Live Blog: Presidential Primary Debate #1 in Cleveland, OH.

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Time: 9:00PM-10:30PM Eastern Time (with no commercial breaks)

Place: Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion, part of a joint health campus between Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic

Host: Fox

Moderator: Chris Wallace, Fox News.

Candidate line-up:

Donald Trump (President of the United States)
Joe Biden (former Vice President of the United States)

Topics, fifteen minutes each:

The topics for the debate are “The Trump and Biden Records,” “The Supreme Court,” “Covid-19,” “The Economy,” “Race and Violence in our Cities” and “The Integrity of the Election,” according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

How to watch:

The debate [will be] aired on all major US networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC. It will be played on CNN and MSNBC, as well as Amazon Fire, Android, Roku, and Apple TV services.

The debate will also be streamed on C-SPAN (and a million other places).

Drinking Game: Here.

* * *

There’s a ton of breathless commentary out there, but I think this debate, to an unusual degree, comes down to the two candidates themselves, as people (and not to platforms, policies, records, or even tactics). Will Biden slip a cog? An hour-and-a-half standing will be a long time for him. Biden did well in his one-on-one with Sanders, for sure, but Sanders wasn’t trying to land any punches. Trump, in contrast, is a brawler. But did he train hard enough for the match? I would say that if Biden avoids being knocked out, he wins. On the other hand, Trump has form. Over and over again, we have seen him, Houdini-like, escape from impossible situations stronger than before. For me, the most amazing outcome I can imagine would be Trump successfully showing one single sign that he’s a vulnerable human. He would turn himself from a heel into a face!

That said, Cleveland seems a little sketchy just now, from what I see on the Twitter. The National Guard is out:

Business are being boarded up:

There are free speech zones, with the following items prohibited:

What, no grappling hooks?

On the brighter side, Terminal Tower is lit:

Though I’m not sure “Terminal” means what the Biden campaign thinks it means.

* * *

As usual, this post does not update; readers may track the debate in real time in comments.

Please keep your comments as informative and analytical as possible. Write for the reader who hasn’t seen the debate, and comes to this site in lieu of watching it on TV. There are no points at NC for knee-jerk, context-free one-liners (“Boo ____!” or “Yay!”) that only those who are also watching can make sense of; that’s for Facebook or Reddit.

I think it adds more value if you take a moment, use your critical thinking skills, then comment, and readers can discuss what you say. That way, those who cannot watch the debate — or can’t stand to do so — can get a good idea of what really happened by reading what you write after the fact. This is what the NC commentariat is so very good at, after all. Last time, the times before that, and this time. Thank you!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Wukchumni

    For me, the most amazing outcome I can imagine would be Trump successfully showing one single sign that he’s a vulnerable human. He would turn himself from a heel into a face!

    Empathy is on the same page as empty in the dictionary, expect the latter not the former from fearless leader.

  2. edmondo

    Gee, I’d love to watch but there’s a re-run of “The Big Bang Theory” on at the same time and that’s a helluva more interesting than watching Sonny and Fredo argue over who should be the head of the Corleone Family.

    1. Morgan Everett

      So Trump is Sonny, and Biden is Fredo in this scenario right? I can imagine Biden saying “I’m smart!” in an aggrieved tone.

  3. Wukchumni

    Humbly report sir,

    Do we go by the Marquess of Queensberry rules in this bout or the Marquess of Queens rules?

  4. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Do we know yet whether earpieces will be permitted? Presumably Biden will have Barack on the line and Trump of course would have Vlad

  5. Nicholas

    I’d rather have a bottle in front of me,
    than a frontal lobotomy.
    I’ll pass on the debate for fear of losing brain cells and anger management.

  6. Wukchumni

    I’ve been prepping for the debate rearranging cans of soup in a cupboard, with a ‘is it food or is it a weapon’ wonder, and would tomato soup be the coolest kind with that ersatz blood within.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Would you believe that we have this debate showing right now on the TV in Oz? I read that both candidates will have their ears checked for devices when Biden’s handlers realized that somebody might use a metal detector first. No word if either candidate will have to pee into a dixie cup beforehand. My wife just remarked that whenever she sees Trump, that it looks like he needs two bolts sticking out the sides of his neck.

    1. edmondo

      Staying away from Trump might be wise too.

      “More than 22,000 people have died. How many have survived?” says Uncle Joe.

      The Inaugural Address is going to be awesome.

  8. anon in so cal

    Ah, yes, Romney Care…. forced people to purchase a product from a health insurance corporation…..

    1. Alex Cox

      He did. And the interlocutor said “I am the moderator in this debate.” Trump is rolling over them both. But they’re only 12 minutes in…

  9. Mason

    Two hours of two men trying to interrupt each other… this will be awful.

    This is going to hell really fast.

      1. DonCoyote

        Fortunately only scheduled 90 minutes IIRC.

        I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy…and then a bottle in front of me.

  10. Lambert Strether Post author

    Trump deploys socialism.

    “They’re gonna dominate you, Joe, you know that.”

    Joe deploys Covid deaths and pre-existing conditions (the right talking points, wrong detail).

    Holy cow, Trump just beat Biden back on Roe v. Wade (interrupting hem)..

    Trump: “I guess I’m debating you not him, but that’s OK, I expect it.”

  11. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    First question in the first debate is the Supreme Court? And LOL, Trump already having to debate the “moderator”

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      No, no, no, you know the joke . . . it’s a plane crash.

      Right on the duopoly border, of course, with 30% of the passengers wearing red and 30% blue. (The other 40% know enough not to let either side pick their clothes — but nobody pays any attention to them.)

      But the big 64-electoral-vote question is: where do they bury the survivors?

    1. marym

      No, his plan has at least 4 ways people can get the public option (because our “system” isn’t already a sufficiently fragmented bureaucratic nightmare).

  12. ChiGal in Carolina

    Chris Wallace pleading with Trump: I’m the moderator, you’re not here to debate me!

    If Biden can keep his cool, Trump will sink himself. But he definitely looks feeble compared to Trump and if he lets himself get sucked into quibbling there will be nothing presidential about either of them.

    1. petal

      A year ago at his town hall, he said it would be an option for people who didn’t have an employer-based health insurance plan. There was nothing said about people being automatically enrolled.

  13. ObjectiveFunction

    Yup, just as I thought, Trump has thrown away the rulebook and is relentlessly shoving Joe off script.

    1. mtnwoman

      Actually, best line of Biden “will you shut up man”. So appropriate. Trump won’t shut up and is running over Biden, moderator.

      1. Mason

        Trump is insufferable right now. See, there’s 60 minutes left and Chris is getting tired of Trump already. I hear so many sighs of frustration.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Trump is insufferable right now

          He is. I keep asking myself who has the better understanding of what America is really about….

          (I don’t think sighs of frustration are very effective.)

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              America is also the people you hope will give in to you, you, you and get tired of your tantrum and let you not wear the mask.

              1. Clive

                Same in the U.K. (I’m just waking up to this, imagine watching the rerun on CNN at half past seven in the morning without having had a sip of coffee… anyhow), yes, an awful lot of

                “I’m so sick of hearing people shouting out their endless I want I want I wants when all I want is for them all to just STFU and do what I tell them to do…”

                A scourge on our societies.

    2. Krystyn Podgajski

      I cannot disagree with that more. Biden did much better than I expected. I was with someone who knows nothing about politics and she said “Good!” when Biden said that.

      Don’t look at this debate as we see it.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        I hope you are right! I am now watching the liberal outrage factory that is CNN and they are saying Trump overegged the pudding. Was way angry and aggressive in a way that is not surprising but that won’t stand him in good stead.

  14. Lambert Strether Post author

    This is the manifesto Trump was referring to. Phil Gramm in the WSJThe Biden-Sanders Manifesto:

    The Biden-Sanders “Unity” manifesto envisions the socialism of an all-encompassing welfare state, with virtually every need a right, and every right guaranteed by taxpayer funding. Housing becomes a right, and “no one should have to pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing.” Public colleges will be “tuition-free” for “roughly 80 percent of the American people.” Student loans are expunged, payments are capped and eventually forgiven. School lunches, along with breakfast and supper, will be universally free.

