Debate Debacles

Debacle. An ignominious failure; a fiasco. There’s no other way to describe the first presidential debate that occurred on September 29, 2020 between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I was so turned off by that fiasco that I was not anticipating watching the vice-presidential debate this evening. I was admittedly curious, but under no illusion that it would be compelling. So I’m typing this with the debate on as background noise. A more productive use of my time has been reading the fine book by Kate Andersen Brower, about President’s Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power.

In her chapter on Joe Biden, Ms. Brower notes that the former Vice-President had a significant stutter as a child. He never stopped working to get over his stutter, practicing speeches endlessly. Biden speechwriter Dylan Loewe, during Joe’s last two years in the White House, commented: “You never totally overcome a stutter. There were times when his stutter would appear in meetings.” Brower notes that on the way to a speaking event, even though he was going to read the speech on the teleprompter, Biden would look it over and do what he had done as a kid and divide the words into musical beats. “Almost like he was a guitarist about to to out and sing a new song,” Loewe recalled. “He wanted to make sure he had the rhythm right.”

What seemed obvious to me on September 29, which I have not seen discussed in the media, is that Donald Trump’s conduct was not predicated as much on mere “rudeness” or “bullying” as much as it was a calculated tact to unnerve Mr. Biden by throwing his practiced rhythm off. From that standpoint, the strategy worked. Putting the important matter of civility aside, viewers were left to decide what was fair game, since the so-called moderator of the debate looked more like a fake referee in a fake wrestling match.

The moderator of tonight’s debate is doing a bit better, but the clear solution is to give each candidate a specified and firm time limit to speak. It should be obvious that the antidote to the bluster in going over that allotted time limit is for the moderator to have a switch that cuts the microphone when the time limit is up. Beyond that, in the current milieu and with the technology available, the two candidates shouldn’t be in the same physical location. That would prevent the candidates from trying to talk over one another even when the microphones are cut off. You don’t want to play by those rules? Tough luck. In sports they call that a forfeit.

Beyond consideration of Vice-President Biden’s relationship with President Obama, Ms. Brower’s book provides interesting insight into the Trump/Pence relationship. Mike Pence’s selection as the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Trump ticket was far from an obvious one. Despite the fact that Trump was popular in Indiana, Governor Pence chose to endorse Senator Ted Cruz in the primary. Nevertheless, he praised Trump for giving voice to working men and women in the country. Brower writes: “Trump was fascinated by Pence – he’s assumed that Pence was just going to trash him and he was totally prepared for it – and Pence’s generosity left him dumbfounded … Pence was in the right place at the right time.” The title of her chapter on the relationship between the current President and Vice-President says it all: “Mike Pence’s Tightrope Act”.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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