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A Fresh Look at Tuesday Night’s Presidential Debate

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2020
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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28 Comments
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debateLike many of you who watched the first presidential debate between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, I came away scratching my head. I went to bed that night asking myself, “What did I just observe?” The event, which took place on September 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, descended into a hot mess. It has now been widely dubbed the worst presidential debate in history. The moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, selected six topics to be discussed. They included the Supreme Court, the coronavirus, the economy, race and violence in the cities and the integrity of the election. And guess what? Many of the millions of viewers who innocently tuned in became unknowingly manipulated. Keep reading to let me explain.

The first thing most people ask after a debate is who won. Unless a candidate shows up drunk or does something horrific or drastic, the real answer is it depends on who you ask. Opinions are usually divided along party lines. This is my take. On the one hand, Donald Trump was stronger than Joe Biden, yet, to some people came off as a threat or bully via his interruptions. Trump’s forthright debate style was no surprise as Trump is known for his vigor and strong opinions. On the other hand, Joe maintained his presence on stage while under scrutiny for his energy level and mental health. Biden held his own and fired criticism at Trump, calling him “the worst president America has ever had.” However, the name calling failed to deflect from Biden’s inability to directly answer Supreme court related questions about filibustering and packing the courts. Biden also distanced himself from Bernie Sanders’ socialist health plan and from the left-leaning Green New Deal, both of which he claims he does not support.

Hang in there, there is more to know. As the two candidates clashed at the podium and moderator Wallace struggled to ask questions and keep them on topic, the debate clearly left viewers feeling sorry for Wallace. It also made some people believe that the candidates were being immature. Shortly after the debate ended, viewers began moaning, “The moderator should have power to cut off their mics,” and “Poor Wallace; he is dealing with two out-of-control toddlers.” However, I’m explicitly telling you not to feel bad for Wallace because he knew exactly what he was doing, and some of you have been played.

A democrat at heart, Wallace achieved several things by intentionally letting the debate run wild.  His goals were to: 1) Create an interactive debate to get the candidates fired up to get more press and maintain viewership 2) Help Joe Biden to stick to his talking points (there were a few times Biden went astray) 3) Pose questions to Trump to make the President answer defensively (to make Trump look like a bully to undecided voters)  4) Openly scold the President in attempts to embarrass him. Guess what folks? Chris Wallace achieved all these things.

Wallace is not a newbie to broadcast journalism and he is not naive.  He came up with the questions and encouraged the candidates to follow the “ground rules” of the debate. And he and fully grasped that the debate style they used would encourage the candidates to argue, talk over one another, and push the direction of the debate into what the media labeled as a “Train Wreck.” However, Wallace clearly overlooked the fact that his inability to maintain control over the candidates would render him a weak and powerless moderator on the presidential stage, perhaps making him the biggest loser of the night to those who can see through his smokescreen.

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Kim
Kim
3 years ago

I don’t think there was any clear winner OR loser in this debate. That’s not really what I was looking for anyway.

In most debates, I expect to see clarification on important issues of the day. To those of us who have been following President Trump’s time in office, however, we’re already familiar with his stance. But, for those who have not yet decided how they will vote in November, the debate might not have cemented in their minds a concrete decision. Because of the format, the moderator, and the tone of the evening, the president was unable to speak of his accomplishments without getting a dismissive sigh or the word “clown” or “racist” being thrown his way. Too much attacking and grimacing instead of information, on both their parts, I must say.

Frankly, I felt it was a waste of time listening to Joe Biden, because he offered nothing of substance. He resorted to the obvious contrivance of pointing to the camera, speaking “directly” to the viewers, and spewing out yet again the fact that he “has a plan for that”. Well, tell us what it is, da^^it!

I admit that Biden performed better than I thought he would…but were those notes that he referred to several times? I know the candidates can write things down while they’re there, but did he prepare them ahead of time? Just askin’! And the format of the debate didn’t foster a lively one-on-one exchange before Wallace changed the subject. Yes…hot mess.

Biden: lack of clarity and facts, lack of energy, slow responses, insulting.
Trump: high energy, good preparation, a bit overbearing. Okay, he wins.

PaulE
PaulE
3 years ago

Thank you for the intelligent debate analysis. Yes, I agree. Chris Wallace picked the topics, wrote the questions in a manner most likely to create the conditions he wanted to achieve and orchestrated the overall debate to go exactly as he wanted it to go. I re-watched the debate, as painful as that was, and I generally agree with your observation of his methods and goals.

First and foremost Wallace, a liberal, life-long Democrat like his father Mike, wanted to ensure he could create the conditions most favorable to allowing Biden to NOT have to discuss details of any policies, because that is where Biden can no longer function. Even though, even in his prime, he was never that good with being able to covey details. So Wallace allowed Biden to speak in broad generalities and vague statements.