    On health care, Mr. Biden bought Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for All” scheme—though on an installment plan. First health care becomes a right where “no one pays more than 8.5 percent of their income.” Mr. Biden’s planned public option is heavily subsidized, with no deductibles and low copayments. Like current Medicare, this “Medicare option” would further inflate the cost of private plans by making them pay more to compensate for government’s underpayment to hospitals and doctors. The inevitable result would be that the Medicare option would quickly “compete” private plans out of business.

    If you buy the public option hype…

  15. Lambert Strether Post author

    Biden on script here, on Covid (literally so).

    Biden: “It is what is is because you are who you are.”

    Biden much better on what Trump did and did not do, than what his plan does.

  16. ObjectiveFunction

    Joe is actually reciting his talking points pretty well. 47 years of practice I guess. Where can I get one of those giant shots?

  17. Henry Moon Pie

    Listening to the debate sound off:

    Who negotiated this for the Ds? Using that split screen the entire time is a great gift to Trump. He looks 10 years younger than Biden, more vigorous, more powerful. Biden’s stutters are obvious even with the sound off, and he looks quite old and weak.

    If I were the Ds, whatever I paid the media consultants and negotiators, I’d want my money back.

    1. deplorado

      On CSPAN, Trump’s half screen has a greenish tinge, like behind an algae covered plexiglass, makes him look jaundiced. Biden’s half looks crisp and fresh.
      Tinfoil – I don’t think this is incidental.

    2. Krystyn Podgajski

      Sorry, I am not seeing that at all. More vigorous? Maybe all that speed he takes is what makes him not able to shut up. I do not thing Trumps behavior is going to go over well in Middle America.

  18. Wukchumni

    Just the worst spectacle of what are thought of as out of over 300 million of us, these two we decided should lead us.

    What has become of us?

  19. mtnwoman

    Trump won’t shut up. He needs his mic cut off when the moderator or Biden speak if he can’t shut his mouth.

    1. Foy

      Yep if I was the moderator I would have told them I’m cutting the mics during the 2 minute talks allocated to each debater. Should have happened already. Probably wouldn’t stop Trump though, he’s trying to knock Biden off his thought tracks, wouldn’t matter if the audience couldn’t hear him

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        These networks refuse to have that mike-cuttoff-feature on purpose. They have long since decided that the principals shouting over eachother makes for better TV and better ratings.

        There may be people here who remember how Tweety deliberately encouraged that kind of constant cross-interrupting with every mike always on.

      1. mtnwoman

        I’d refuse to debate again if the moderator doesn’t control Trump’s mic because he refused to follow the rules. No surprise.

      1. chuck roast

        This is a great idea. Maybe they off each other…but then it would be Pence and Harris. Aaaarrrrrggghhhh…save a bullet for me.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Because that would mean no more Free Trade for the International Free Trade Conspiracy which rules the rest of the world as well as ruling the US.

  20. cocomaan

    Debate format is awful. The construct of two minute answers is a horrific way to deal with incredibly complex issues.

    The media is truly awful.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      On purpose. It is their role in the wider Operation Dummdown which has been going on ever since the two Brand Name parties decided to evict the League of Women Voters from its role in holding televised political debates.

  21. petal

    My well-off liberal friends on fb are having meltdowns and are very depressed, saying how awful it is, they’re disgusted, can’t watch it any longer, etc.

      1. petal

        I find it amusing the completely out of touch brunch set are having a sad/fit. I giggle and scroll on. Plus, it’s good for perspective.

  22. Glen

    I will vote for the guy that throw’s the first punch.

    Is that too much? Yeah, I guess, I’ll vote Green instead…

    1. ChrisAtRU

      What a trainwreck!

      Next debate the candidates should be in soundproof chambers that allow the moderator to mute their mics … LOL

    2. Krystyn Podgajski

      That is like telling someone they are a horrible parent when their kid has Autism.

      I felt bad for Wallace.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        no, he is supposed to be a professional and should have expected this. mics on one at a time. with an autistic kid you have to structure the environment to accommodate them.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I doubt Mr. Wallace had any say in that sort of thing. All mikes always on has been a cornerstone of High Drama Shouting Heads TV.

  23. W.C. Miller

    Biden is totally lost for words. He looks pathetic. How in hell is this the one man standing between Trump and four more years? What an indictment of his party and his country.

    Hope it gets better. But jeez.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Of his country? No. Only of his Party. America had/has better. The Dem Party conspired to keep that better off the ballot.

      1. km

        Even if Team D had let Sanders win, you can bet your bottom dollar that neither Team D nor the federal bureaucracy would let him govern.

  24. ChiGal in Carolina

    The Matt Taibbi live blog is fun to watch and see their reactions but they are for some reason way behind on what they are showing.

    “It’s not like Trump is making more sense than Biden but he’s dominating. He’s setting the rhythm and the moderator can’t control him.”

      1. mtnwoman

        With this wimpy moderation, do you think there is anyone whom Trump would NOT dominate. He’s just being his asshole aggressive, bully self.
        Who would not look dominated by this constant interjection by Trump?

      2. Pavel

        Biden looking (as often joked) like the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. Not sure this is working out well for him. And we are only 30 minutes in.

      3. ChiGal in Carolina

        and all so predictable. I am amazed Chris Wallace wasn’t prepared for this. Almost as bad as Jim Lehrer moderating Obama and Romney.

      4. Krystyn Podgajski

        I do not want a president who is dominating. That is what dictators do. I want a humble invisible president.

  25. Darius

    Trump continuing to cast doubt on masking. Now saying no one was hurt. Biden missed the chance to mention Herman Cain.

          1. ChrisAtRU

            … and bad debate prep! Was there any?! Or did Symone D. Sanders just tell Joe to go out there and “act like a leader”, because that was basically her assessment of Joe’s performance.

    1. anon in so cal

      On Feb. 29, Obamacare designer and Biden health advisor Dr. Zeke Emanuel told CNN:

      “running out and getting a mask is not going to help”

      Biden held rallies until March 9

      1. Darius

        I’m not a Zeke Emanuel fan, but they all were repeating this “noble lie” out of mistaken belief it would prevent hoarding of masks needed by healthcare professionals. They changed their tune in April. This has been well-reported. I’m sure most of the readers of this site are very familiar with this history.

        1. Ralph

          Like how toilet paper was “hoarded?” Given Norad and NorthCom were activated you can be sure there’s plenty of stockpile of PPE, just not enough to fight two regional wars simultaneously while maintaining BCN posture. Might want to look at federal outlays military posture and civil defense readiness before faithfully buying socioeconomic explanations from flacks and charlatans.

        2. Ralph

          Nice to see some social darwinists playing machiavellian censor. I thought Yves and you had accepted a payout about a year and a half ago. Ralph Walter Reed

        3. ChiGal in Carolina

          Agree. And after watching that shitshow I don’t have the brainpower to parse what Ralph is talking about.

      1. Riverboat Grambler

        …Then don’t let them in the audience. Pretty nuts that they’re not enforcing that, even if the state doesn’t have a mandate. The POTUS is in the room after all.

        I suppose the Trumpers would just take them off as soon as they sat down. It’s like dealing with kindergartners.

        1. Savedbyirony

          Ohio does have a public mask mandate. They should have had to wear masks.The governor, who is co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Ohio, is going to be slammed with question over this disgusting “debate” Thursday during his public COVID briefing. I would love to know what Dewine, who is a shrewd talking gentlemanly behaved old political pro, really thinks of Trump and his leadership. Dewine is vary adept at dodging questions over apparent disagreements between the Pres. and Ohio’s approach to dealing with the pandemic. Dewine usually refers to Pence when he speaks of interacting with the White House.

