The Death of Debate

It was a shitshow. Worse than that, because it can always get worse, there was never a chance that it would be anything but a shitshow from the outset. Trump came in with the purpose of proving to his hard core right wing fringe supporters that he was the tough guy they so admire in him. And when asked by Chris Wallace, who was completely incapable of reining in Trump, to condemn white supremacy, the most Trumpian of things Trump could say came out.

Stand Back. Stand By.

There is a reason Trump could not bring himself to condemn white supremacists. They love him and he wants their love. It’s not that Trump loves them. Trump loves Trump and nothing but Trump, but to the extent they serve Trump, he will say nothing to lose their love. As for anything else about them, he couldn’t care less.

Some have suggested that this was a canned phrase, a prepared response carefully crafted by his debate preppers, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie. This was a call to arms, or at least a call to stand ready to fight when he loses the election because the disaffected Americans who believed that this nation’s political class needed to be shaken up by an outsider who refused to play by their rules now they see that not any vulgar, amoral, deceitful ignoramus will suffice.

Biden didn’t do himself proud when challenged to condemn Antifa either, claiming they were only an “idea.” Like Trump, he can’t afford to alienate his fringe, who already despises him and will suffer his election so they can destroy him as soon as possible.

But Biden, for all his frailties, is not a vicious animal.

This was called a debate, but it obviously wasn’t. The question for America is whether we want a debate, a comparison of policies and approaches, answers to the questions we have about candidates, or a shitshow. There is no shortage of derogatory words and phrases to describe the Catastrophe in Cleveland, and the harsher they are, the more they resonate. The word disgrace falls far short. Embarrassment doesn’t begin to capture it.

Had it been Biden against someone whose only tool wasn’t to behave like an animal, it’s unclear whether it would have been a useful debate, a forum to learn what the candidates would do and how they would govern. We live in a time when no one answers questions with actual information and deflection and obfuscation are the rule. That’s one of the reasons an outsider who spoke “plainly” was embraced by some.

But Trump didn’t speak “plainly.” Trump didn’t say anything, just as he never says anything of substance. He has no health care plan. He has no COVID plan. He lacks the intellectual capacity and focus to make a plan. He lies shamelessly to try to bullshit his way through his inability to have a plan because, in what passes as the mind of Trump, the object is to make it out the other side. If lying is the only path he’s got, then it’s the path he has to take, entirely justifiable in his contorted capacity to reason if it saves him from exposure as the fool.

This was not a debate. We cannot endure another display of the diseased state of our politics. This cannot be our nation, for if it is, then there is no hope for the future of our institutional integrity. This has nothing to do with right, left or middle, per se, but with being so sick that we would put an animal in charge. There can be no more of these debacles unless and until we’ve learned our lesson that if we can’t be better than this, then we have no justification for our existence.

Facts and logic matter.

Integrity matters.

Principles matter.

Trump is the death of all that matters. Trump is our punishment for abandoning the things that matter.

This isn’t to endorse Biden, but to condemn Trump.

I am disgusted. If you take delight from this burning down of all that America has, is and could be, then bear in mind that there is nowhere to go from here but down. Last night, debate died. The only question remaining is whether America will die as well.

63 thoughts on “The Death of Debate

  1. jfjoyner3

    Woohoo what a flame thrower you’re wielding today! I largely agree with all you wrote about Darth Cheeto(c by SHG) but I still lean towards Trump because I despise even more the hard left radicals who will populate the Biden administration that is almost certainly coming our way. Whenever I read social media or listen to Clown News Network I cannot think of any reason why you or anyone believes we deserve anything better than these two morons.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      This isn’t a matter of where one falls along the political or policy spectrum. It’s about one individual too repugnant to elect.

      Reply
      1. Antonio Maceo

        But Hillary Clinton was not repugnant? Where was your disgust when she burned down America by insulting millions of Americans in the 1990s with her Saul Alinsky tactics of “vast right wing conspiracy” and Bill Clinton’s rabid animals James Carville / David Brock / Paul Begala? The Left celebrated their scorched earth tactics even till today.

        Of course nothing could be more animalistic than putting children in cages. But why cast aspersions on Barack when he is not present to defend himself?

        We did not vote for Trump in 2016. Yet our visceral hatred for Schumer, Pelosi, Feinstein, Biden, Nadler, MSM, etc have driven us to support anyone who will drive the animals back into their pens without dragging a $100 bill through a trailer park.

