Watching the media before and afterwards the 2nd Presidential debate has so frustrated me that I thought I would write my own report and score card. Some of the reports and selected ‘highlights’ to me gave a false impression. And it’s not just in the US – whose media is so partisan and dumbed down that it is a bigger threat to democracy than any of the candidates. To a lesser degree that is also true of the media in other countries. For example, as I write I am watching ABC here in Australia and the bias is clear – for example talking about Trump’s tax but not Bidens family deals with Russia and China. Their ‘expert’ just spent time trashing Trump and building up Biden.
The debate itself was so much better than the last one (a low bar). Although I thought the format was biased against Trump (it did not for example deal with the key issues for both sides of the Supreme Court, abortion and the culture wars), in some ways it suited him better. There was actual debate and to some extent both candidates came across better. Biden came across as less senile and more together than previously – Trump more presidential and less bullish. The moderator was excellent, and I think her handling plus the threat of the mute button worked wonders. Even the Sydney Morning Herald had to admit that Trump had learned from the previous debate. So, who won? And what did we learn. Let’s score it by subject.
This should have been the strongest one for Biden. It’s Trump’s Achilles heel. Trump argued amongst other things – “ We have a vaccine that’s ready….it’s not a guarantee but it will be by the end of the year.” “we are learning to live with this – we can’t lock ourselves up like Joe does in a basement”“I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault it came here..it’s Chinas. Nor is it Joes fault.”“New York is a ghost town…its dying – plexi glass dividers in restaurants are not the answer..everyone is leaving New York”
Biden’s response was strong but at some points ridiculous. He argued that Trump was personally responsible for the 220,000 deaths and implied that if he was President then he would have prevented them. Europe is the new growth spot for Covid, 200,000 per day just now. Does Biden blame Macron and Merkel for every death in their countries? He also went on to say that there would be another 200,000 deaths by the end of the year.
He stated that 100,000 lives would be saved by wearing masks – masks seemed to be his answer to everything. “I would make sure that everyone was encouraged to wear a mask all the time”. All the time?!
The claims about Trump being responsible for every death were matched only by his claim that he would end Covid. “I will take care of this. I will end this. I will make sure we have a plan. “I’m going to shut down the virus not the country”.
There was one somewhat amusing faux pas…After stating : “I don’t look at this in terms of blue states and red states the way he does, they are all the United States” , he immediately went on to contradict himself; “look at the states that are having such a spike, they are the red states.” Of course, this clip appeared in none of the news reports!
So, somewhat surprisingly I give this round to Trump. 1:0
2) National Security
This was less about national security and more about each other’s corruption. Firstly Trump “Joe got $3.5 million from Russia and it came through Putin…I never got any money from Russia…..You and your family were raking in money from Russia when you were vice-President.” Biden countered by saying that Gulani was being used as a Russian pawn. That he would make anyone who interfered with US elections pay (a report today said that the Iranians and the Russians were seeking to destabilise the US elections – the Iranians in favour of Biden – along with the Chinese- and the Russians in favour of Trump).
Biden made a strong attack on Trumps financial affairs – “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever – but this President….He has not released his tax returns…Russia and China are paying you a lot.”
Trump responded “I will release my tax accounts…..I pre-paid tens of millions of dollars in terms of tax. I have bank accounts all over the place…I closed my Chinese one before I ran for President”. Before going on to again question Hunter Bidens deals with China and Russia. .
I think that Biden likes to portray himself as an honest ‘folksy’ person – of good character compared with the dishonest charlatan Trump. But I don’t buy it. He lied in this debate when he stated, “My son did not make any money from China”. The book Hidden Hand details and evidences Biden’s lie. In Dec 2013 Vice President Biden flew to China. He took his son Hunter on Airforce two. Two weeks later Hunter Biden’s firm was founded in June 2013, finalised a deal to open a fund, BHR partners, whose largest partner is the government run Bank of China even though he had scant background in private equity. This is reckoned to have benefited Hunter Biden by $20 million personally. Biden’s son made millions from China – and Biden knew it.
“I would make China pay by the international rules not like he has done. They have to play by the rules. “. Biden then went on to make another statement that if Trump had made would have resulted in widespread media ridicule. “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded the rest of Europe”
Because of these kinds of statements and the failure to deal with the denials of his family profiting from Russia and China, Biden lost this round.
American Families and the Economy
Trumps most effective counter on this (as on other subjects) was the retort“He was there for 47 years. Eight years as vice-President – and he didn’t do it…” – to which Biden’s response was we did something and anyway I wasn’t President – implicitly suggesting that he would be better than Obama. Biden had some strong arguments here – for example – “Health care is not a privilege, it’s a right”. This section was a surprise to me – I thought Trump would be stronger, but Biden won it clearly.