  26. Wukchumni

    It’s an approximation of what a dominatrix does to her client, who almost looks like a corpse compared to the pompadour’d Don with fake tan.

      1. hunkerdown

        People in the Leather lifestyle tend to distinguish between tops/bottoms, where the power dynamics are usually constrained to the time and place of the encounter, and dom(me)s/subs, who exercise asymmetrical power relations within a longer-term, more encompassing relationship. The difference is very similar to that of casual vs. serious romantic relationships.

        Financial domination is a surprisingly popular flavor of professional domination, mixing “sugar” with leather, so to speak.

  27. ObjectiveFunction

    Forgetting content, Biden did well talking directly to the viewers at home. The ‘are you better off than you were 4 years ago?’ tactic

    Trump in contrast looks grumpy and shifty, talking past both the moderator and Joe. Starts to look defensive.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Biden did well talking directly to the viewers at home

      I think the two minute format works really well for Biden. He can deploy scripts effectively (which is why Trump interrupts him).

      > Trump in contrast looks grumpy and shifty, talking past both the moderator and Joe

      I imagine there will be a moral panic about Trump interrupting, but I think it works for him.

      1. Clive

        This must be a US thing. In the U.K. debates, the talking to camera is when we nip out to make a cup of tea while waiting for the real slanging match to start. Or chat amongst ourselves asking where Jeremy Corbyn got his suit and tie combo from because he certainly didn’t pick it out himself (not listening to a single thing anyone says, in other words). I certainly tuned out every time Biden did his mugging to the lens and faux schmaltzy “sincerity” or it was Trump hectoring me sitting on my own couch.

        Maybe in the US you don’t do that as it’s disrespectful?

  28. Punxsutawney

    This would be hilarious if this was about who gets to lead the local Rotary Club. But this is about representing and leading the people of this country and both candidates are awful.

  29. anon in so cal

    Biden avoided paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on $10 million in income in 2017

    He used S-corporations, CelticCapri and Giacoppa.

    The S-corps reported another $3.2 million in income in 2018.

  30. o4amuse

    This blog isn’t refreshing for me, but my wife just emerged from the bathroom with her Ipod ( she was trying to watch the debate without me so I wouldn’t say snippy things about the candidate she feels she has to vote for) saying ok, its over. She has changed her TV to something else. Biden really is that bad. Not to mention the Fox moderator. She’ll still vote for Biden, and in our state (Oregon) it won’t matter because he’ll probably win anyway.

      1. Ralph

        Depends on whose making that call, one supposes. Like where you got you phd doesn’t really give one some sabremetrics of the exec. huh?

      2. Big Tap

        Got to go with Andrew Johnson as the worse. His actions destroyed race relations and upheld white supremacy for over 100 years after. He intentionally destroyed or tried to gut any meaningful Reconstruction actions. Johnson allowed white Southerners to go back as U.S. citizens taking a meaningless oath. Anything done by Congress was only achieved by overriding his constant vetoes. He hated African-Americans and didn’t hide it.

        James Buchanan was president during a tumultuous period in history. Not sure by 1857 anyone could have prevented the impending U,S. Civil War. He followed a terrible president Franklin Pierce who started regional conflict with the Kansas-Nebraska Act which led to much violence. Like Buchanan, Pierce was a Northerner with Southern sympathies. Buchanan did support the Dred Scott decision which he thought would resolve sectional problems but did the opposite. I make James Buchanan the 2nd worse president.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I would agree. We will never know for sure what Lincoln would have done. But we can suspect that Lincoln would have overseen the deplantationazification of the South and the division of all that land between the already-living-there poor white and poor black Southerners.
          No carpetbaggers and no legacy-poverty on the land.

      3. BlakeFelix

        Buchanan gets a bum rap in my opinion. Kind of like Hoover, where the person that followed them solved the crisis so is called great, but they get blamed for not seizing power and going on a dubiously legal killing spree. Not that Hoover and Buchanan didn’t make mistakes, but they didn’t have crystal balls either. Or Keynes theory of macroeconomics, even.


        I think Reagan was worst, for leading usa into full neoliberalism while declaring it was morning in America. The aftereffects of Buchanan was everyone knew there was going to be a war and what the real underlying issue was. The aftereffects of Reagan was that almost no one anticipated a war until now, and the majority of people still don’t have a clue about the underlying issue.

    1. John Wright

      I’ll defend Harding for the net harm he didn’t do.

      Harding pardoned Socialist Eugene Debs, something Woodrow Wilson would not do.

      If we can’t have a US president that will do right by the people and the world, having one who does not do much harm is acceptable to me.

      Harding was well aware of his limitations and admitted he was not qualified for the job.

      The quotes below are from

      “Harding, a small-town Ohio newspaper publisher, was uniquely unsuited for the job of president – and he knew it. “I am not fit for this office and never should have been here,”

      While he had many corrupt friends/cronies the net financial harm to the USA they did was not large.

      Harding was not personally corrupt and was angry about the corruption of some of his friends.

      “He (Forbes) was eventually imprisoned – but not before Harding personally throttled him against the Red Room wall in the White House.

      “Though his legacy was soiled, his domestic achievements were substantial: the 40-hour work week, improved health care for new mothers, the first balanced-budget bureau, a focus on technology.”

      We may have had a fair number of worse presidents than Harding when one considers all the harm they did while in office.

      Trump/Bush/Obama/Clinton may all be “worse” than Harding.


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Why would Wilson have pardoned Debs? Isn’t Wilson the creature that wanted Debs railroaded into prison in the first place?

        While we can debate who was America’s worst president, I hope we can all agree that Woodrow Wilson was America’s most malevolently and draculoidally evil president.

        1. John Wright

          It seems a ironic to me that a prominent school of government was named after Wilson from 1948 to 2020.

          Probably many US important leaders and think tank staffers rotated through this school.

          There was never a successful effort to remove Wilson’s name from the school until George Floyd’s death.

          If George Floyd had not happened, Wilson’s name would probably be still installed as it had survived a previous 2015 attempt to have the name stricken.

          “The Wilson Legacy Review Committee conducted a thorough, deliberative process. In April 2016, it recommended a number of reforms to make this University more inclusive and more honest about its history. The committee and the board, however, left Wilson’s name on the School and the College”


  31. Alex Cox

    Two observations, based on the “split screen” view of both candidates on CSPAN:

    While Biden speaks, Trump looks angry, concerned

    When Trump speaks, Biden grins, pretends to laugh, throws his head back

    Which is more effective?

    1. flora

      Trump looks like he’s seriously listening for weak points in what Joe’s saying, where to attack.

      Joe smiles and laughs like he’s overwhelmed and deflecting whatever Trump is saying.

      My 2 cents.

  32. Noone from Nowheresville

    Well, looks like the talk-over techniques the Dems used during the primary against Sanders are coming home to roost.

    I hope anyone playing the Taibbi drinking game is eating enough to absorb the alcohol and that you drank a lot of water before the game started.

    As far as the rest, Oy vey! Living up to the hype.

  33. edmondo

    Biden has gone from fragile to frail in 45 minutes. He’s like Rocky Balboa. He needs to make it to the final round to win. Can he do it?

    1. Lee

      Should Biden collapse, Is Harris waiting in the wings to take up the banner? I imagine her licking her chops, wishing she were up there instead of Biden.

      1. The Rev Kev

        She shouldn’t. Tulsi Gabbard took her out back of the woodshed when they were debating causing her campaign to flame out. I don’t think that she would want the same treatment from Trump.

    2. pjay

      I disagree. Given Trump’s BS, Biden has held it together better than I expected. This debate won’t change many minds, but Trump looks like the asshole he is. Biden has managed to sound coherent, at least to the extent that this format allows. Which is all Biden needs to do.

  34. Annieb

    Chris Wallace is doing a very poor job. Trump just ignores him, it’s comical. All three talk over each other. Now Wallace appeals for less interruption and Trump interrupts him!

