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Debacle, not debate

The first presidential debate was more embarrassing than enlightening. The primary blame goes to President Trump for refusing to abide by the rules to which his campaign agreed. Both candidates were supposed to have two minutes to respond, uninterrupted, to the questions posed. Instead the incumbent Republican, from the start, kept speaking over and interrupting the responses of his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

However, in assessing blame for the debate debacle, moderator Chris Wallace finishes a close second. Granted, it is challenging to stand up to a bully like Trump, who has lived a life premised on the belief that the rules don’t apply to him. But that is the job the Fox newsman signed up for.

Wallace should have shut down the president at the start when he began disrupting his opponent. His best effort came too late, nearly an hour into the 90-minute affair (though thereafter things improved some). Biden was not blameless, but his mild-by-comparison transgressions fell within the normal gamesmanship of such debates. Trump, in contrast, acted out of control.

It is too bad, too, because Wallace had some substantive questions, but attempts at substantive answers were often swallowed up by the cacophony of the three men talking over each other.

The debate again revealed the worst of Trump; the intellectually shallow intimidator, uninterested in hearing or addressing the opinions of others. Biden’s flat rejection of violent protest, his promise (unlike Trump) to abide by the election results, his actual policy ideas — when he could get them out —suggested the normalcy many Americans yearn for.

The next presidential debate, Oct. 15 in Miami, Fla., will be town-hall style. Trump, perhaps, might be less inclined to interrupt answers sought by actual voters. And C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully, we suspect, will do a better job of keeping the candidates on topic.

We certainly hope so. If not, cancel debate three.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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