Debate 1: A Bully and a Weakling

Anyone appalled by Donald Trump‘s relentless interruptions and refusal to follow debate rules in last night’s first presidential debate is both right and obviously hasn’t paid much attention to the president, like ever. This is his usual shtick, and you have to assume that Biden’s team was ready for it.

What I saw last night was a bully and a weakling unable to fight back. Biden had several prepackaged zingers at the ready but the one he chose to unleash towards the end, a clumsy — hey, this is Joe Biden, man – defense of his deceased son Beau Biden appeared out of thin air, not after Trump said anything about it or him, and then itself got derailed by Trump talking about Hunter.

Ugliness all around.

Yesterday in the space I wondered who would show up on the Democratic side, rabid Biden or sleepy Joe? The man on the right side of the stage with somewhere in between but closer to somnolence than anything else. It did have the effect of showcasing Trump’s rudeness. But I don’t think it gave Democratic voters cause for confidence.

If last night encapsulates the decision faced by the electorate on November 3, they have to choose between a madman who coddles white nationalists— blink and you would miss his call out to the Proud Boys —and a befuddled corporatist who isn’t up to any job, much less leader of the free world. On its face, the choice may feel obvious. What is less obvious, and I think more important, is that it’s hard to get people off their couch to do anything on election day, especially when it is a grim duty like trying to cast a vote for Joe Biden.

If the typical American voter had a gun to his or her head and had to choose, Biden wins. But that’s not how voting works. It’s voluntary. The problem for Biden is enthusiasm, and last night shows why.

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About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at, editor-in-chief of, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

9 thoughts on “Debate 1: A Bully and a Weakling

  1. 1. Dear God. what a fiasco. If these two were running for dogcatcher, I’d write in Tommy Kirk. All that was missing was a pie fight and Shemp. The only thing both succeeded in was convincing me they didn’t deserve my vote.
    2. I’m wondering about Biden’s senility. I wouldn’t call the guy on stage last night senile. Perhaps that should be revisited?
    3. Speaking of blink-and-miss: Trump got one thing right. Biden can say good-bye to the progressives after last night. He seemed pretty clear about not committing to any real climate repair.

  2. Ted,

    I really appreciate your being straight up about Biden’s weakness. Everyone else is tip-toeing around it or pretending it’s not there. And you’re right of course that he’s not going to get some people of the couch. But still, that weakness did embolden shitheadman and perhaps made him look scarier, and I suspect that really could get some people off the couch. God, let’s hope so.


  3. This debate just shows how decayed our political system has become. Time for baby boomers to cede power and let Gen X and others lead.
    We re-watched that HBO drama “Rome” and there are lots of parallels to the end of the Roman Republic and what shitty society we have fallen into.
    The good part is that more and more Americans realize this, and want real change.

  4. I voted Green, and I hope enough vote Green that the losing party knows they need to change, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    Back in ’16, the Democrats said everyone who did not vote for St Hillary, the best candidate for president the US has ever had, enabled the worst person in the world to win, and they should be ashamed of themselves, and the Democrats hope we’ve learned our less and will vote for St Joe, this time. And if they lose, they’ll say it’s the Green’s fault, not the DNC’s.

  5. … and a befuddled corporatist who isn’t up to any job, much less leader of the free world.

    Fortunate is it not, Ted, that’s there’s no «free world» to lead….


      • To my mind, falco, there never was a «free world», as opposed to a world which was not «free» To imagine that thee was the case is more or less like imagining Joseph Robinette Biden as a progressive icon, i e, a historical fallacy. The term was used to refer to USA:s vassals ; latterly it was replaced by the term «the West» (Australia does, admittedly, lie to the west of New Zealand)….

        As to «leaders», if I’m not mistaken, Herbert George Wells once said that «grown men don’t need leaders». Leaving aside the for the time typical sexism, his dictum is worth ponering….


  6. “I recognize what he is doing: he wants me to disavow Bernie Sanders. I have worked with Senator Sanders for decades and unlike our current president he has never once condoned violence. I have won our party nomination running on my own program, which is different in many respects from the one put forward by Sanders – as Trump knows very well, he’s just trolling. As we speak all our primary candidates – from Senators Sanders and Warren to Mayors Buttigieg and Bloomberg – are campaigning for me, the party nominee. The democratic party is a big tent, all of them have worked hard for us, and I will certainly not throw any of them under the bus. -> Now I would ask the president whether he will finally disavow his support from the violent white supremacists?”

    Note that this speech does not even contain lip service to M4A, the Green New Deal, debt forgiveness, etc. Still, a simple statement of respect like this would likely have won Biden the presidency. Of course we got the opposite. In contrast, Trump’s refusal to disavow even the extreme right wing at least pretends that he were standing up for his own supporters.

    “You just lost the left”


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