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What we “discovered” last night is that President Trump is unwilling to stop talking, and that he will pursue any rhetorical rabbit in his eagerness to engage a critic, even if it means throwing away an opportunity to make a significant point. He isn’t a debater, he’s a brawler.
But we already knew that.
What we “discovered” last night is that Vice President Biden will promise the moon while dodging any inconvenient question, secure in the knowledge that “I’m not going to answer that” is an acceptable response for a member of his party.
But we already knew that, too.
We already know that both men will say untrue things, that each has a history of saying untrue things, that they’re two varieties of the same species: Trump lies like a self-promoter, telling you all the great things he’s done; Biden lies like a politician, telling you all the great things he’ll do.
What no one discovered last night, because it was never brought up, is how the two men differ on the fundamental job of governing. That should have been the purpose of the debate, to help people who haven’t decided who they’ll support understand the differences between the kind of governance the two men bring to the country.
But that really wasn’t the purpose of the debate. Had that been the purpose, Mr. Wallace would have asked each man to answer the same questions, questions about how he thinks we should address specific challenges facing the nation. We have plenty of challenges, and in almost every instance the preferred approach of a Republican administration and a Democratic administration will be diametrically opposed. That’s important; that matters. That’s something people should know.
But, again, that wasn’t the purpose of the debate. The purpose of the debate was to generate heat. The format encouraged combativeness between the candidates; the questions encouraged defensiveness. Mr. Wallace’s job was to start a dog fight, and then to act like a man who doesn’t approve of dog fights. He pulled that off pretty well, and he’s probably happy with himself.
So the nation learned nothing last night. Instead, we got a demoralizing show of pettiness, rudeness, and evasion, a reinforcement of the mistaken idea that what matters is how these men behave at their worst, rather than their very different approaches to governance.
Well done, Mr. Wallace.
There are big differences between the Republican and Democratic approaches to governance. The President has demonstrated his approach: deregulation, Constitution-loving judges, an arms-length but apparently effective foreign policy, and a broadly pro-growth, pro-business domestic agenda.
In contrast, the Democrats seem focused on racial grievance, climate change fear, an end to capitalism, an apparently immortal narrative of Russian collusion, and an implacable hatred for the man who won in 2016. What do those things look like when you put them in power? It would have been nice if that had been a topic of conversation last night.Published in