Friday, June 28, 2024

The master debaters (not)

 I’m writing this as I’m watching the historic first presidential debate between a current and a former president.

Right out of the gate, I noticed that Biden’s voice was raspy and seemed like he was tired. Trump, on the other hand, was more energetic and a clear speaker.

Biden also did not present a good visual. He looked tired and often had his mouth slightly agape, although this may be because he couldn’t believe what he was hearing from the other podium.

Whatever the reason, for most viewers the bottom line will be that Trump looked and sounded better than Biden.

Going further, Biden had a few oratorical stumbles. I’m sure that you’ll be seeing the clips of these replayed. In context, however, he was mostly coherent with the exception of what seemed to me like a recurrence of his stuttering problem several times. As the debate went on, Biden did seem to warm up and got more energetic and feisty, but first impressions had already been made.

There won’t be talk about Biden being jacked up on drugs after the debate, but he really could have used a lozenge.

When it came to substance, it was a different story. A steady stream of falsehoods came from Donald Trump that will defy the efforts of an army of fact-checkers. To be fair, Biden did make misstatements as well. Every candidate does in the heat of battle, but I’m pretty sure that Trump was just making stuff up to a large extent. (If you’re interested in fact-checks, here are two from CNN and Politifact.)

As an example, Trump came out of the gate with two lies, that America was not at war during his presidency and that he presided over a historically strong economy. The facts are that America was at war in Afghanistan throughout his Administration though he did negotiate the Afghan withdrawal with the Taliban, and Trump’s economy was mediocre even before the pandemic. A big part of Trump’s economic woes can be traced directly to Trump’s tariff and trade wars.

And that’s the problem. Many people will hear Trump’s words and assume that they are the truth because of the law of primacy, which holds that people remember what they hear first. Put in different terms, as George Santayana said, “Repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it,” and, as Will Rogers pointed out, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”

Trump is a very convincing liar. He’s a con man from way back. A bull-shitter. Making a sales pitch is second nature to him.

Biden is not a salesman.

The downside for Trump, other than the blatant lies, was that he tended to ramble and avoid difficult questions like whether he would accept the election results even if he lost. That failure to answer is an answer in itself and that fact should deeply concern Americans.

I won’t lie. It was not a good night for Joe Biden. Going into the debate, he needed to project vibrance and clarity. He was lucid but sometimes unintelligible, coherent but not articulate. The clips of his stumbles will hurt. It may be superficial, but his weak voice and stumbles made him seem frail. Biden got in good jabs at Trump, but they won’t be remembered because they were hard to understand.

The weird thing is that at the post-debate party, Biden sounded more energetic and the raspiness was gone from his voice. If he had presented this image during the debate, the night might have ended on a very different note.

On substance, especially if one screens out Trump’s lies, Biden did better, even as I disagreed with a lot of his policy positions. (I can say the same about Trump’s policies. His economic plans are a recipe for disaster.) He refuted a great many of Trump’s false statements, but the question was whether anyone was listening, and if they were listening, whether they could understand him.

The bottom line is that America is in trouble. Not the way Trump says when he paints a picture of the economy in shambles and Biden as a tyrant. Neither is true despite Trump hammering away at the talking points.

We’re in trouble because the reality is that neither one of these guys should be president. Joe Biden is an old man who should be enjoying his twilight years, and Donald Trump is an old man who is corrupt, incompetent, and vengeful. It was a depressing night.

As the post-debate shows play on, there is talk about possibly replacing Biden. A lot of it from Democrats. At this point, it is difficult to see how Biden can overcome his debate performance, except…

Not too many undecided voters were probably watching the June debate, much earlier than previous debates, and he’s running against a very unlikeable, incompetent, and radical opponent.

Joe Biden’s hoarse voice does not make Donald Trump honest or trustworthy.

I think the reaction of most Americans will be similar to the meme below that was posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Photo credit: Twitter screenshot

Biden did not inspire confidence. Trump inspires fear, such fear that dozens of his former aides and cabinet members have warned against re-electing him.

That may be a silver lining for Biden. The snap reaction of a lot of many viewers seems to be that while Biden looked old, Trump scored poorly on the issues. There is some speculation that even though Biden did not do himself any favors, Trump may not capitalize because of his weakness on substance. The polls in the coming weeks will tell the tale, but the bottom line is that it isn’t Republicans who are talking about replacing their candidate (although they definitely should).

Are these two really the best we can do? The answer is pretty obviously no, but what are we going to do about it?

Barring a miracle or the Sweet Meteor of Death, one of the two will be inaugurated president next January. Donald Trump is too dangerous to be allowed to return to power, and if Joe Biden can’t make that case effectively to the American people, Democrats need to find someone who can.

The ball is in Biden’s court. He needs to show the country that he can handle another four years. And time is running out to do so.

From the Racket News

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