I have seen every presidential debate ever held.
I began taking an interest in politics when I was still in grade school. The first presidential election I followed was the race between John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960. I was twelve years old. It was an historic occasion.
Most of you are probably way younger than me. JFK died before you were born. You may not even remember the day he was shot, let alone the election that won him the presidency, or the debates that played such a big part in that contest. But fortunately you have YouTube. Take a look.
Millenials, Gen Xers, Gen Zs, play a little of this. The opening statements, at least. The issues and controversies of 1960 are part of history now, and may not seem hugely relevant to us today (though some of them still are)… but it is the TONE of the debate that I want to draw your attention to. This is what a presidential debate is supposed to look and sound like. Two candidates exchanging views and ideas, debating facts, dealing with the issues of the day, all the while treating each other with respect. It was a DEBATE. Lincoln and Douglas would have been proud. Maybe it was not the most exciting television in the world, but it gave us a good view of both candidates, where they agreed, where they differed.
I have seen every subsequent debate as well. Nixon and Kennedy had three more of these, and I watched. I was watching when Ford blew his election against Carter with a gaffe about Eastern Europe. I was watching when Bill Clinton turned the 1992 race in the three-way debate with Bush the Elder and Ross Perot. I saw Ronald Reagan debate Jimmy Carter, and John Anderson, and Walter Mondale. I watched Obama against McCain, and Obama against Romney. I saw all the good moments, and all the bad ones.
I have never seen anything like what I witnessed last night.
It was appalling. Offensive. Disgusting. Donald Trump was bad four years ago in his debates with Hillary Clinton, but last night he set new records for being offensive, obnoxious, and rude. He ranted, he raved, he shouted, he interrupted again and again and again and AGAIN, refusing to let Joe Biden finish a sentence without breaking in. He spoke over Biden, he spoke over the moderator, he ignored the questions, he ignored the rules — rules his own campaign had negotiated and agreed to — he told shocking lies, and doubled down when called on them, he engaged in smears and personal attacks, he tried to discredit the result of the vote before most of America has even voted.
This was not the behavior of a president. This was not the behavior of a presidential candidate.
This was the behavior of a schoolyard bully, an obnoxious child, the tinpot strongman of some third world dictatorship.
Look at the debate from 1960. Can you imagine either Kennedy or Nixon engaging in behavior like this? I am certainly no fan of Nixon, and he did some pretty shady things when he got into the White House (Watergate and all). He said some pretty obnoxious stuff in his private moments as well. So did LBJ. So did other presidents, other candidates. IN PRIVATE. None of them would ever have behaved like Trump did in public.
It is not a question of Democrat v Republican, or Liberal v Conservative. Nixon would not have behaved as Trump did. Ronald Reagan would not have done so. Nor Eisenhower, nor John McCain, nor Barry Goldwater.
Donald Trump disgraced the presidency last night. He took a piss all over democracy.
All other issues aside — and there are hugely important issues being decided this year, from race relations to climate change to the pandemic — last night’s “debate” proved one thing beyond any doubt. Joe Biden is a decent human being, and Donald Trump is not.
Current Mood: angry