A self-important moderator held forth Wednesday night, yet despite her best efforts, an actual debate almost broke out.
“OMG! Your campaigns agreed to rules, and I’m here to enforce them. But there you go again, trying to finish responding to your opponent’s total falsehood. Who do you think you are: America’s second-ranking leader or something?”
“We have other important issues I want to make sure we have a chance to talk about. In particular, if we don’t plow through all my issues on my timeframe, we might miss my all-important last question from an eighth-grader about politicians being mean to each other!”
Crack USA Today reporter Susan Page needed to grow up and get over herself. Like umpires at ballgames who forget that fans don’t buy tickets to watch them officiate, she and other recent moderators are missing the point: Americans want to hear from men and women with tremendous power over their everyday lives, especially in the age of coronavirus and mega-government.
Further, note the comment that despite Ms. Page’s annoying insertions of herself into the proceedings, a debate almost broke out. The qualification being that, beyond eliminating incessant moderator interruptions, a real debate requires both participants actually to, well, debate.
Instead, one decided to engage in posturing, evasion, distortion, demagoguery, fantasy and outright prevarication. Just call Sen. Kamala Harris an “un-conscientious objector.”
Posturing: Insisting “I won’t be lectured” and “I’m speaking” – “women’s empowerment” set pieces certain to become the most quoted lines of the night. Smirking “I was part of those peaceful protests.” (Wait: is that up on Twitter yet?)
Evasion: Two debates in, we still don’t know the Democratic ticket’s position on “court packing.” Which, as Vice President Mike Pence deftly and dryly observed, means we do.
Distortion: 210,000 Americans wouldn’t have died if Donald Trump had only shared what he knew about coronavirus on Jan. 28. (Two days before the Centers for Disease Control confirmed person-to-person transmission, and weeks before CDC’s early-March insistence that “for most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”)
Demagoguery: Justice was not served in the Breonna Taylor case (a grand jury disagreed on the basis of actual facts laid out by an African-American state attorney general). George Floyd was “tortured and killed” (despite findings of lethal doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system). If you have a pre-existing condition, the Trump administration is “coming for you” (despite repeated commitments to preserve the relevant protections).
Fantasy: Climate change is causing Western wildfires and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, investing in renewable energy will create millions of jobs, and America will achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
And prevarication: Trump said coronavirus was a hoax and refused to condemn white supremacists (both thoroughly debunked by “fact-checker” sites). The president did nothing about alleged Russian bounties on servicepeople (the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has said he has not seen solid evidence of that). Trump lost the “trade war” with China and with it, 300,000 manufacturing jobs. The Trump tax cuts benefited the top 1% and corporations offshoring their businesses (the latter in particular the exact opposite of reality).
Yet the biggest problem with the entire affair was how both problems raised here intertwined: The moderator’s queries, actually assertions, fed into the non-debater’s quasi-narrative.
“Coronavirus is not under control,” and Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination seems to have been a “superspreader event” – unsupported contentions that set up and reinforced the “Trump’s fault” tirade.
The “latest economic report” (which one?) suggests “a rapid and robust recovery … isn’t happening” – buttressing Sen. Harris’ faulting of the administration for shutdown effects.
“(T)he scientific community has concluded that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and more deadly and have made hurricanes wetter, slower and more damaging.” Gee? Which side does that invented “conclusion” favor?
“We’ve seen strains with our traditional allies in NATO and elsewhere.” Which candidate exactly wants to continue kowtowing to “allies” who undermine and take advantage of America?
Judge Barrett’s confirmation would “cement the court’s conservative majority and make it likely open to more abortion restrictions.” And what in the record of appointing “conservative” justices in, say, the last seven decades supports that statement?
“President Trump says that he’s going to protect people with preexisting conditions, but he has not explained how he would do that.” Isn’t that exactly one side’s argument?
Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend “didn’t hear” police announce themselves (though a neighbor testified that they did). “(W)as justice done?” An underhand toss down the middle of the plate.
“President Trump has several times refused to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power after the election.” Really? Which “several times” and specifically how? What about Hillary Clinton urging Mr. Biden not to concede or Democratic gaming of election challenges that extended to supporting state secessions and military intervention?
In short, if you felt Wednesday’s “debate” was yet another case of overactive moderator-itis favoring a poser who was otherwise roundly trounced, rest assured you are not alone.
On second thought, considering the stakes, maybe you shouldn’t rest so assured.