Trump’s most effective argument was to point out that Biden had eight years to do what he said he would do and all he did was build cages. Biden made the strong, and to my mind irrefutable point that it is criminal to separate children from their parents and he promised to give citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants. This was a closer round but still went to Biden.
Trump made some strong points and some ridiculous ones – “No one has done more for the black community than Donald Trump with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln…Joe in 1994 called them ‘super predators. “I ran because of you – you had eight years and you did nothing” “I am the least racist person in the room…“All talk no action with these politicians…why didn’t you get it done..?”
Biden was weak on what should have been a strong point although I liked his “No one should go to jail because of drugs”. He claimed the evidence of his son’s corruption was a Russian plant and accused Trump of pouring fuel on every racial issue.
Again, this round surprised me – after it I could see why there now is significant support for Trump in the African American and Latino communities. Trump won.
Trump argued that the US has the cleanest air and environment standards. That Biden’s plan would be an economic disaster and cost $100 trillion. That the US was energy independent. He made a strong case to which Biden had a weak answer.
I didn’t appreciate the apocalyptic ‘we have only ten years’ to save the planet. It won’t cost $100 trillion. And then this extraordinary statement – “I never said I oppose fracking – show the tape – put it on the website” . Trump responded to that challenge by posting this….https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1319466667676749824?s=20
But the big one was when Trump asked, “Would you close down the oil industry”. To which Biden replied – “I would have a transition from the oil industry…yes because the oil industry pollutes and needs to be replaced by renewals”.I suspect the promise to close down the oil industry is not going to go down well in Texas. This was Trump’s clearest win.
Overall, I had Trump winning the debate 4:2 – but I suspect it will make little difference. Biden has the money, the media, and the madness of Covid hysteria on his side. In terms of the money he has Wall Street, the Chinese and Big Tech on his side. In terms of the media he gets a free pass on every ridiculous statement and every accusation of corruption. If Trump had argued that the US was good friends with Hitler, or that he was going to cure Covid or make China abide by the Paris agreement – he would be rightly pilloried by the commentariat – but when Biden makes these claims it is ignored. It’s not just that the media class in the US (and to some extent in the rest of the Western world) has a bias against Trump – it’s that they have a visceral hatred for him. This hatred so colours their coverage that it has become a sick joke.
I think that Donald Trump is a liar and a financial charlatan. It is to me astounding that he was ever made President. But as President he has largely kept his promises and done some good things. If it were not for Covid he would almost certainly have been re-elected – and may yet still be.
Joe Biden is generally portrayed as a decent man who has been involved in public service for 47 years. He will almost certainly be elected because of who he is not. Biden made it clear he wanted this election to be about character – “You know who I am you know who he is….you know his character; you know my character….”
The trouble is that this debate proved to me that Biden is as much a liar and financial charlatan as Trump. He lied about fracking. He lied about his son not profiting from China and, if the e-mails found on his sons’ computer are real (and so far, this has not been denied) he lied about not knowing about his sons’ dealings with Russia and Ukraine. For most of the media and commentariat such is their hatred of Trump, this is not a major deal. For me it is a deal breaker in that it puts him on the same moral character with Trump. Combined with his mental and physical condition this means he will be a weak, even a puppet, President – who will do well to last the four years and certainly will not get a second term. For the rest of the world – the Middle East, those nations threatened by China, the UK and Australia, a Biden presidency will be a disaster.
My other problems with Biden’s character was his attempt to blame Trump for every single death of people with Covid. He either knows that this is false, or he genuinely thinks that an American President has the power to prevent and control the virus. Such dishonesty or stupidity is not desirable in a future President.
If you believe that Joe Biden will cure Covid, deal with China, solve climate change, heal race relations, deal with America’s health crisis, and restore faith in US democracy,- or even go some of the way to doing these things – then go ahead and vote for him. But let’s not pretend that such a vote is somehow one based upon moral character.
If you believe that Trump will be a better President, and that, he will restore the economy, come through Covid, deal with China, get a new health deal, and deal with the culture wars – then go ahead and vote for him. But let’s not pretend that such a vote is based upon Trump being some kind of Christian champion who should be defended at all costs.
I am more and more drawn to John Piper’s position exemplified in this article this week. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin
Whatever happens I cannot see any good solution to this situation. I don’t know the answer – I’m thankful I don’t have a vote in the US election. I don’t envy those who do. We must all pray that God will have mercy upon the USA. This beautiful hymn by John Whittier should be the prayer of all the Lord’s people.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
2. In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.
3. O sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!
4. Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
5. Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.