Final presidential debate: two candidates speaking to different audiences
To whom do you speak? A wise politician knows the answer before the question is asked.
There’s a scene in the movie Gladiator where the film’s main character, Maximus, receives advice from a mentor, Proximo (who happens to be his owner, since he is a slave), on how to attain his goal of confronting the emperor and taking revenge. “Listen to me,” Proximo said. “Learn from me. I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you’ll win your freedom.”
Maximus replied, “I will win the crowd. I will give them something they’ve never seen before.”
Despite its antagonistic feel, this year’s election isn’t exactly like ancient Roman civilization’s bloody gladiator games, though the pearl of wisdom Proximo passed to Maximus could be considered just as relevant today as it was (approximately) two thousand years ago. Tonight’s third (second?) and final presidential debate (9 p.m. EDT at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, moderated by NBC News’s Kristen Welker) could possibly determine who will live in the White House and set executive policy for the next four years.
It's a test of worldviews alright. And whoever “wins the crowd” will prevail in the election. Tonight, however, President Donald Trump and Democrat challenger Joe Biden will both be targeting different groups of voters. Unlike in the Roman Coliseum days, the American electorate is made up of coalitions of people who don’t all think alike. And instead of blood and carnage, (some?) voters would rather hear about issue platforms that will make their lives better.
Does the “win the crowd” analogy work here? It depends on who’s more credible and has a record for keeping promises to the American people. Vice President Mike Pence wrote at the USA Today, “When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he launched a movement to restore the promise of America.
“Since taking office, President Trump has delivered record-breaking results for all Americans. For decades, president after president, Republican and Democrat alike, failed to execute the agenda that they promised voters. For the last four years, I have stood with President Trump as he kept his promises to the American people, even when facing unprecedented attacks from the permanent Washington political class and their allies in the mainstream media…
“There is no doubt that 2020 has been a time of unprecedented challenges. Thankfully, we have a president with the toughness, energy and resolve to ensure that America’s best days still lie ahead. A vote to reelect President Trump is a vote for a safer, stronger and more prosperous America.”
Yes it is. And although Trump is very unlikely to couch it in such eloquent terms, he will definitely be homing in on the aspects of his agenda that made America prosperous and optimistic in the first three years of his presidency, before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP, or Wuhan, if you prefer) virus invaded the brains and bodies of innocent people all over the world.
By now, Trump is well versed in talking about the virus. It’s all the media’s been asking him about (except for maybe his tax returns) for months, so it will be a difficult task for Welker to devise a question that evokes anything other than well-worn responses from both debate participants. Trump’s will be something along the lines of, “Deaths are down 85 percent from six months ago and we’ve developed some terrific new treatments that beat the virus. That was my experience. Don’t let fear of the virus ruin your life. Get out and enjoy living. Work, breathe, have fun. Wear a mask if you’re inclined. But there’s no reason the world has to come to an end because of something China started.”
“And one more thing before you cut off my microphone. Biden is a corrupt loser who… (sound ends after Welker triggers the mute button).”
Biden will offer his standard hyperbolic nonsense. “He -- Trump -- didn’t take it seriously from the beginning and now we’re up to two hundred and twenty-five thousand deaths or something. If he’d just acted quicker and set a patriotic example by wearing a mask every one of those people who died would still be alive. And he’s responsible for all the job losses, too. The Obama economy produced all that prosperity and he ruined it with his tax cuts that only benefit the wealthy and Wall Street.”
Follow up: “I know you would do it gently, but would you shut down the economy again, Joe?”
“I will do whatever it takes to beat the virus. I’ve said in my one or two media appearances in the past six months that you can’t get a hold of the economy until you deal with the virus. Nobody trusts anything this clown says, so who knows if a vaccine will help things. Vote for me and everyone will magically return to work in high paying green jobs and we’ll all live happily ever after with free healthcare and college for all! Oh, and Hunter had nothing to do with colluding with the Chinese to manufacture the coronavirus! He’s a good boy and never did anything illegal. (Looking at Trump) Stop the smear campaign, Jack!”
There isn’t a voter from the lower 48 or Alaska or Hawaii who needs to hear another word about COVID-19, but it was one of the subjects Welker slated for the candidates to talk about -- again. The Trump campaign objected to the topics selected and the new rule whereby the moderator can enforce “silence” whenever she feels like it, by killing the candidates’ individual microphones. Here’s thinking the NBC News anchor will let Biden ramble on about malarkey and big government plans and “Here’s the deal” and “You didn’t build that!” all the former vice president wants. Trump, on the other hand, will regularly be cut off after his two minutes expire.
Who knows, if/when the president goes there -- and talks about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop -- maybe Welker will silence Trump in the middle of his allotted time. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Welker could be the live version of Twitter and Facebook.
The Trump campaign had asked for foreign policy to be included in the third debate since the parties, by prior arrangement, had agreed to emphasize it in the final forum (of course, the Biden camp denied the accord). But Welker thought otherwise, apparently. Tonight’s topics are, Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership.