Wallace also wanted to make himself part of the debate, because as you say, he needs the ratings. Most people are finally catching on the FOX News is really not that much different from CNN and the rest of the MSM. Nor does the new management there want to be. They desire to be “part of the club”. So aside from the entertainment block that still runs in prime time, viewership is significantly down. So Wallace injected himself dozens of times to not only shield Biden from Trump’s correcting to Biden’s lies, but also to maximize his own face time. If you look at Wallace’s facial expressions, he is actually smiling at points and appeared to be enjoying himself. No doubt happy he was generally accomplishing his goals.

The way the debate was structured, if President Trump had adhered to the rules, he would have had little to no time to rebut much of what Biden was saying or the skewed line of questioning Wallace was throwing his way. I think Trump kind of figured that out after the first one or questions and said to himself that he wasn’t going to just stand there and let Wallace or Biden get away with it. So messy as the debate was, and it was messy, it was in a way a useful example of the lengths members of the MSM will go to not only protect the Democrat candidate, but also disadvantage the Republican.

Yeah, I know most people won’t agree and just wanted to see the usual scripted debate, where the moderator always sides with the Democrat and the Republican just largely stands there smiling as he or she is made to look like either a fool, incompetent or weak. If that is what people really want (how to lose with dignity) in a debate, then President Trump isn’t going to make them happy.

It will be interesting to see how the next debate goes. The last townhall type debate Trump did, the audience was stacked with a majority of Democrats and all the questions were written from the audience members to read beforehand. Still President Trump answered every single one of them in a direct and detailed manner. Any bets on whether this next townhall debate will be rigged the same way?

PaulE
PaulE
3 years ago

Sorry D.J., but my lengthy response to your excellent article just got flagged with the dreaded “awaiting approval”.

Jerry Thomas
Jerry Thomas
3 years ago

I know if felt like a train wreck to me as well, but after it was over the one thought that nagged at me was, why didn’t Chris Wallace stop it, why didn’t he take control? I noticed him smiling often like he was enjoying himself. In the article by D.J. Wilson he makes since of it all, what happened was exactly what Chris Wallace wanted to happen. Mr. Wallace orchestrated the event with his questions and his allowing V.P. Biden to make his points, then doing his best to make President Trump look like a bully when he tried to respond. In his statements Biden made comments calling Trump a “clown” and “Idiot” and the “worst president in US history”. Mr. Biden was allow to sidestep the hard questions, but Wallace bore down on Mr. Trump on the hard questions. The truth is President Trump has lead the US into it’s greatest economy in US history, he reduced spending from 13+ trillion under the Obama/Biden presidency to 4.5 trillion, reduced unemployment to all time lows and is on his way to reducing the cost of our countries biggest burden to our population, prescription drugs. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a Donald Trump economy with lower taxes and a lower cost of necessities, than a Joe Biden economy with trillions more in taxes. If that makes you call me stupid, I’m ok with that.
Jerry

Matthew
Matthew
3 years ago

Both candidates had made their views very clear before the debate. I only watched initially to be able to speak knowledgably about it to friends and neighbors. I quit watching after 15 minutes when Wallace’s bias became apparent. I still know who my vote is for. This election has become a vote for either good or evil, not for either candidate. God BLESS the USA?? No…God HELP the USA.

Duane
Duane
3 years ago

These are not debates. They are per-meditated controlled structured question and answer rant sessions. Wallace was a disgrace! Someone different should be moderator of the next debate, if there is one. President Trump exposed corrupt Biden as a fake and a FRAUD! Trump got Biden to come across as a lier. Biden wouldn’t denounce socialism but coddles to the far left socialist and the green new deal squad! Trump was trying to get it across that these people have taken over the traditional Democratic party and that a lot of democrat liberals today, do not want it. Biden would not denounce antifa/BLM either. Biden would not come clean on the corruption and profiting in the Ukraine. If Biden/Harris are elected, it will be a Harris/Biden Socialist Communist Presidency. They are NO moderates. Biden won’t make it a year in office. GET OUT AND VOTE!

Bud
Bud
3 years ago

ALL THREE DEBATES ARE MODERATED BY DEMOCRATS. WAKE UP AMERICA THE FIX IS IN! DEMOCRATS ARE LYING, CHEATING & STEALING THEIR WAY BACK TO POWER.

Ginger Lymbery
Ginger Lymbery
3 years ago

It is a shame the Trump not only has to beat the contender, Biden, he also has to beat the news (really non-news, fake news, communist news). The Democommunists have no plan for America. The only plan that they have is to win at all costs, whether is is voter fraud through mail in ballots, ballot harvesting, lying and cheating to try to maintain their power over us little people. They are heavily invested in the BLM and Antifa to create chaos…..read the communist handbook….this is exactly what Adolph Hitler did to win …. then all hell broke out. We need to remember history because if these communists win in November, America will be plunged into a civil war, because they will come after our guns, and the people are not going to stand still for that.