  35. mtnwoman

    Trump looks like a miserable, angry shriveled soul

    Biden looks as frail as he’s looked the past year. I’ve thought he’s early dementia since last year, so considering, he’s holding up.

    1. Mason

      Biden might be some-what winning simply by how terrible Trump looks.

      Basically, his campaign the whole time?

  36. Lambert Strether Post author

    Biden is good on his African-American speech (with the numbers about Covid deaths).

    Trump throws back the Crime Bill and “super-predator” and that his bill let Black people out of jail (true) and then segues into his support from law enforcement (!!!!!).

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Yes, the best Trump can hope for from Black voters is they stay home, disgusted at both candidates. (Can’t wait to see Kamala the cop try to reinvent herself as a civil rights firebrand)

      …. Unless Donald empties the prisons out of nonviolent offenders the week before election day. That would be a real October Surprise, lol.

  37. anon y'mouse

    so, essentially they are BOTH running against “socialism” and the “radical” left.

    they are both running against Sanders, and he’s not even there.

    1. Sailor Bud

      Except that when Trump accuses Biden of socialism, Biden doesn’t deny it, which he should, because he has no intention of nationalizing health care, ever.

      Then, of course, later, Trump points out that Biden never punished a billionaire with high redistributive taxes for 47 years and even had the throwaway line (paraphrased) “you’re the left, or I don’t even know what to call you.” It’s so weird. Moments of truth and BS, intermingled and contradicting – Biden the communist corporatist – but it doesn’t matter, because we really do live in a post-hypocrisy world.

      Taibbi suggested appealing to the UN to save us, and he was joking, but I’m thinking it’s no joke.

  38. Katiebird

    I’m just listening while I fish in Animal Crossing (City Folk) They sound about the same as far as being nasty and insulting. Neither sounds frail.

  39. notabanker

    Ah, the ole just a few bad apples and another White House Task Force. We just need access to affordable something for the trifecta!

  40. DonCoyote

    Biden does the “few bad apples” with the police? That bodes well for “reform”. A few show “trials” and problem solved!

  41. somerville céline

    on race
    biden refuses to make a socio-economic justice argument
    or say anything about mass incarceration
    instead goes for cultural & linguistic sensitivity

    oh, and biden’s “radical left supporters”!?!?! AHHAHAHAHA

  42. neo-realist

    So Trump think educating people against systemic racism is racist, anti-american. Tell us how you really feel.

    1. Kevin

      I think its moreso that teaching that America is inherently racist is anti american.

      I’m sure Trumps unaware of this, but that’s actually one of the knocks on the racist bias training. It doesnt work, if anything it has the opposite effect. When people start thinking racism is so ingrained here it makes it futile to try to combat it

      1. chris

        Yeah, that’s what I thought he was fumbling for too. Listening to Trump try to make these points is like watching someone tunnel through space. You get bits and pieces of ideas squelched together in a egotistic stream.

      2. neo-realist

        Something has to be done about bias on the part of whites and in some cases non-black POC so that Blacks can gain better access to good employment, promotions, better education, and homes they can afford in the neighborhoods they want to live in. Not to mention doing away with the disrespect that some POC encounter in the workplace, e.g., angry stares, slurs. The first step is acknowledging the 400 year old ingrained bias and at least evolving to the point to where POC are treated fairness and respect, and have equal access to opportunity, even if you don’t want to hang out with them.

        If we don’t address racist attitudes, we won’t solve the problem.

        Doing nothing about bias because it’s too tough or inconvenient to your feelings will potentially exacerbate and normalize the problem of racism.

  43. Democrita

    Two peas in a frikkin’ pod. They both somehow come off as simultaneously old and childish.
    I am watching with others who see joe doing decidedly better, though with don scoring points too.
    Are there really undecided voters watching this to make up their minds?

    1. sd

      I’m undecided. I have not yet decided if I’ll vote. Cause I’m just not seeing the point.
      Both candidates accused of sexually assaulting women.
      Both lie.
      Both are corrupt.
      Both are sociopaths.
      Not seeing a lot of choice here….

  44. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    “I support the police having the opportunity to address the problems they face”. The Biden Doctrine

  45. Annieb

    Biden talking about the suburbs: there’s just as many black, and white and Hispanic parents driving to soccer practice all in the same car.

    Omg. I don’t want to vote for this pathetic old guy. But don’t want to vote for Trump either. Thanks Dems and Republicans!

  46. Alex Cox

    Whoever the interlocutor is he’s doing a poor job. He said at the outset “for the record, I decided the topics…” of the debate. If he has the right to decide the questions, he has the right not to ask questions which one of the candidates has already addressed.

    And now he’s into riots. Let’s see how Biden, who has been holding up, responds.

  47. Mason

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but the POTUS needs to shut the hell up.

    Chris hates Trump’s guts right now. Trump looks terrible, and that might be the only way Biden wins this debate.

    1. Foy

      Yep, his plan to knock Biden off kilter and confuse him with interruptions hasn’t much of an effect on Biden’s speech and thinking patterns yet.

    2. pjay

      Good point. When I hear the MSM pulling their anti-Trump BS, I almost sympathize with Trump. But whenever Trump opens his mouth I think “good Lord, this idiot asshole is the President!” We’ve been joking about Biden staying out of the spotlight (and rightly so). But if I were Trump’s handlers, I’d advise him to shut the hell up. I suppose responses to this debate will reflect viewers preconceptions. But personally I’m somewhat surprised how bad Trump looks — and I’m definitely no Biden fan.

    1. a different chris

      and… after this mess I don’t even know which end is up… but wasn’t that because the R party wouldn’t let Obama confirm hardly any?

      Even if a lot, even if the majority, was the normal Dem dithering (just at the top, Obama should have taken RBG out behind the woodshed and shot her) if Biden was a smart politician should have just blamed it on the R’s anyway. Then he could have gone off on how difficult these robed ciphers appointed by Trump and his semi-willing posse are going to make it to do anything “for the people”.

      But of course those are (will be were, as he will find out if he wins) Joe’s friends so he doesn’t say anything.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        … as I explained below, I started to edit to comment, but too late.

        It’s also about how the GOP governs vs Dems. A good comparison is how Schumer made a deal to fast-track Trump judicial nominees. Trump started the debate by saying effectively “we won and we have the right”, and that’s an attitude you would never find in Dems if the situation were reversed.

        1. chris

          But, fellow Chrises, think of all the dry powder the Dems have for something some time somewhere…to do the thing, you know?

          The judge thing is just a sign that given the chance Team Blue has no interest in using their power to do anything but enrich themselves and their friends. Trump is right when he says he’s done a lot. He’s remade environmental law and the judicial system. It will take a generation to change what he did in 4 years.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        Sorry, I failed to re-edit that comment!

        Trump basically played it like: you guys are weak! Not like me, I’m pushing through court appointments! More red meat for his base. It’s all about what he telegraphs.

  48. Wukchumni

    Trump asks the Proud Boys to ‘stand down’ which doesn’t mean disband.

    This a week after their fear haul putsch in Portland didn’t take for lack of numbers.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      No, the moderator asked if he would ask them to stand down. What Trump said was, “Sure, Proud Boys stand back…stand by”–totally different thing.

  49. lyman alpha blob

    Wallace asks Biden if he contacted Democratic mayors/governors to get them to call in Nat Guard to calm riots. Biden says no because he is not an elected official which is weak tea since he started the debate by saying “I am the Democratic party”.

    Trump missed the chance to call him on it.

  50. flora

    Oh, lawd, Joe’s on about his dead son Beau now. My son! My son! My son!

    Glad I’m not doing Taibbi’s drinking game. oy.

  51. somerville céline

    trump: “we have the lowest carbon, if you look at our numbers right there, we are doing phenomenally”


      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        source? and this makes it look like the downturn started under Obama. Any upturn from Trump gutting EPA regulations won’t be on that chart.

