TV duel Trump against Biden: When it comes to Biden’s son Beau, the undignified debate reaches its low point
Lying, interrupting, mobbing: thanks to incumbent Donald Trump, the United States is experiencing the worst TV debate in its history. Trump’s mudfight may have been part of a strategy – but there are few arguments that it was a success.
When it was all over, Jake Tapper was stunned at his desk. The CNN man is one of the best-known news presenters in the United States, something like the American Claus Kleber, and for the first few seconds after the end of this debate, the otherwise eloquent tapper visibly struggled to find the right words. But then he found it: “That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a trainwreck,” said Tapper at the opening of his presentation.
It is impossible to translate into German, but it is enough to know that all of these expressions are American synonyms for what we would presumably call a “total catastrophe”. “That was the worst debate I’ve ever seen,” continues an incredulous tapper. “In fact, it wasn’t even a debate, it was a shame.”
Joe Biden vs. Trump: powerless moderator
A shame, that evening actually was. An undignified spectacle full of lies, interruptions and conspiracy theories, almost all of which came from one person: US President Donald Trump. Again and again Trump chatted his opponent Joe Biden in between, so that he could hardly formulate an answer to the end.
Again and again Trump came up with long refuted conspiracy theories intended to discredit Biden’s son Hunter. And Trump lied again and again: About the postal vote, about Biden’s political positions, and even about statements that he himself had made in front of the cameras. Presenter Chris Wallace from Trump-friendly broadcaster Fox News was powerless.
After 20 minutes, Biden says to Trump: “Can you shut up, man?”
He can’t help it
Much had been speculated in the run-up to this debate about Donald Trump’s strategy: Would he portray himself as a serious statesman, reciting data and figures in order to win the trust of undecided alternate voters? Or would he switch to the attack mode that his base loves him so much for?
Trump opted for the second variant, with a consequence that surprised even experienced observers. But “decide” may be the wrong word, because in the three years and eight months of his tenure, Trump has rarely demonstrated presidential behavior. Maybe he just can’t help it.
Trump’s intention, however, was clear: by repeatedly interrupting Biden, he wanted to take control of the debate, unnerve Biden, set the issues himself. At the beginning of the debate, he even succeeded. When Biden avoided the question of whether he would like to send additional judges to the country’s Supreme Court in the event of an election victory – a hotly debated topic in the US – Trump did not give up. Like a chain dog, Trump bit into the non-response of his opponent: “Why don’t you answer the question?” An annoyed Biden could only counter why Trump couldn’t just “shut up”.
But the problems of the strategy quickly became apparent. Only rarely were Trump’s attacks on Biden so pointed, far too often he got tangled up in confused jumps of thought, sometimes with his interruptions he even prevented moderator Wallace from asking Biden a critical question. Worse still: when he was asked whether he was distancing himself from his right-wing extremist fan groups like the so-called “Proud Boys”, Trump changed the subject – and preferred to talk about the left-wing antifa. The “Proud Boys” gratefully accepted the template and celebrated the moment on social media.
And Trump often appeared heartless and cruel in his constant interruptions. For example, when Biden asked the viewers on the television screens how many relatives they had lost to the corona virus, and Trump shouted in between: “With you a lot more people would have died!”
The debate bottomed out when Biden mentioned his son Beau: The veteran had died of cancer in 2015 at the age of only 46. “My late son was a soldier and he was not a loser!” Said Biden in an emotional moment – Trump had described dead US soldiers in familiar circles as “losers” and “failures”.
Trump would have had the opportunity here to show empathy and greatness, to appreciate the painful loss of his opponent. Instead, he chose the only strategy he knows: the attack. “Which son? Hunter? ”Trump replied, only to then switch over to his conspiracy theories about Biden’s other son for the dozen times. A terrible, a cruel moment.
Food for the Facebook fans
Trump would have needed so much more that evening. Even aside from all ethical considerations, it is unclear whether the president has really done himself a favor with this appearance. All of the arguments and attacks that Trump put forward that evening were less aimed at indecisive swing voters than at the radical part of his base – which already loves him.
The complicated conspiracy theories, which Trump repeatedly raised, were able to follow the insiders better than the average American who did not spend half the day in right-wing Facebook groups. And when Trump was asked about the successes of his first term in office, he said he had appointed dozen arch-conservative judges for life – unclear how important this is to a swing voter.
Trump will not be able to catch up with Biden, which averages seven percentage points in the polls. Most of the lightning polls after the debate also saw Biden well ahead of Trump. But the question of the winner and the loser is only a minor matter after such an evening. “One thing I can say for sure,” noted CNN presenter Tapper. “Today the American people lost.”