Chaos in Cleveland: Trump Cleans Biden’s Clock in First Debate

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Well, that was different.

President Donald Trump came into the first presidential debate of 2020 with a very clear strategy: Steamroll the enfeebled Joe Biden, get in literally everything that he wanted to say, ignore the moderator’s warnings with impunity, and basically walk over his opponent like a Roman gladiator. This strategy did not make for a particularly pleasant evening, and we doubt that this debate will go down as one of the great policy arguments in political history.

However, if Trump wanted to leave viewers with the feeling that he is large and in charge, it’s fair to say that he cleaned Biden’s clock.

Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor given the unenviable task of keeping order, struggled to live up to that lofty goal throughout the night as the candidates talked over each other. At times, Wallace’s bias against President Trump poked through his carefully-crafted demeanor of “neutrality,” inspiring Trump at one point to quip: “I thought I was debating him, but I guess I’m debating you. That’s okay. I’m not surprised.”

But Trump saved the lion’s share of his ammunition for Biden, and he came loaded for bear. Throughout the evening, Trump nailed Biden with falsely saying he went to Delaware State University, coming in near the bottom of his college class, being late on the draw when it came to endorsing the idea of shutting down travel from China, being beholden to the radical left, being soft on crime, being racist, and having a son whose corrupt business dealings are almost too numerous and labyrinthine to fully comprehend.

As for Biden…well, he didn’t embarrass himself.

Both critics and supporters of Trump noted in recent days that the bar has been set so low for the former vice president that if he could just get through the debate without drooling or falling asleep, he would appear as though he’d won. Some of the blame goes to Trump and his allies for setting that bar, and it is indeed one that Biden managed to clear. Some criticized Biden’s frustrations – he called Trump a “clown” at one point and told him to “just shut up” at another – but those outbursts hardly seemed out of line given the night’s tone.

Coronavirus regulations kept the candidates from shaking hands, but considering some of the personal jabs the two hurled at each other, that rule probably saved us from uncomfortable moments both before and after the event.

“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” declared Biden at one point.

“There’s nothing smart about you, Joe,” Trump said at another juncture.

As for how this debate landed with voters, we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, we’ll provide a quote from writer Andrew Sullivan, who has made his antipathy towards Trump well known for the last five years: “Trump is dominating. That’s the brutal truth. It’s painful. So far.”

The next debate is scheduled for October 7th.