew up in the heyday of political blogs which is roughly analogous to the Jurassic period of life on earth. In the social media era, blogs are considered a quaint throwback and not as immediate, entertaining, snarky, disingenuous, mean-spirited, polarizing, hateful, or a useful disinformation platform for amplifying Russian propaganda. For that we need Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Podcasts, Zoom, whatever. 

Nevertheless, we persist. We find it useful to frenetically attempt to track and post multiple sources as the debate proceeds real time. It helps extend our limited twitter-fueled attention span and pace our drinking during the long 90 minute debate. 

Historically we select a variety of bloggers from across the political spectrum and attempt to cut/paste their live blog insights. Really, no idea how this will work in the current frenetic, fractured, social media environment. We'll just pick a few favorites - Twitter is our platform of choice, so #NeverTrumpers like Tom Nichols and Rick Wilson should figure prominently, as well as polling sites, cable news, newspapers, and others TBD. 

Tonight's debate was organized by The Commission on Presidential Debates and will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wallace selected the topics for the debate: 
  • The Trump and Biden Records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and Violence in our Cities
  • The Integrity of the Election
We'll use these topics as an organizing structure for the responses we find that enlighten, inform, or otherwise amuse us. 

If past is prologue we will guess wrong about what to monitor and will be scrambling once things get started. Refresh your browsers for latest content once the debate is underway. Because of the derivative nature of this enterprise, I do run quite a bit behind the actual debate. Just setting expectations to lower the bar. Setting expectations is always important. Set your expectations very, very low. Here we go...

[UPDATE (10/01/20): We did not set our own expectations low enough. The thing about not being able to look away from a car wreck, is that you can't look away from a car wreck. The Dividist was unable to look away from the 90 minute car wreck as it unfolded. So, almost none of this post happened real-time, and there was no "live-blogging" to speak of. Most of this commentary was updated (and will continue to be updated) well after the debate.]


Washington Post: "In an interview before the first debate with Fox News Radio, Trump tried to lower expectations for his performance. He expressed concern that he would get tough questions by Wallace, a Fox News host who grilled the president in a TV interview in July: “It’ll be unfair, I have no doubt about it,” Trump said. “But he’ll be controlled by the radical left.” Wallace is not expected to fact-check the candidates live on stage, focusing instead on asking his questions and keeping the debate running smoothly. After downplaying Biden for weeks as an incoherent messenger, Trump said he thinks Biden will have the advantage in this debate because the vice president is more politically experienced: “No, I think I’m the one without experience, I’ve just been doing this for a few years, he’s been doing it for 47 years plus."

538"When asked how likely they were to vote for each candidate on a scale from 0 to 10, most respondents seemed very sure of their vote: The overwhelming majority gave one candidate a 10 and the other a 0. On average, Biden received a score of 5 out of 10, and Trump a score of 3.8, reflecting Biden’s lead in the polls."

Rick Wilson"Debate preparation is one of the ancient rituals of political campaigns, a necessary moment of rehearsal for a consequential inflection point. Imagine, if you will, a room full of rabid monkeys hurling their feces at high velocity.  Which is, of course, why the president spent part of his weekend and Monday tweeting about Joe Biden taking a drug test before the debate... Trump's attention span is notoriously short. We're talking sub-millisecond short. He flits from idea to idea like a springtime insect feeding on the waste pool outside the local meth factory."  

The Bulwark - Charlie Sykes: " Trump knows he is losing. So, no matter how well prepared Biden is, debating Trump will be like trying to conjugate Latin verbs in the midst of a hurricane of bullshit — insults, smears, lies, and shameless fabulism. Biden can’t possibly fact-check all of the disinformation or try to match Trump insult for insult."

The Trump and Biden Records

Alexandra Petri: "Andrews Jackson and Johnson are quivering somewhere at Biden's casually wiping them out of Worst President Ever contention."

Andrew Sullivan: "I’ve never seen Biden seem so old or so weak. He can’t land a strong blow. He’s being successfully heckled. I want to look away.... Trump is dominating. That’s the brutal truth. It’s painful. So far... This is excruciating in ways I didn’t even know I could be excruciated."

The Supreme Court

Tom Nichols: "Biden takes the supreme court question and goes right at the Obamacare issue; Says the nominee seems like a very nice person but she’s going to strike down the ACA"

WaPo - David Byler: "Wrote about this recently: the American public is on Biden's side on this one. Polls vary based on language, but it seems like the consensus is that Americans would prefer to wait until after the election. But Trump can get Barrett through the process, so he likely will."


Tom Nichols: "Biden just reciting the Trump record on coronavirus, and it’s just body blows over and over again. Joe Biden: “It is what it is, because you are who you are.”

WaPo - Megan McArdle: "Democrats have to stop trying to score political points by implying that Trump is going to set up an October Surprise with a vaccine announcement. If they tell their voters that vaccines overseen by the Trump administration are suspect, there's some chance they enter office in January with an already-approved vaccine--that their constituents won't take. This is simply too important to play political games with.(Obviously, that goes for Trump, too, but I've given up hoping he'll be responsible.)"

Evan Siegfried: “So far we’ve had no problem [Trump on Covid at his rallies].”Herman Cain unavailable for comment"

Amanda Carpenter: "This is our country on Trump. We are constantly assailed by belligerent bullshit from our Manbaby-in-Chief... As Biden said in exasperation to Trump, “Just shut up, man.” Let’s end this farce of a presidency. Let’s all shut up and vote."

The Economy

Tom Nichols: "Wallace directly asks how much Trump paid in taxes. Trump says millions of dollars. Trump now blaming Biden for passing a tax bill that lets guys like trump get away with tax evasion. This is crazy."