        Reply
          1. Antonio Maceo

            He expected a tummy rub, as he labeled my one and only previous comment. Instead this time he got a dissenting opinion and he, ala Saul Alinsky, went for the insults.

            No wonder others call him a pendejo because es verdad

            – Im a bona fide Latino married maricon and Trump will get our votes.

            Reply
            1. SHG Post author

              “He” doesn’t give a shit either way, tummy rub or dissent. “He” gives a shit that your comment was substantively moronic, which is obvious to anyone who has a clue what I’ve had to say over the years.

  2. KP

    They’re just typical politicians, but others have had a better facade.

    Boss, at your age you should know better, anyone who wants power shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it, and that’s what democracy brings. You’re choosing between two of the worst sorts of people.

    Actually, ‘any vulgar, amoral, deceitful ignoramus WILL suffice’. The peasants don’t want policies, they want a side-show. At least you guys have two other pillars to soften the impact.

    Reply
          1. j a higginbotham

            And by some impressive personage:
            00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100100 01110101 01101101 01100010 00100000 01101111 01101100 01100100 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110111 01111001 01100101 01110010

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      1. Dagasi Allen

        ^^ That is one of the most underappreciated axioms of a civil society.

        That large part of our brains responsible for reasoning/executive functioning is what’s supposed to let us think better of “saying what everyone’s thinking.”

        Though we focus on Enlightenment individualism as that concept undergirding the necessity of a protected freedom of speech, we forget that Hume, Smith, et al., paired it with the Enlightenment concept of “the sympathies” or “sentiments” — that intangible but very real space between us that explains how individualism leaves room for collective moral sentiments.

        It’s the government’s responsibility to protect our freedom of speech, our freedom to “say what ‘everyone’ is thinking,” but it’s our individual and collective responsibility to think better of saying what ‘everyone’ is thinking, so as to not pollute the space between us, the moral sympathies/sentiments.

        Reply
    1. Grant

      As history has taught, we can have a perfectly adequate sideshow without a vulgar, amoral, deceitful ignoramus in charge.

      Trump isn’t a traditional politician. It is, in fact, one of his selling points. He is P.T. Barnum POTUS. That is why he succeeds at sales-type foreign policy initiatives and craters on science-type pandemic responses.

      Reply
      1. Jim Majkowski

        What foreign policy successes might those be? Relocating an embassy? Bribing the UAE and the Gulf states (with a total population and economy smaller than Ohio’s) to announce they intend to do as they’ve been doing vis-a-vis Israel? Emboldening Putin? Adding to Kim Jong-Un’s prestige? Appointing deliberately antagonistic emissaries to the most important European nation? Abandoning allies to gratify the Islamist autocrat Erdogan? Jared’s peace plan?

        Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      As a child, I refused to put my hand over my heart when we recited the pledge of allegiance in school. Today, I stand when they play the national anthem. Sometimes my eyes water up a bit. I have a very different appreciation of what America has done to enable a poor kid like me to have a wonderful life. But it takes constant vigilance to keep it.

      Reply
  3. Chris Van Wagner

    Perhaps they need to give Wallace the same three lights that sit atop the lectern in the Seventh Circuit ceremonial courtroom, along with a microphone control button. Maybe even just a Zoom Court control panel. Or maybe, instead, how about we call it what it is and bring in the host of The Weakest Link, and throw in the Gong Show apparatus for good measure? Have they never watched Question Time? One can lob salvos without blotting out the sun. Disgusted is the flavor of the day. Week. Month. Time to hunker down into slip opinions where, in theory, one part of our democracy continues to gasp for air.

    Reply
  4. DaveL

    Some have suggested that this was a canned phrase, a prepared response carefully crafted by his debate preppers, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie.

    Ye gods, what a ghastly response to have prepared ahead of time.

    Reply
  5. Keith

    I’m reminded of PJ O’Rourke’s admonition in 2016 regarding why he was backing HRC:
    “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

    Trump is vulgar. I have a 10 year old and for the first time in my life, I had serious concerns about her hearing a political debate. That’s not ok. It’s certainly not good for our country or the people in it.

