WTF Did I Just Watch? Key Moments of First Presidential Debate

THE BUCKING BRONCO 

    A common phrase applied tonight was “the bucking bronco” in reference to the President’s forcefulness during the debate. The President seemed to be pushing hard and was difficult to corral. The phrase was duly apt because Biden appeared to be holding onto the raucous debate for dear-life.

    The key take away from the entire bucking bronco ride of the night was that Biden held on, he did not appear to lose his grip and Trump showed a strong display of energy paired with a considerable amount of obvious preparation.

THE INCUMBENT PRESIDENTIAL CURSE

Historically, incumbent presidents do terribly in their first debates. Gerald Ford referred to the Eastern Bloc as if it was autonomous from the Soviet Union. Carter was walloped by Reagan’s famous “there you go again” expression. Reagan appeared muddled and confused in his first debate in 1984. Even Obama- known for charisma and an articulate speaking style was trounced by Romney- appearing cold, choppy and detached in the first debate of 2020.

    Tonight, President Trump seemed to break the incumbent president curse. Whether you feel like he won or lost the debate- it does feel that he managed to hit more of his marks than prior incumbent presidents. 

SO WHAT HAPPENED TONIGHT?

The President did not preform perfectly. The President may have risked antagonizing some voters by interrupting Vice President Biden on numerous occasions. 

Vice President Biden often seemed to lose his footing and his gafs (while there were a few) were small.

A memorable question from this evenings debate will be- what did Biden mean by “I am the Democratic Party”. Biden seemed to take several unexpected moves tonight with economic and energy policy. The former Vice President contradicted the extremely energetic progressive wing of his party. This was odd. Lately, many feel (and polls confirm) that Biden was been struggling to reassure the Bernie Sanders-esque progressive wing of the Democrat Party. Vice President has spent a great deal of time courting the vote of the progressive wing- however, in this debate he appeared to make a greater reach for the (often more conservative) white working class wing of the party that has largely defected to the President since 2016. This duality was interesting. Will Biden be able to maintain two totally opposing wings of the same Party?

The President seemed to hit his key marks. His approach may have been abrasive but the core constituencies he needed to target tonight seemed to be hit on the bulls-eye. The President was articulate and direct on topics relating to Law Enforcement and Biden’s 47 year record. These were his strongest moments. The President made a serious gamble when he asked Biden to name a single law enforcement organization that supported the Biden Campaign over the Trump Campaign. The question for the President tonight will be- will his style distract from his message?

Biden was able to change the messaging of his campaign in a way that will turn out to be a fascinating gamble- Trump was able to speak to exactly the people pollster’s agree needed to hear him.

BIDEN HOTTEST MOMENTS

  • “(Trump) wants to talk about my family because he doesn’t want to talk about your family”. This was a marvelous way to move the topic on to something more favorable. This showed a bit of Biden that has been lacking in the campaign recently. It showed Biden was either sharp on camera or well prepared for this vulnerability.
  • Biden had his most articulate moment on the 2 minute answer to the question about race. This was a moment when Biden spoke best to black and progressive base he has tried extremely hard to reach. Conceivably, this was a clever and shrewd way to thread the political needle. This statement provided perfect material to still reach out to the progressive base without alienating the white working class base while also potentially energizing the sought-after black voter base.

TRUMP’S HOTTEST MOMENTS

  • As a guest, the President invited Alice Marie Johnson (the first black woman to be released from jail under his crime reform enactments) as his guest
  • “Joe Biden let 318,000 people die when he failed to provide healthcare to our veterans” The President sharply retorted about the failures of the VA while Biden was Vice President during a attack launched by Biden referring to the amount of corona virus deaths
  • Trump hit his stride on a monologue about Law & Order. The President mentioned multiple police unions who had endorsed him- including his endorsement (announced today) by the Sheriff of Portland

DID KELLYANNE CONWAY SAY: Riots help his (Trump’s) Cause”

  • She did- but out of context her meaning was lost on most of the audience. Counselor Conway has referring to the commonly held idea by many political pundits that (during the time the Biden campaign was slow to respond to the recent riots) every Democrat controlled city that burned would create another Trump voter.

TRUMP’S WEAKEST MOMENT

  • When asked if Trump would condemn White Supremacist’s he interrupted the moderator’s question to answer in the affirmative. He then used the time allotted to spin an attack on AntiFa. Some viewers may have been left with the impression this was not forceful in the way it should have been.

BIDEN’S WEAKEST MOMENT

  • Biden said mayors and governors would handle the riots if Trump would stay out of their way. This is not completely true legally speaking. The President can not intervene with National Guard deployment unless he is invited by state officials. This is the result of the Possee Commitatus Act passed after the civil war which severely limits the President’s ability to intervene in state affairs.
  • Biden said he does not support the Green New Deal. This statement contravened the idea that the Vice President would be willing to deliver items on the Progressive wing of the parties wish list- like part (if not all) of the green new deal. Progressive wing is where the energy of party is.

WAS HUNTER BIDEN DISCHARGED FOR COCAINE USE?

  • Against a sharp attack from Trump, Biden denied that his son Hunter had been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces for cocaine use. This attack was mostly true. Hunter Biden was discharged in 2014 from the Navy after failing a drug test that detected cocaine in his urine. Hunter was not technically dishonorably discharged. The term used was “Administrative discharge”. Administrative discharge is a vague military term that can include honorable, dishonorable and other sorts of discharge.

SO WHAT DID TRUMP DO ON HEALTHCARE- IS IT FIXED OR NOT?

  • This is stupidly hard to answer
  • President Trump is correct when he says the individual mandate (a big part of Obamacare) that required every person to buy medical insurance or pay a substantial fine was repealed. This was a major healthcare reform.
  • When Trump claimed that drug prices will fall 80-90%, that remains to be seen
  • Part of the NAFTA replacement deal (USMCA) deals with importing cheaper generic drugs into the US from Canada. However, the exact cost savings can not be predicted accurately until the treaty begins to take effect next year

WHAT WAS THAT THING ABOUT BIDEN NOT PREPARING US FOR CORONA VIRUS?

  • This is a really long story but the gist of it is this: after 9/11 President Bush ordered the stockpiling of ventilators and masks (among other medical supplies). Many of these stockpiles were used during the Corona Virus pandemic. 
  • While the stockpiles were originally scheduled to be increased in size while Biden was VP, these plans were eventually scrapped during the Obama years.

WHY DOES BIDEN KEEP EMPHASIZING “BUYING AMERICAN” WITH GOVERNMENT $?

  • It is funny to watch this topic come up again. In 2010, when Biden was Vice President, the Stimulus Package had a huge point of controversy- the “Buy American” clause. Congress and the presidency were conflicted over whether to require stimulus money to only be used on American products. Some argued that the stimulus should only help American companies while other’s argued the clause could provoke a trade war by excluding Chinese companies. Biden appears to be to proactively staving off another controversy by making clear his intent with his proposed stimulus bill.

WEIRD MOMENTS

  • Trump and Biden showed up generally in the same tie with reversed patterns
  • Biden told the President to “Shut Up”
  • Trump taunted Biden use of “the biggest mask you’ve ever seen- even when ‘Biden is 200 feet away from people”
  • Biden: “I beat Bernie Sanders”/ Trump: “Not by much”

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