Trump was entirely justified to object to the proposed discussion list, since it closely mirrors the subjects Chris Wallace asked about on September 29. Since foreign affairs is almost exclusively the domain of the executive branch, it’s absolutely vital to explore the candidates’ views on the subject. But Democrats would much rather keep the focus on the pandemic, racism, women’s rights (translation: abortion), “climate change” (translation: more crapola on windmills and solar panels) and the awful fossil fuel industry, and “leadership” (translation: allow Biden to talk about how Obama defeated the Swine Flu and killed Osama bin Laden).
No foreign policy? Didn’t Democrats impeach Trump over a phone call to the Ukrainian president? What about all the accusations of “collusion” with the Russians and coddling Vladimir Putin? Wouldn’t Biden say he’s the only one with the experience to deal with China? And those Trump meetings with Kim Jong Un, they didn’t get us anywhere, did they? Don’t leave out how Trump betrayed America’s European allies. The shame of it!
Trump strategy unknown, but he really just needs to be like Mike (Pence)
No one tells Donald Trump what to do.
Many a political observer has suggested that Trump keeps a counsel of one -- himself -- and therefore doesn’t require a team of advisors or consultants to steer him towards the least common denominator political position. Some presidents more than others govern according to polls, but Trump is a man who likes having people on his side. Last Thursday night during his town hall forum, for example, the president repeatedly said to “moderator” Savannah Guthrie, “we’re on the same side here.”
The million dollar question for tonight is how much Trump will go after the hapless Joe Biden, or if he’ll lay back and tout his administration’s accomplishments and allow his opponent to ramble and fumble and gaffe and greatly exaggerate facts and figures all on his own. Or simply lie through his teeth, as Biden is renowned for.
In the biggest irony of all, Welker’s mute button may actually help the incumbent president because viewers won’t be able to hear his comments and interruptions (if there are any) this time.
Trump doesn’t have to stick to a pre-concocted message, but he must demonstrate more discipline than he did three and a half weeks ago in the first meeting of the candidates. Simply put, a repeat of the mean, distracted and angry Trump will not be well received. A controlled demonstration of temperament, on the other hand, will refute his critics and help pacify the doubters out there who like Trump’s policies but aren’t sure about his willingness to go the extra mile to heal the divisions in the country.
Mike Pence did a stellar job of keeping his cool and letting his opponent ensnare herself in her own net two weeks ago during the vice presidential debate. He didn’t concede an inch while nailing Kamala Harris on her contradictions and refusal to answer the court packing question. “Let the record reflect that she refused to answer the question,” Pence said. Similarly, Trump could win this debate by smoothly and calmly pointing out everything Biden can’t or won’t answer, which should be pretty much everything. Does Joe disavow Antifa? How about Colin Kaepernick?
Trump should listen to the advice of some of those around him. Kellyanne Conway was there for him four years ago and he turned in a very reasonable debate performance against super sleazeball politician Hillary Clinton. The only thing people remember from that night was his answer to the “will you concede if you lose on Election Night?” query. But the rest of the event was substantive and… presidential.
Americans want to see if Trump can act the part for 90 minutes. Perhaps Melania, Pence, Conway and daughter Ivanka should all have a heart-to-heart with him before he goes on stage. All Biden had to do in the first debate to “win” in many folks’ minds was stand straight for an hour and a half and sound halfway coherent. All Trump has to do to win tonight is act like a president for an hour and a half. Can he do it?
Let Biden say whatever he wants. Everyone knows he’s full of it. Win the crowd, Donald.
Think Joe Biden wants to talk about the Supreme Court now?
When President Trump and Joe Biden met on the debate stage last month, the nation was still getting used to the fact that Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to replace the ultra-liberal feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away less than two weeks before.
Now that Americans have had the opportunity to see Barrett during her hearings, however, her confirmation is favored by a bare majority of voters. Far from the being the right-wing ideologue Democrats tried to paint her as, Barrett came across as a “normal” mom with stellar smarts and a mind so sharp she could slice through the meanest of liberal debasement campaigns.
Now, Barrett is likely to be confirmed as early as next Monday. Susan Ferrechio reported at The Washington Examiner, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote Monday, Oct. 26, on the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, all but ensuring nine justices will be seated ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“McConnell made the announcement following a closed-door meeting with GOP lawmakers, who nearly unanimously approve of confirming Barrett despite the objections of all Democrats...
“Democrats have warned Barrett’s nomination would shift the centrist court far to the right and are now weighing ‘packing’ the high court with additional justices of their own choosing if the party is able to seize control of the Senate and White House in November.”
Barrett’s name is bound to come up in tonight’s debate. Trump should allow Biden to repeat all the nonsense that Democrat senators threw at the judge in her time before the panel. Let any undecided voters clearly see that it isn’t about the law as much as it is Democrats gone frantic over their perceived loss of power.
Biden has said he will reveal his position on court packing before the election. Trump will press him on it. Maybe Biden hopes the moderator will cut his own microphone before he fully answers. It could happen.
As is true with every presidential debate, tonight’s forum is important to both camps. Having already proved he could survive a ninety-minute challenge, Joe Biden needs to do more than simply get through it. President Trump, on the other hand, simply needs to show that his temperament is commensurate with his commanding presence. Who will win the crowd?
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