      2. Noone from Nowheresville

        So the US holds steady while further dismantling industry but China dramatically increases after they joined the WTO. Funny, you’d really think that other countries would’ve had bigger decreases to offset at least some of China’s rise. Are things like increase auto or SUV usage a key or something else?

        Then we have a down turn during the great recession. What does 2020 look like so far? Any charts on methane emission from things like fracking wells vs. permafrost melts during a similar time frame?

  52. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    LOL Biden declaring that $3.5M from Moscow to Hunter did not occur. Ooops, sorry, the transaction is recorded in the books of the central bank of the United States. Is Biden saying that institution does not exist?

  53. antidlc

    I agree with David Sirota;
    “I’m not mad. I’m sad. People are dying. And this is the shit we’ve all created — an entirely vapid, moronic television production of left punching, screaming and bullshit as everyone snarkily tweets and the world burns. We should all feel shame.”

    1. anon y'mouse

      people with no power did not “create” anything. but we sure are held accountable for doing so, while merely trying to survive in what the rest “created”.

      1. Clive

        Yes. Who is this “we” in the “we’ve”? And David Sirota has carried his share of water for the left-in-name-only often enough.

    2. Mason

      It also just shows we can’t talk about the issues anymore. This is historic, will be talked about for years to come.

  54. Alex Cox

    He got them mixed up. Beau was the good one, Hunter the bad. He forgot. Trump reminded him. Oh the humanity!

  55. Glen

    Watching this – all I can think.

    Wall St won,
    Billionaires won.

    I’ll have to see if I can make that a haiku.

  56. Annieb

    Not sure why several commenters have said Trump looks terrible. To me he looks the same, reddish suntan and the blonde combover. Intense expression. He behaves in a vigorous manner and is alarmingly coherent in his usual chaotic manner.
    Biden on the other hand looks and speaks as an alarming OLD man. He rambles and stumbles. This is a bad contrast for Biden.
    I really want to vote for Biden but he is making that increasingly difficult for me

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Not sure why several commenters have said Trump looks terrible.

      I mostly listened, but when I looked at the split screen, Trump looked fine. Biden doesn’t have Trump’s tan but didn’t look on the point of collapse.

    2. pjay

      I disagree. I do *not* want to vote for Biden and will not. But to me Biden has remained coherent — to the extent possible amid the chaos. Trump has come off as a belligerent interrupting ass. Which of course he is, but he is also supposed to be the President of the US. I suppose Trump supporters like this. But any objective observer has got to be saying, “WTF?”

      1. Basil Pesto

        Trump has come off as a belligerent interrupting ass. Which of course he is, but he is also supposed to be the President of the US.

        What is the United States if not a belligerent, disruptive ass?

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      Because Trump just appeared to be there to insult and bully Biden. He looked angry the whole time and was constantly interrupting and it was evident he couldn’t control himself. He kept up a running sotto voce commentary when he had to acquiesce to the moderator’s insistence he let Biden speak.

      Biden on several occasions looked into the camera and spoke to the American people. I am very disappointed that he is the Dem nominee and have no expectations of him but he wasn’t just there to bully Trump.

      Even though the back row kids might like his swagger, he may have overegged the pudding.

      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        What makes anyone think that the front row kids don’t like Trump’s swagger? Hell, that the front row kids don’t have their own version of Trump’s swagger just without Trump’s global audience reach.

        There are plenty of front row kids in those 60 odd million who voted for Trump and Romney and McCain. I suspect front row kids as a percentage of their “in-group” have a higher turnout in both parties than back row kids

  57. Alex Cox

    Hey, Lambert, thank you so much for this.

    The debate is a terrible experience but you and the commentariat have made it a bearable endeavor.


  58. Lee

    Good paying blue-collar jobs? I know I’ve heard that somewhere before. It was just before outsourcing became the order of the day.

  59. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Wondering why Wallace has it in for Trump, where does Rupert stand? Rumor is that Fox will join CNN etc in not declaring an electoral winner on election night

    1. a different chris

      I don’t think Wallace had it in for Trump, but Trump was beyond boorish and finally completely p(family blogged)d him off.

      Actually I’m fine with that ignoring the substance, as no real different than Bernie wagging is finger in style. It’s about time somebody shouted back at the Guardians of Discourse.

  60. somerville céline

    trump: “china sends a bunch of dirt up into the air, russian does, india does, and we’re supposed to be good”

    [biden: “no i don’t support the green new deal”]

      1. L

        Yeah, I figured he would find some opportunity to punch left, but to choose that? Bad play man. Bad play. It won’t help with the Republicans who fear the Green New Deal, and it will piss off the people who are committed to it.

  61. L

    For all the fighting the most overanalyzed portion later will probably be this:

    Trump responded by telling the far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

    “Nut I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”

    That might just become the “Basket of deplorables” of this election cycle.

  62. DonCoyote

    I listened to way too much pre-debate commentary about how sitting presidents do terrible in the first debate because they are in their own bubble. Give me a break, man.

    1) Trump is in many things, but a bubble is not one of them. Like the salesman he is, he constantly is reading the room. And getting out in the hustings, it ain’t just politicos.

    2) Trump is at his best disrupting and counterpunching, He is the comic relief to Biden’s straight main. He is at his worst when he tries to get in his canned lines, while Biden is at his best.

    Political pundits on TV should not be paid.

  63. Darius

    Have to say I’m getting tired of Trump. He’s exhausting. A bloviating, bullying, fabulist. He’s the energizer bunny but you can’t shut him off.

  64. Daryl

    Well, to everyone watching tonight, thank you for your service… I worked till 9 and don’t really have the werewithal to poke through what’s going on here, but I’ll be counting on you all to catch me up tomorrow…

  65. Foy

    Biden didn’t crash and burn like I expected. Thinking about all those interruptions, Trump never gave enough time for Biden to confuse himself and get his words all mucked up. Trump interrupted to much to allow that to happen. The meds appear to have worked.

    1. Krystyn Podgajski

      You don’t think Trump was on meds?

      I don’t see what a lot of you are seeing. Is there a new bubble forming here where we just do not like Biden?

      That was not the Trump of 2016. IMHO, it was not good for Trump at all and it will show in the polls. He was rude as all get out and that does not play in flyover.

      1. Foy

        I’m sure Trump was on meds as well. He was really amped up. I’m saying i expected Biden to fumble his words a lot more and he didn’t and tried to give a reason why. Trump sounded completely unhinged and out of control at times.

        Not of fan of Trump or Biden.

        1. chris

          AARP and others have done multiple studies on this. The conclusions are generally that for all US citizens over 70, roughly 3 out 4 are on at least one prescription medication. So yeah, we can reasonably assume both individuals are taking something for some reason.

      2. CanCyn

        I agree Krystyn … I hadn’t watched but reading this made me go to the CSPAN recording, I watched in several different places, for a few minutes at a time. Biden didn’t seem that bad at all. Not that I think either of them did a good job but didn’t,t look as bad to me as folks here are describing.

      3. Noone from Nowheresville

        Biden’s smug, condescending smile doesn’t play well in flyover either.

        I absolutely think both of them were on meds.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Biden didn’t crash and burn like I expected.

      Well, I wrote: “I would say that if Biden avoids being knocked out, he wins.” So Biden won, despite Trump’s faster footwork and (I would say) better reach. Trump just didn’t have enough power in his punches (which speaks to preparation).

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I never thought Trump was “out of control” (any more than his improvised puffery is always out of control). I thought his punches didn’t land because of poor preparation (especially on the transition).

          1. Foy

            Just the times when he talked over the moderator for a good 20-30 seconds, that sounded a bit unhinged when it got bad. It was interesting though when he finished this he then nodded to the moderator and clammed up for a short period. It seemed he was getting signals from someone in the front row.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Just the times when he talked over the moderator for a good 20-30 seconds, that sounded a bit unhinged

              Conforming to norms about proper media behavior isn’t a sign of sanity. Trump did this as part of a clear strategy, which he adhered to.

