I personally was prepared for a debate that was going to be somewhat more subdued, but not this much more subdued than the first/previous debate. However, I really wasn’t prepared for a debate where Donald Trump was this well-behaved (at least for the first 45 to 55 minutes). I came away thinking the debate, as a whole, was pretty good! I think I am burnt out on Trump by now, but he was so much more tolerable this time around.
The main gripe I have with the paragraph I just wrote is that I’m lowering the bar too much for Trump; it is not a big ask for the President of the United States to act like a grown-up, but this is where we are. What we wanted was an actual debate that could showcase the differences between the two Parties. To the extent that we got that, this was pretty good.
What is always funny to me are the repeated news stories that always preview Trump’s “new tone.” Van Jones’s somewhat infamous comment from Trump’s State of the Union speech about how he “became the President” that night is an ongoing joke. Trump is 74 and he will not change; he was simply himself tonight, and when he can bottle up the nasty parts of that “self” it is less damaging, both to himself and to the general discourse. There were actual portions of the debate that I enjoyed.
However, I think it’s important to state that Trump does not live in reality. COVID-19 projections were for 2 million deaths if we did nothing at all and he himself said (early on), that if we kept it to below 100,000 deaths, it would be a success. His accounts in China were never public, which is why the story about his bank accounts there have been such big news. His Administration did separate children from their parents at the border in an attempt to dissuade families from coming here, and an inspector general report released at some point in the next few months will confirm that unequivocally. Trump simply lies on a scale that the media is unable to tackle and that the decent, normal American - who does not lie with their every waking breath - cannot fathom. Trump’s lies are an ongoing problem: They are tiresome for people in media, who feel like the public does not believe that a living human could lie so much, but that they media must talk about the lies anyway, because it would irresponsible not to do so.
That said, there is only one question that matters here: Will this move the needle? The answer is probably not, but the answer has two prongs, one of which is data-related and the other that is me-related:
Donald Trump cannibalized a lot of debate-watchers with his first debate performance. If he had been the more calm, measured version of himself in the first debate, I think we’d be having a different conversation. But I think a lot of swing voters tuned out tonight because of the nastiness of the first debate.
Statistically, the last debate in the cycle is the least likely to move the needle, to the extent that debates move the needle at all. By every standard, Trump needed the final debate to be a clarifying moment between him and Biden and that didn’t happen tonight. If anything, I would suspect that a slight majority of voters would say Biden won.
Trump had a strategy to come in and make Hunter Biden an issue. While he tried to do that at times, he never landed the punch. Since we last talked, we have had two really big developments in regard to that story.
First, if you remember from a few days ago, Trump said the Wall Street Journal would have a very big story about Hunter Biden coming out soon. What Trump was talking about was likely the op-ed piece that was teased just before the debate. The general feeling is, if it was published on the op-ed side, it’s a snoozer. What looks to have happened: The WSJ’s news side (which is excellent) scooped the opinion side with a blockbuster story, in which they reviewed all of the Hunter Biden documents and thoroughly debunked the entire narrative.
There has been another major development in the story though. Earlier this week, Time Magazine wrote that two sources had confirmed to them that the Hunter Biden emails were being shopped around in Ukraine in early 2019, i.e., before the laptop ever made it to the repair shop. Independent journalist Scott Stedman confirmed that on his own.
And a fun little side-note is that there are beautiful birdies saying that the owner of the repair shop is being investigated by the FBI, and that he is a target (i.e., not a subject or witness) of their investigation. Sip that tea my habibis.