Comments on the First Debate-From a Debater
By Larry Tracy, Colonel USA (Ret.)
I probably look at Presidential debates a bit differently than most. I spent the final 30 months of my Army career detailed to the State Department for the express purpose of debating the Reagan Central America policy at events throughout the country, primarily on college campuses. Of the well over 200 such events, at least three dozen were either participating on panels against three adversaries, or one-on-one debates. I know what it is like to face the potential of humiliation by being exposed as wrong by an opponent, or being caught flat-footed with an accusation for which I had no response. I thus have a degree of sympathy for the enormous pressure under which both President Trump and former Vice President Biden were under on Tuesday night.
The four words that framed my debate preparations were Anticipate, Attack, Counter-Attack and Pivot. I hope Trump’s prep team had brain stormed what attacks Biden was preparing, developed a counter attack that neutralized his point and then pivoted to an attack of their own. I’m not confident they did.
I have delayed making these comment to let my anger and frustration subside a bit. This anger has three primary targets:
First, the Trump campaign for its utterly stupid approach of lowering the standard by which Joe Biden would be held. He may be feeble, he may be suffering some mental decline. But ALL he has done for 47 years in Washington has been debating: In elections, in Senate floor debates, in Senate Hearings on the various Committees he served. Even if he no longer has a full tank, that 47 years of experience leaves him a lot of gallons of experience.
Second, against Trump himself for his apparent lack of structured “mock debate” preparation. His aides said he was better prepared than he was four years ago. I though he lost every debate to Hillary Clinton, and was also poorly prepared. On Tuesday, he obviously became frustrated at the conduct of both Chris Wallace and Joe Biden, resulting in his constant interruptions, but to many viewers he came across as rude, making Biden more sympathetic. Additionally, he used the old bromide of “fake news” about the New York Times article that he paid only $750 in federal income taxes in recent years. Trump said he paid millions. Surely there is a paper or electronic trail showing transfer of funds from Donald Trump the the US Treasurer. Why didn’t ’he show it? Everyone watching who has written a check to pay their taxes retains copy of that canceled check or credit card receipt.
Why did he fail to provide the available economic data to refute Biden’s “Booming Economy” lie? He could have shown various data points, such as unemployment in January 2017 compared to December 2019: emphasis on Black and Latino increased employment; Stock market gains (as reflected in 401Ks) in those years. In effect, point out the night-and-day differences between the end of Obama-Biden and the first two years of Trump-Pence. He might have added, with a smile, that the “booming economy” of the Trump years was halted by “Joe’s friends in China” Perhaps ending with the question “What do the Chinese have on you, Joe?
Third, at Chris Wallace. I thought his conduct was disgraceful, especially in allowing Biden to avoid answering the most important question of the night-did he support “Court packing” and elimination of the Senate filibuster? If Biden wins, and the Democrats capture the Senate, the United States becomes a one party dictatorship. Giving Statehood to the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico will make the GOP permanently impotent. I have lived in two dictatorships-Argentina and Bolivia-and minority parties have few options. Chris Wallace certainly realizes the consequences of eliminating the filibuster. But he allowed Biden to skate. Why? Because he wanted to move on the next subject?
One more criticism of Wallace. He asked Trump to criticize “White Supremacists”. Trump bungled the answer, and I cringed when he said the Proud Boys to “Stand by.” He should have said “Go home, you are just providing cover to the radical Biden supporters who are burning businesses.” Wallace should have also questioned Biden about misquoting the FBI Director on Antifa, and asked him if he was aware that the founders of Black Lives Matter proudly proclaim they are “Trained Marxists.”
Perhaps in the next debate, if there is one. I have heard that the moderator of the next debate was a Biden intern. If so, why did the Trump campaign agree to this person?
As was said in Alice in Wonderland, 2020 just gets “curiouser and curiouser.”