              1) Dominate the Moderator and Biden to throw Biden off his stroke

              2) Drive a wedge between Sanders and Biden supporters

              3) “Law and order,” with all that has implied since Nixon.

              If Trump were more disciplined in his preparation, he might have won the debate.

              I’m sick of this “unhinged” trope. It’s so West Wing. I’ve seen and reported on Trump speaking. He’s not unhinged.

      1. Aumua

        As someone said earlier in the week, Trump himself set the bar pretty low for Biden. All he had to do was basically not be a senile incoherent moron to win. And he passed, surprise.

    3. jr

      “…Trump never gave enough time for Biden to confuse himself and get his words all mucked up…”

      Comedy gold!

  66. Alex Cox

    From the sound of the clapping at the end of the debate, I would guess about 20 people were in the studio audience.

    Wonder if there will be an official figure? No, I don’t.

  67. Noone from Nowheresville

    Wow. Tired now. What a scary scary debate. 2020 has really stripped away the masks. How dry is that powder? Where’s our stash of dragonfire?

    1. Glen

      And NOW I find LIVE Debate Drinking Game w/ Matt Taibbi!

      Probably a good thing – I think I would be passed out by now if I played…

  68. DonCoyote

    Not enough pearls to clutch in CNN’s post-debate analysis.

    “Shotshow”, “worse than a circus”, “refused to condemn white supremacy”

  69. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Biden won in a landslide, CNN had that yesterday but for some reason the story did not get announced until now

  70. pjay

    I said this earlier in agreement with another comment. But if Trump wants to win, his handlers need to get him to STFU!. I’ve been *almost* sympathizing with him every time the MSM makes up another bulls**t story. But then whenever Trump opens his mouth… Biden remained coherent, given the chaos. That in itself was a victory for him. Trump mostly came off as the demagogue he is — but without a sympathetic audience he just sounded like an ignorant bully, pissing off what should have been a relatively sympathetic moderator.

    Here’s my advice to all the ‘Deep State’ and Establishment and MSM anti-Trumpers: you should also STFU! Every time you pull some soft coup bulls**t (Trump was right about that!) you help him. Let him speak for himself and your man Biden will win. That won’t help most of us, but neither will the alternative.

  71. Wukchumni

    When Darwins, threads lose dept:

    Hair furor seems the type who would take it out on America if he lost, kind of how Adolf wanted the volk to suffer for not winning the war.

  72. chris

    Post “thing” analysis from NBC had George Snufflelaphagous and others talking about how Trump was a bully. JFC these fools think that kind of thing plays outside of kindergarten. Does any adult really think that the leaders of Turket, China, Russia, Brazil, etc. won’t be bullies? Do they think acting nice gets you far with the Nora’s? It’s really sad how these credential morons can’t hear how dumb they sound.

  73. bob

    These are the braintrust media that the dems PAY to make stuff like this-

    Ezra Klein
    I’m old enough to remember when the President of the United States was asked to condemn white supremacists and didn’t.

    it was like 20 minutes ago.

    That’ll show’em Fedora Boy

  74. chuck roast

    I watched it on CBSN. The most interesting part was when it was over, and the camera turned to the three straights (two women and a man). These commentators must have been high on The Fabulous American Moment…well that didn’t last long. These three were literally deflated. Like they had witnessed an altar boy being abused on the village green at high noon on Sunday. I thought, “well welcome to the club you privileged a$$holes. Now you know how the rest of us feel.”

    1. flora

      Yes, also saw moderator Wallace immediately jump in to derail Joe’s line by changing the subject, not letting Joe dig himself in any deeper on that already disproved story.

  75. JWP

    In my young person circle, the vibe was that this was entertainment worth of heavy school night drinking. Makes sense watching our futures be continually shredded; have to go down enjoying life. The only takeaway is the youth are hopeless and all this is just entertainment of watching the products of the failed system built for us to adopt. Chances are all this does for the young vote is make turnout even lower. Nice job dem outreach!

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I cannot possibly know from here, but I will hazard a guess anyway that you and your fellow circle-mates
      would have been sympathetic and maybe even supportive of Sanders. ( Unless you were ideologically opposed to Sanders . . . )

      And the Democratic Party inner-circle strategists probably knew they risked losing your interest and your votes if they kept Sanders and/or Gabbard off the ticket. And they felt losing your interest and your votes was a risk worth running in order to achieve their real goal, which was to keep Sanders and/or Gabbard off the ticket.

  76. bailer blackford

    I think the debate will motivate the many anti-Trump activists to work even harder for Trump’s defeat. Since the President’s boorish behavior tonight drove home to them just why they’re devoting so much of their free time to that effort. But I don’t know that we’ll see a similar effect with the pro-Trumpers. I’m thinking merely watching Trump break open the 2016-vintage vitriol is satisfaction enough for them. Knocking on doors; texting friends; sending postcards not nearly as fun as this….. So what will the soundbites be? And any guesses what the results will be on the poll question: “Who Won Tonight’s Debate?”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the President’s boorish behavior

      I just think it’s so weird to identify with a political figure. I don’t even identify with cultural figures. And I suppose, net net, it’s better to have an articulate war criminal as opposed to a boorish one*. But that’s not a very big margin. But if that’s what election hang on….

      I recognize these are blind spots, and that probably most people don’t feel as I do.

      * Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens were very well spoken.. Aristocrats!

  77. Mark Hessel

    Honestly, I thought Chris Wallace did good job. How do you shut up a raving lunatic.
    Hid did more than once or twice.

    So the raving lunatic says the election process is a fraud and he has 300 justices, his white
    militia and the police to back him up. All on live TV.

    It is all kind of scary.

    I’m old but Nixon was scary. I was a teenager but I understood what was going on. The riots
    in 68 were scary. Martin Luther king died. Robert F Kennedy died. John F Kennedy died.

    We don’t have major political figures dyeing, 200,000 thousand people have died. It’s flashed into our minds. The public knows and understands. They voted him out in 2018 when

    according to him life was cherry and they will vote him out in a
    bigger landslide in 2020.

    If not, I’ve wasted my first year of retirement. I should have learned spanish.

      1. Mark Hessel

        Hey Lambert,

        Not sure if you will see this, but thanks for the reply.

        I don’t want to seem pollyannish, but I really do believe the democrats will win in
        a landslide. I hope they get the senate.

        That said, I’m not sure how much of difference the democrats will make if they do.

        I stopped voting for the dems after Carter. I voted for Anderson in 1980 and Ralph
        Nader till 2000. After Bush (really Cheney and company) invaded Iraq, I’ve been voting
        for the lesser of two evils.

        Truly, it is pretty fucking scary that in 1 and 1/2 hour our current president says the election process is a fraud, and he has 300 justices, his white militia and the police to
        back him up.

        But 15 to 26 million people were involved in the Black Lives Matters protests this year.
        93% were peaceful protests.

        I’m hopeful. But if orange fuzz ball does decide to illegally usurp the election, I’m driving
        to Washington DC to protest. Maybe I can learn Spanish on the way.

        Keep up the good work.


  78. Pat

    Thank you all for your fortitude. I do not have it in me to watch train wrecks. My take from your comments.

    Biden remained standing. Win.
    Trump did manage to rattle him, even briefly. Win
    Trump bombastic and bullying. Lose
    Biden reveals his lukewarm to outright rejection of Policies and positions that Democratic voters hold dear. Lose.

    Minds changed after viewing. None. Enthusiasm for the coming election. Dead.

    Truest take – biggest loser(s) the American people/the voters, but that is the case for this whole election.

  79. ambrit

    We watched the whole thing.
    Phyl remarked that there was an incredible amount of anger sloshing about up on that stage. Her second observation was that the entire event was one of near complete chaos. Third was the observation that for most of the debate, Biden’s primary tactic was the demonization of Trump.
    We both agreed that Wallace was biased in favour of Biden.
    My best characterization of this ‘debate’ was that it was pretty much a big “Domestic Disturbance,” and that, to give him some credit, Wallace was playing the part of the local copper who is trying to defuse a family quarrel.
    I’m glad I didn’t participate in some sort of Debate Drinking Game. I wouldn’t have lasted even half the way through before collapsing in a drunken stupor.