MarketWatch - Rob Schroeder: On the economy, Trump is reverting to his familiar line that he built the "greatest economy in history", only to have it affected by the coronavirus, which he calls the "China plague," in a nod to its origin in Wuhan, China.  He accuses Biden of wanting to shut the economy down Biden's retort is that Trump's economy has helped millionaires and billionaires, and that Trump thinks only about the stock market.

Race and Violence in our Cities

CNN: "The section ended with Trump flatly refusing to condemn White supremacy when asked to do so by Wallace and Biden. "Stand back and stand by," he said to the white supremacist militia group Proud Boys, in a moment reminiscent of his response to White supremacists' march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017." The commander in chief refused to condemn White supremacy on the global stage in front of my children, in front of everybody's families, and he was given the opportunity multiple times to condemn White supremacy and he gave a wink and a nod to a racist, Nazi, murderous organization," said Van Jones, the CNN political commentator."

Fox News - Brian Kilmeade: "Donald Trump blew the biggest layup in the history of debates by not condemning white supremacists," co-host Brian Kilmeade said, referring to the moment in which Trump refused to condemn white supremacists after being asked if he would be willing to do so by debate moderator Chris Wallace. "I don't know if he didn't hear it, but he's got to clarify that right away," Kilmeade added."

The Integrity of the Election

Gary Whitta: "Eugene Robinson with the great point that election integrity should not have been a section of this debate. It’s not a real issue, we’re only talking about it because Trump flooded the channel with shit to obfuscate and confuse. And this helped him continue to do that."

Charles Lane: "The president of the United States just said it's going to be "a rigged election." I just don't know what we are supposed to do with this. It is just bizarre and dangerous. And it is legally illiterate to expect the Supreme Court to evaluate the ballots."

Dana Bash net's it out.

The Bulwark - Biden Won the Debate. America Lost
"Most of all, Biden won because no person whose judgment isn’t warped by hate and fear could watch Trump and see a normal person they would want for a neighbor, coworker, or friend—let alone as a president to whom they would entrust with the future of their family or their country."
"Trump’s stooges will lie to him and tell him he won. His cult may be ecstatic as they celebrate his unhinged behavior, lying, lack of control and facial contortions. His Presidency is over. We will vote him out. He is crazy, paranoid and unfit. Trump is incoherent. He is a liar."
"I'm not sure why trying to fight the debate to a messy, unwatchable draw is supposed to be a good strategy for Trump when he's 7 points behind in the polls."
Former vice president Joe Biden, Democrat Grade: C
President Donald Trump, Republican Grade: F
"Biden had to do two things in this debate. First, he had to project that he could do the most stressful, complicated, and important job in the world. Second, he had to make sure that this debate didn’t change his significant lead over Trump. On the first point, Biden wasn’t able to instill confidence that he is up for the job. Some of this wasn’t his fault: Trump kept interrupting Biden so much that he couldn’t speak. But some of this was Biden’s fault. While he didn’t get rattled, the former vice president often struggled to find his own lines throughout the debate. He seemed tired and unsure what to do. He was not crisp."
"The first debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden was, for the most part, an unwatchable disaster. We should have more debates between these two men... Every time Biden and Trump speak, they undermine the rotting system that put them in front of the cameras, so they should be invited to speak, literally ad nauseum, until we can't take it anymore."
"Nobody wants Sleepy Joe as a leader, including the Radical Left (which he lost last night!). He disrespected Bernie, effectively calling him a loser!"
The oddest conclusion from Trump's blustering self-congratulation on his debate performance was the claim that Biden lost "the radical left" (above).  This nonsense was subsequently echoed by Trump supporters and proxies like Kelly Anne Conway. 
This makes no sense whatsoever. There is a clear path to electoral victory for the Democrats over Donald Trump. That path is only available to a center-left candidate like Joe Biden and closed to a far left candidate like Bernie Sanders. As we discussed in a post on the eve of Super Tuesday, :
"The difference between the 2012 and 2016 elections are six states and one congressional district - Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Maine’s 2nd district. That's it. That is the only path. To win the White House the Democratic Ticket must hold all of the 2016 Blue States and take back enough of the six states lost to Trump to win the Electoral College."
Minimally Sanders would lose Florida because of his comments on Castro, lose Pennsylvania due to his anti-fracking stance, and probably other Midwest states with his embrace of "Democratic Socialism". 

The Democratic Party wisely decided to make Joe Biden their nominee and consequently put all those states in play.  The decision is validated in current polls and by the Trumplican Party continuing to insist on running a campaign as if they are running against Sanders. They really wanted Sanders or Warren as opposition. The notion that Biden is under the sway of the "Radical Left" is laughable. Biden beat them in the primaries and none of their favorite high profile programs ("Green New Deal", "Medicare For All", "Defund the Police") made into his platform. 

Biden is leading in the national polls and the battleground states specifically because he separated himself from the "Radical Left". And - again - what are Trump and Company crowing about after the debate? That they separated Biden from the radical left. I don't get it. Biden should send them a thank you card. 

So - Who won? From my biased perspective, Trump looked like a raving lunatic and Biden looked like a President wondering why he was on a stage debating a raving lunatic. But, that's just my opinion. Lets see what the post debate polls show. These graphs from Real Clear Politics and PredictIt provide a pre-debate baseline. 

The polls have been remarkably stable for months. It's almost as if everyone has already made up their mind.
 In a week or so, we'll know if the debate gave anyone a reason to change their mind. The Dividist doubts it. 

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