Rose Giuliani
Rose Giuliani
3 years ago

I don’t usually like to hear men argue and talk over one another. However, I quickly realized that the president is fighting for our republic. The lies that the former VP were spewing were just horrible and needed to be addressed immediately. The president does not get much help from the republicans in office, and he fought the way we elected him to fight.

Ed W
Ed W
3 years ago

If I heard correctly, during the debate Wallace did NOT qualify that Trump’s “good people on both sides” comment referred to folks for and against removing a confederate statue in Charlottesville VA. Not the white nationalists and antiFA.

M King
M King
3 years ago

I thought all the questions were asked in such a way to make President Trump look bad or have to defend himself. I also think that Wallace helped Biden answer difficult questions. Both candidates acted like children. Wallace has a lot to answer for!

Richard
Richard
3 years ago

When the POTUS is in 1 on 1 conference with enemy heads of foreign States such as the likes of Putin which of these two can handle it ?

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

Trump was asked slanted questions- example you have never offered a health plan to replace Obama care? Incorrect but has been done in stages that is to the benefit of Americans & appropriate give the political environment since his swearing in!
Biden consistently speaks in general terms & never says how he would do better! He stated Trump bad and not good, I can do better as will bring in everyone to solve issues or follow the experts?? What experts ? Trump has been following experts & even taken actions more aggressively than recommendations (ie; early restrictions on entry to USA from foreign countries that estimated saved thousands of lives;
Streamed drug approval process to get vaccines & treatments faster to aggressively respond to this pandemic!)
Biden criticism is general & his solution or alternative is non-existent!
Press including Wallace never challenging Biden on such vague response or weak solution.
Biden even days I not going to answer on court packing or judge selection as it will become the issue—tells you his choices if he really knows (or waiting for radical left to tell him) it is so far Left that is why become central issue.
So Biden reasoning is me good Trump bad…forget reasoning or thought ! Just emotional on style. The press is worthless – I thank god I was taught critical thinking.
I don’t need anyone to interpret what was said by either candidate!
Thanks

Jane marple
Jane marple
3 years ago

Interruptions and set-up questions pale in comparison to the visible wires in Biden’s chest and wrist and the iPad taken from Biden’s podium at the end of the debate.
Wallace was very specific- “the candidates” did not receive the questions beforehand. Trump should have asked “what about aides to the candidates? “

Trump was not on His A-game that night but he should now make public the video evidence of wiring .

Marie
Marie
3 years ago

I thought Trump was actually brilliant. For a man who had to debate two people and be the commentator he did really well. He got Biden very flustered, enough that he resorted to 3rd grade name calling, wiped Biden’s 47 year stupid grin off his face multiple times, and pinned him down to make him respond to tough questions, that Biden stumbled and ultimately did not give a coherent answer. Trump has my vote!

Sam
Sam
3 years ago

The sad fact is, as deep in ‘The Tank’ as Wallace is for the Democrats, these next 2 debates will be moderated by people even MORE biased than Wallace.

Gregory Barber
Gregory Barber
3 years ago

I was watching the way the two men handled themselves. President Trump was aggressive, confident, physically demonstrative of his opinions, did not get frustrated when the questions went unanswered, and was clearly making a point [no retort] when he spoke about “smart”.. Mr. Biden was able to make it to the end of the 90 minutes in spite of the hype, had a few barbs, avoided answering the most important questions, and clearly became flustered [“clown”, “shut up”]. President Trump talked to the person, Mr. Biden talked to the camera like a true, trained politician. I do not like President Trump’s manner, he really acts like he needs to be schooled, I would definitely not like to work for him, I could not keep up. I could work for Mr. Biden, it would not interfere with my afternoon nap. There is no doubt in my mind, to stand up for the office of the President and the US, Mr. Biden is a wuss and President Trump is the man for whom I will vote!

Patriot
Patriot
3 years ago

Chris Wallace is a hack who would be nowhere had his father not been Mike Wallace. All the questions asked of the President were of the, “when did you stop beating your wife?” variety. Shame on Fox News for participating in such a shameful set up.

Lee McQuillen
Lee McQuillen
3 years ago

I have no problem with President Trump acting the way he did. That’s the only way he could get beyond the MSM to get his points across to the MSM listening and reading public. Yes, the debate was a shambles. But, that’s Wallace’s failure and the failure of the MSM for the past years. Biden showed me nothing. He never really said anything at all. I don’t want a president who can’t stand up and fight the way Trump does. He fights for us!

Debby
Debby
3 years ago

I think the real question is: If we can see these things and the President has advisors as well as being a smart man, himself, why did he let himself get pulled into a dog fight like this? Why wasn’t he the bigger person and refuse to get pulled into a fight?

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