  80. YetAnotherChris

    This spectacle did not change a lot of voters’ minds. And it’s quite easy for an audio engineer to mute a microphone — unless their boss is telling them not to. The best joke in Idiocracy is the purported 500-year timeline and how we are already there.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Which raises the question . . . who is their boss? If the answer is “Chris Wallace”, then the further question arises . . . who is Chris Wallace’s boss? Because if Chris Wallace was telling the audio engineer to keep all the mikes on all the time, that is because Chris Wallace’s boss told him to tell the audio engineer to keep all the mikes on all the time.

      So who is Chris Wallace’s boss? And who was Tweety’s boss back when Tweety did the same thing with keeping all the mkes on over at his network?

  81. Michael G

    Off topic, but have you seen reports of the UK Channel 4 report on targeted ads in the 2016 election? Republicans/Cambridge Analytica had detailed data on 200m Americans and used this to created ads for different groups. A group of disproportionally black voters were earmarked for “deterrence”. It was known that they would never vote for Trump, but the ads were designed to make them choose not to vote at all. Polling data show that the ads were extremely successful and black voting numbers were substantially down. The effect was sufficient to give Trump the election in key states.
    Channel 4 showed snippets of some of the ads, which were selected clips of Clinton. It was easy to see how they would make deterrence voters feel both candidates were equally horrible.
    What worries me was a feeling that some of the ads could have been scripted by Naked Capitalism. Just remember that there is such a thing as a lesser evil.

    1. RMO

      “Just remember that there is such a thing as a lesser evil.”

      True, but the system ensured that the only way to vote for Sanders for president would be a purely symbolic write-in vote in the paces that is allowed. So you’re left with a choice of Biden or Trump.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There is such a thing as a lesser evil.

      I don’t think NC readers or contributors need fingerwagging lectures on lesser evilism.

      Dante placed betrayers in Circle Nine of his Hell, and fraudsters only in Circle Eight. Thomas Frank:

      NAFTA was not symbolism. With this act, Clinton was not merely insulting an important constituency, as he had done with Jesse Jackson and Sister Souljah. With NAFTA he connived in that constituency’s ruin. He assisted in the destruction of its economic power. He did his part to undermine his party’s greatest ally, to ensure that labor would be too weak to organize workers from that point forward. Clinton made the problems of working people materially worse.

      It is possible to regard this deed as fine or brave, as so many New Democrats did, if you understand the struggles of workers as a Depression-era cliché you’ve grown sick of hearing. However, if you understand those workers as humans—humans who contributed to Bill Clinton’s election—NAFTA starts to appear like a betrayal on a grand scale. To this day, for working people, the lesson of NAFTA glares like the headlight of an oncoming locomotive: These affluent Democrats do not give a damn about inequality except as an election-year slogan.

      Accepting the lessser evil frame — which was moved liberal Democrats steadily rightward for the last thirty years, to the point thatthis year they actually merging with the war criminals of the Republican Bush administration — which evil is lesser?

    3. chris

      I really don’t have time to care about people who think that LOTE is something we should consider. I’m tired of people who are obsessed with optimizing how they want to violate their integrity.

      No thank you. No more.

      If by “could have been scripted by NC” you meant “this is obvious to people who are paying attention” then there’s nothing more to say. The strategy to avoid those kinds of ads and attacks on a Democrat running for office is not to put up someone like Biden who is so obviously conflicted by years of selling out. Just like it was obvious that the key to not giving Trump a perfect foil was running anyone but Hillary. I can’t vote for Biden. I refuse to vote for Trump. That’s a position the Democrat party is largely responsible for foisting in the American people. They’ve created a situation where it is not obvious who the lesser evil is and if it were obvious, the choice of someone like Biden is so odious that people can’t bring themselves to hold their nose and make it.

      What I saw last night was two old, addled men, shouting at each other in a competition to demonstrate how unfit for office they both were.

    4. Noone from Nowheresville

      Evil is evil.

      Is evil somehow more palatable by making it have different shades of gray? If one never uses the label of evil on one’s own “tribe” does that make the label useless or more powerful?

    5. Pat

      So let me get this straight, the Trump campaign produced ads and distributed them based on interests and concerns and determined the targets for ads based on data available for purchase to anyone. They determined that one group was not open to voting for their candidate but was also not happy about his opponent. They used actual video of Clinton and her history to convince those voters she didn’t give a damn about them and there was no point in voting for her.
      Their crime according to this was that they were better at using targeted advertising- to achieve their result then the masterminds of the Clinton campaign. Abuela really?

      The whole point of most data collection is to manipulate people to act as the “advertisers” want regardless of the best interest of those people. Same for modern political campaigns. If it wasn’t about depressing turnout, don’t you think there would be more evidence that political parties would work on registration and GOTV, and focused ads on what candidates can do FOR you, not how bad their opponent is.

      Clinton was NOT the lesser evil, because she was still going to work actively to make lives worse for many Americans already facing tough times just as she and her husband had done for decades. That people could recognize that her opponent was a snake oil salesman did not change that she was not going to help them and would even make things worse. Where was the better choice in this scenario? Perhaps the real “lesser evil” is not endorsing your own destruction even if you cannot halt it.

    6. J Lee

      (Micro)targeted political ads need to outlawed, period. We have a right to see all advertisements the candidates are presenting. They can’t be whispering different things to different people.

  82. CoryP

    I’m certainly coming around on the idea that Trump fits the proper definition of fascist, rather than just being an amusing-but-typical jerk. (or maybe I just spent too long on Illingworth’s maze of websites)

    Not that I think it overly matters who Americans vote for at this point. “This won’t end well”.


    Also has anyone seen the HBO documentary ‘Hacking Democracy’ ? Thoughts ?
    I mean, I think Trump’s win in 2016 was legitimately surprising to TPTB, but they might have been arrogant and not tried very hard to rig it. Or you’ve got multiple contending factions trying to out-rig the other.

    I do wonder how fictional the elections really are.

    1. Yves Smith

      Lambert has worked through the academic definitions of fascism. Trump does not qualify. The military most definitely does not back him, the intelligence community actively opposes him, and as much as the police like him, they aren’t turning out as jackboots for him. And his right wing rabble isn t remotely organized. Show me where they’ve made an effective show of force, as opposed to acted like gun fetishists engaging in compensation. In Charlottesville, they marched around with tiki torches, which was ugly symbolism, and ran over a girl, and that guy is in prison. That nutty well-off couple in St. Louis didn’t even know how to hold their weapons properly.

      To quote Stalin, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Tell me where Trump’s divisions are. He’s got zero organized infrastructure.

      Being a shameless bully and narcissist isn’t enough to create fascism, even with him running way to the right to signal to the wackos.

      1. vlade

        TBH, Trump is closer to a Nazi in the “National Socialist German Worker”. Of course, the “Socialist” and “Worker” here are really doing a lot of work, as while it was in theory worker’s, broad base (very broad base for Germany 1930s) social movement, in practice was run by corporates.

        And even that was really more complicated, as a lot of conservative politicians saw dear Adolf as a conservative wall to socialism, which was what brought in the miltary (which was super conservative).

        If you do see it as a nationalistic conservative coalition of workers (knowing or not) and at least some corporates (yes, Sillicon Valley hates Trump. Maybe – indirectly he drives a lot of revenue for FB and google.. But banks don’t care, and a lot of other corporates is very happy with him), it actually has some similarities to the current GOP.

      2. JacobiteInTraining

        “…Tell me where Trump’s divisions are…”

        While I agree with you that Trump *personally* probably has no direct organizing connection to groups like the Proud Boys, III’%ers, etc., and that Trump-as-Dear-Leader in control (with significant segments of the formal military/intelligence apparatus against him) means he missed a bet with regard to building up a potent and organized SA-like org to force (or maintain) him in power…do NOT underestimate his ‘informal’ followers.

