It was, of course, not a presidential debate. Not a surprise. Trump came in ready to repeat what he tells audiences at his rallies – raging, lying by the microminute, promising perfection and spewing hate at Biden. Biden – flustered, bumbling at times, stumbling over facts, at least tried to answer specific questions from the moderators – Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. At least eight times, Trump brushed aside their questions and repeated his previous flailing tirades against Biden.  It is a wonder Trump didn’t slurp saliva along with his sneering arrogance.

Democratic operatives were aghast during and after the merciful end of this 90-minute look/see by an estimated 51 million viewers. Biden prepared for over a week with his debate advisors and probably was so overprepared as to be tightly wound. Also, he had a cold which he should have noted at the outset to explain his weak tone of voice.

The moderators were forewarned about Trump trying to take over the show. They cut the mics of each candidate while the other was talking. Trump adjusted. He leapfrogged their questions and bellowed without ever being told: “Mr. Trump, you are not answering the questions just addressed to you.”

CNN correctly said beforehand that the moderators were not going to interrupt with any fact-checking, no matter how wild and crazy. As a result, the unfurled, unstable, disjointed man from Mar-a-Largo kept doing himself in, mitigating Biden’s staggering failure to deliver the most obvious rebuttals, especially on the issues of “democracy” and “climate.”

All the questions asked by the moderators were predictable by the candidates and their staff. That is how deep is the ditto nature of the mass media. Earlier the Washington Post asked sixteen of its opinion columnists to offer one policy question for  the presidential debate. The moderators pretty much covered the questions asked. None of the sixteen columnists mentioned the corporate crime wave, the plight of worker exploitation (e.g., frozen minimum wage, workplace health/safety casualties, and anti-labor laws), massive corporate welfare giveaways, corporate tax reform, the global arms race or widespread abuses of consumers in many marketplace sectors.

Most prominently, the super-dominant power of giant corporations over our government, politics, economy, culture, and our children’s future never occurred to these savvy observers of what’s really going on in America.

Back to Biden’s collapse. Long-time Democratic Party loyalist, exhorter and critic, Robert Kuttner repeated his demand that Biden step aside. He elaborated: “With Biden heading the ticket, Democrats will likely lose the House, Senate, state legislatures and governorships, and down-ballot races all the way to school board, as well as the presidency.” I’ve known Kuttner for years. He rarely panics to this extent. He added that, “In coming days, the media echo chamber, which for once has it right, will keep reinforcing the depth of Biden’s defeat and the story of utter panic among Democratic officials, strategists, and donors. That will be self-enforcing.”

The vast majority of actual voters have already made up their minds. The rest will be treated with billions of dollars of advertising featuring selections from both Biden and Trump’s deliveries. What may save Biden, whose team asked for this early debate, were the ravings and pathological lying of dangerous, dictatorial Donald. (See AP Debate Fact Checks: https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-misinformation-election-debate-trump-biden-577507522762aa10f6ee5be3a0ced2bb).

There was little daylight between Biden and Trump on militarism, empire, genocide and a devouring, bloated military budget. But domestically, Biden could have exposed Trump as an abject tool of the worst of Big Business and Wall Street over Main Street, contrasting his record in the process. Here is one salvo that Biden could have delivered crisply and deliberately:

“Let’s look at your record, Mr. Trump.

CHILDREN – You blocked extending the child tax credit in January 2022, which was delivering $300 a month to over 60 million children;

WOMEN – You’re opposed to their reproductive rights and want to punish them for their choice, not to mention your long history of abusing women;

WORKERS – You and your Republicans in Congress have long opposed raising the paltry federal minimum wage frozen at $7.25 an hour. As President, you displayed your hatred of Unions and weakened job safety protections;

IMMIGRATION – You single-handedly demanded your Party in Congress abandon a bipartisan immigration reform bill that the Congress was ready to send for my signature earlier this year;

CONSUMERS – You weakened enforcement of life-saving health and safety laws and shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that worked to make Wall Street accountable;

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH – You think climate disruption is a hoax and tell the main fossil fuel polluters to “Drill, baby, drill” instead  of backing planet-saving solar energy and wind power;

PATIENTS – You want to end Obamacare and oppose the expansion of Medicaid in Southern Republican states, taking away healthcare for tens of millions of Americans;

PUBLIC LANDS – Belong to all Americans and their descendants. You want to turn over big chunks of this land to corporations;

TAXPAYERS – In 2017, you gave under-taxed super-profitable corporations and the very rich another giant tax cut which greatly increased the federal deficit; and

Your hatred for the well-being of America shows how phony is your MAGA slogan. That’s just some of what you’ve done to the American people.”

 

-Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author.