“All talk and no action.”
With those few words, President Trump dismissed former Vice President Joe Biden and his vacuous plans for solving criminal injustice, climate change, immigration and most of all, the coronavirus. Rightly so.
With only 11 days until the election, the president and his Democratic rival squared off once again. The setup was different, with mute buttons that prevented the unchecked interruptions that wrecked their first encounter.
Most likely those silencers were not necessary. The president had clearly learned his lesson; poor post-debate polling after their first faceoff made it clear that browbeating his rival would not win over any votes.
This time, Trump came prepared to show the country that he could be civil, stay (mostly) on topic, and still beat Biden. That he did.
President Trump did not deliver a knock-out blow, but he won on points. He managed to bring up the brewing scandal over Hunter Biden’s shady foreign business dealings and Joe Biden’s apparent involvement in those activities – the story first published by the New York Post that has caused such a furor. That was important since the liberal media has shockingly refused to cover it.
He also drew a clear distinction between his outsider status and Biden’s 47 years as a Beltway insider. More than once Trump wondered aloud why the former vice president had not accomplished in all that time some of the “plans” upon which he is campaigning. It’s a reasonable question.
Biden stumbled on several topics. He lied about having earlier vowed to ban fracking, denied that the separation of illegal immigrant children from their parents began under Obama, which is true, lied about calling the president “xenophobic” for closing our doors to China and, perhaps, about his business dealings in China.
Also questionable was his claim that the average donation to his campaign is $43. There are an awful lot of billionaires backing Obama’s former wingman; that figure seems unlikely.
Perhaps most important, Trump sustained no self-inflicted injuries. Given that polls are moving in his direction, and that the Hunter Biden scandal is growing, that was good enough.
Though at least 47 million Americans have already voted, there are still more than one hundred million more ballots yet to be cast. Analysts estimate that some 6% to 10% of voters have not made up their minds.
Consequently, the debate was pivotal for both sides. A poor performance by the president might have taken the spotlight off the late-breaking Hunter Biden news or the rapidly recovering economy. That did not happen.
The topics chosen by the moderator, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, were climate change, COVID-19, race, national security, leadership, and American families. The subjects, many of which are Biden campaign themes, and the moderator, whose family members are long-time Democratic donors, were not partial to Donald Trump. Welker also interrupted Trump more frequently than Biden, and though she did ask the Democrat some tough questions, she also appeared to give him more response time.
That was to be expected, and President Trump, happily, did not rise to the bait.
As it turned out, possibly stung by complaints that foreign policy was not on the list, Welker did ask both candidates about North Korea and also about their own “foreign entanglements.”
Welker thereby opened the door to Hunter Biden’s questionable business activities in Ukraine and China, two nations for which Biden was the point person in the Obama White House.
Trump challenged Biden on his son’s efforts to cash in on his father’s position and Joe’s apparent involvement in the scheme. Biden denied wrongdoing, saying “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source.” (He might, however, have taken money from a domestic venture that did.)
He also claimed that “Hunter Biden never made money in China,” which appears to be refuted by emails that have surfaced regarding his son’s past ventures.
In addition, Biden claimed that Rudy Giuliani is “being used as a Russian pawn,” which is the Democrat’s new talking point meant to discredit the shocking disclosures.
Finally, Biden dismissed the allegations of corruptions as “malarkey.” Sorry, Joe, that won’t wash.
These assertions will be parsed in coming days, with the FBI now having possession of important materials and legislators vowing to dig into the charges of wrongdoing.
For Trump, it was important to press Biden on the topic; at least now more Americans have heard about it.
For his part, Biden stuck to familiar accusations that Trump has mismanaged the coronavirus and still has “no clear plan.” In response, Trump reassured the country that a vaccine would be announced within weeks and made the case that the country cannot remain locked down.
As he said, we “cannot let the cure be worse than the disease.”
Biden sticks to pounding Trump because he has little concrete to offer. Asked how he would handle the countries interfering in our elections, the former V.P. said he would make sure they “pay a price.” What price? He also claimed he would make China “play by the rules.” How?
Welker asked Biden if he thought raising the federal minimum wage to $15 is a good idea when many small businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic. Biden responded that he did think the wage hike was appropriate, but that the economic downturn made it essential that the government provide aid to small firms.
So Biden wants to crush mom and pop stores by making them pay higher wages, and then bail them out with the taxpayer’s dime. That’s about as coherent as Joe Biden’s economic plans get.
Coming into the first debate, Republicans were confident that President Trump would clobber Biden; he did not.
This time, roles were reversed, with Democrats sure that Trump would prove again to be his own worst enemy. He may not have smiled as much as some of us had hoped for, but he sure beat expectations.