        There are a lot more of them then you might think, at least in the PNW, and despite jokes about y’all quada, Meal Team 6, and the like…they are incredibly dangerous, and many of them *are* well-trained, smart, and able to cause great violence and damage.

        Since I am pretty ‘Aryan’ looking, and generally dress, speak, and look like a stereotypical blonde Trump-voter guy I ‘blend’ really well. One of the tasks i got was to infiltrate-for-intel some of those groups in…well, places.

        They both anger and terrify me. Their numbers may be closer to the SA in (say) mid-1920’s rather then mid-30’s, but they are organized, growing, and have a very well-trained hard core of military/police veterans. I’ve gone shooting several times with them, and lets just say these guys aint f****** around.

        ‘When the time comes’, many of them *will* have to be put down with overwhelming force, believe it.

        1. Yves Smith

          Sorry, most of the gun-toting men I’ve seen at Trump events have pot bellies. These are not well trained hard body types. I doubt they could run very far at any kind of speed. They certainly can’t scale a wall. They look totally dependent on guns. And I don’t see any evidence that these guys train together.

          More important, the military has vastly better weapons: helicopter gunships, tanks, etc.

          An unorganized rabble isn’t an effective force. All I see is unorganized rabble. They can scare the unarmed, but they couldn’t even stand up to an armored car plowing into them.

          1. JacobiteInTraining

            Don’t mistake pot-bellied fools you see on TV for the people I am talking about. Just saying… :)

          2. neo-realist

            You don’t have to be a well conditioned bigot to do harm: Thomas Blanton was not exactly a hard body type, but this KKK person was well enough to blow up a church and kill 4 black girls. Cecil Ray Price, one of the killers of Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner, looked like a chubby goober. I do have to admit that Byron De La Beckwith, Medgar Evers’ killer, looks in much better shape—exception to the rule?

            You just have to have a will to destroy and kill people you don’t like, and a lot of them nowadays are banding together. If what JacobiteInTraining says is true, and I’m inclined to believe his account, we’ve got a whole lot of worry ahead.

            1. Wukchumni

              The militia church in town here really were going to take over when things came a cropper. A congregation of 50 nutters aligned against 2,000 individuals who really wanted nothing to do with them.

              When you’ve got a shooting range behind your church, you’re pretty serious.

              Off to Idaho they went, thankfully.

              1. JacobiteInTraining

                “…Off to Idaho they went, thankfully….”

                LOL, I mean…thankfully for you. Not for me… :)

                I think that’s one of the issues we in the PNW face: Idaho specifically, and Eastern WA, and then also to more ‘normal’ places in Oregon/Washington…gets the self-selecting religious-war types, skinheads, and all that.

                I see so damn many of the scary ones here precisely because….they *are* all moving here from the rest of the country. Since I was first aware of racists as a kid, I was aware the PNW was a place they wanted as their white homeland… :(

                1. Offtrail

                  The left wing socialist / anarchist types are also moving here. As in:

                  Q. Why did all the old hippies move to Eugene?
                  A. Because they heard there were no jobs there.

            2. Yves Smith

              You’ve now changed the basis of the argument. We suddenly downgraded the prospect of a fascist takeover from a disorganized rabble violence doing harm.

              Random violence isn’t enough for Trump to stay in office if he loses. The Secret Service will frog march him out if he were to refuse to leave. No one in the Executive Branch will do his bidding any more. No more armored cars or Air Force 1. Etc.

              We’ve had years of random violence. Tell me what it’s accomplished. BLM has lost popular support due to the riots even though it is pretty questionable how much of the rioting came from BLM backers (in NYC, it didn’t). And they had way more grass root support and large scale mobilization of people than Trump could ever muster.

            3. flora

              You mistake by equating the ‘idea romantics’ for process ‘true believers’. And believe me, (heh), there is a big difference.

              1. flora

                adding for example: are you nominally ‘left’ for the romance of “to the barricades” or for the slower, harder, less romantic reasons of the “saving all for all.” sensibility?

  83. Mikel

    Didn’t watch, but have the updates on the shout fest. The main point of outrage has less substance than the debate.

    Trump campaign will probably release an ad of the Dem primary shout fests…particularly Biden at Sanders.

  84. mamzer ben zonah

    Speaking as a physician ….
    1. Trump’s pressure of speech, flight of ideas, incessant interruptions and generally aggressive disregard for the rules and social norms suggested to me that before the debate he took something like Dexedrine® or cocaine. [Trump uses projection a lot, hence his demand that Biden be tested for drugs.]

    2. I wonder if Trump had an in-ear receiver through which he could be coached in real time. A close analysis of the videos might show, from his head movements, moments where he appears to be listening to advice or instructions. Once again, given Trump’s penchant for projection, it is not surprising that he wanted Biden examined for such devices before the debate.

  85. AnonyMouse

    If the aim was to make us all lose faith in the ability of this deeply corroded democracy to solve any actual problems, job done.

    I don’t really subscribe to the “Trump is playing 99 dimensional chess” brigade – feel he would always have come out like this, even less tethered by any restraint he may have had in ’16 – but feels the cake is baked.

    Only 7% of viewers were watching to “pick a candidate to vote for.” Everyone has already decided who they will vote for… if they vote. No one is here to be “persuaded” by anything.

    If there is a strategy for Trump to win it must be based on reducing turnout. Making the whole thing a shambolic mockery is not a bad way to do that.

  86. Ook

    Anyone here ever watched 2 cockroaches doing battle? It’s so satisfactory to be able to squash both. Unfortunately, couldn’t do that as they were separated from me by a TV screen.

  87. Phillip

    Wow. Things I have learned reading this- the NC commentariat hates everyone, is way more interested in historic grievance than possible solutions, and likes bullies for their swagger.

    In this entire liveblog, which seems mostly to despise trump, there were four, ~four and half comments that were positive towards the democrats. No wonder the left loses- and I say that as part of the left. It’s like the worst bits of the tankies combined with the worst bits of the church of savvy.

    1. flora


      The Dem estab isn’t the ‘left’.

      This wasn’t a debate: no opening statements, no closing statements, moderator opens with hot-button question and lets the 2 candidates go at each other.

      It was a made-for-TV spectacle. The ratings were probably boffo. Wouldn’t surprise me if moderator Wallace had an ear piece feeding him minute-by-minute viewership ratings, info that would help him keep the spectacle at full over-the-top food fight. /heh

      I was hoping Joe could a least shut down Trump with snappy comebacks or on-point argument. Very disappointed that he couldn’t. Biden is the candidate,( plus Kamala of ‘didn’t win a single primary’ accomplishment), that the Dem estab force fed their voters in the primary. And here we are.

    2. Offtrail

      Well said.

      The debate simply reinforced for me the importance of defeating Trump. Fortunately, it seems to me that the debate will contribute to his defeat. It’s hard to imagine anyone was won over by his behavior. Most people appreciate a certain baseline of decency.

    3. skippy

      There has been no left or labour agenda from the DNC since it was reformed into the Third way Washington consensus party, hence the old terms like DINO blue dog corporatist.

  88. Senator-Elect

    If you had known in 2000 after the Bush-Gore-Nader election that this is where the US would be 20 years later, what would you have done?
    I think the solution back then would have been for Nader and his supporters to say, You’re damn right we gave the election to Bush! And we’ll do it again every four years until you renounce free trade, Wall Street, triangulation and neoliberalism.
    By now, you might have had a viable third party that Bernie could have run in or you might have got the Dems to concede to your demands and return to being the party of the left. In both cases, the Overton window would be much further to the left.
    As things stand, you’ve got a mostly right-wing party led by geriatric centrists Biden and Pelosi with more neoliberal hacks waiting in the wings (Harris, Buttigieg).
    How could voting Green the past 20 years have gotten you anyplace worse?

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