    Shitshow and dumpster fire are words she may eventually come by, but watching last night, there’s a decent chance she could invent them for lack of an adequate way to describe what she was seeing.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      There was little doubt that I would spend the next four years as I’ve spent the past 40, fighting for sound, effective policy and against tyrants from the right or left. As PJ observed, I would rather do it with ideas and words than clubs.

      Reply
  6. Turk

    Turned it off after 20 min. I couldn’t take it.

    I don’t know why any decent journalist would do this without a microphone kill switch.

    Reply
    1. Hunting Guy

      Shitshow is right. I lasted 5 minutes.

      I really hate that the political machines have forced me to these choices. No matter which way I vote, I’ll have to hold my nose.

      I fear for our republic.

      Reply
  7. Skink

    When a sighing begins
    In the violins
    Of the autumn-song,
    My heart is drowned
    In the slow sound
    Languorous and long

    Pale as with pain,
    Breath fails me when
    The hours toll deep.
    My thoughts recover
    The days that are over,
    And I weep.

    And I go
    Where the winds know,
    Broken and brief,
    To and fro,
    As the winds blow
    A dead leaf.

    Reply
  8. CLS

    I tuned in last night for five minutes because I love debate. It was my thing in undergrad. I still love debating today.

    That wasn’t anything close to a debate. It was two old men with delusions of being professional wrestlers attempting to cut semi-coherent promos on each other.

    No more of that shit for me, please and thank you. If I get a jonesing for that kind of “debate,” I’ll just watch wrestling because then I get to watch a fake fight as a bonus.

    Reply
    1. PseudonymousKid

      CLS, your take is the woke one here, if any are. The “debate” showcased kayfabe at its finest. Was that shit last night supposed to be entertaining? It wasn’t at all. I’d have rather seen the two geriatrics fight it out for real. As pathetic as that would have been the “debate” was even more so.

      Reply
  9. Jay

    Finally. Welcome to the club. Sorry it took listening to him talk to convince you he’s destroying our country and not his various crimes.

    Reply
    1. Paleo

      If you think Biden came out of that dumpster looking great you’re as delusional as the Trumpsters.

      The major parties have failed. One is pushing a candidate that is so amoral as to be unelectable. The other is pushing a candidate that has such a poor grasp of reality so as to insist that antifa doesn’t exist.

      This is the second straight election with untenable choices. It can’t continue.

      Reply
  10. Jim Cline

    Watching the debate was like trying to read Biden’s proposed policies online with Trump’s twitter feed as a pop up ad every ten seconds. Like the saying goes, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

    Reply
  11. Pedantic Grammar Police

    Do you want America destroyed by the senile gentleman playing Weekend at Bernie’s with openly (anti)racist left-wing fascists, or by the reality TV star who refuses to condemn white supremacists? At this point, what difference does it make? Does it really matter which clown pretends to be leading the parade?

    Reply
    1. Kathryn M Kase

      Yes, it matters. It matters because there’s a difference between the actions that people who believe in sound, effective policy and those who view the very hard work of governing as too boring (see, e.g., Darth Cheeto’s approach to intelligence briefings) as long as they’re getting regular tummy rubs from their base. By contrast, I give you 41. I was not a huge fan of his political views, but with his election I knew he would appoint competent professionals to lead agencies, to serve as judges, and to enact policies. I might have disagreed with some of those policies and some of those judicial appointments, but I also knew that 41 not only expected disagreement, he supported institutional means of registering disagreement. And, certainly, I knew that he wasn’t going to cozy up to strongmen and dictators who mean the US harm in order to turn a private buck. And if referencing 41 is unpersuasive, may I suggest Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk, which demonstrates why this election is not merely a choice between two evils.

      Reply
      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        It worked out so well when we voted for Obama. I’m still smelling the hope and change.

        If I had to choose between these two losers, I would hold my nose and vote for Trump. Fortunately I don’t have to.

        Reply
  12. Jake

    Last night’s performance looked pretty familiar to me. Trump lead with his leadership brand of brazen incompetence, patent inability to lead or even empathize with all of America, utter lack of creativity, and aggressively rude and self-aggrandizing comportment. What’s new?

    Reply
      1. Jake

        We were all told to lay low. Word coming down from corporate is if we are discovered to be a real organization they’ll have to take our Antifa ID cards which would be a real bitch ’cause they are good for 15% off on soy burgers and all black clothing made by Dickies.

        Reply
  13. Rengit

    What is so hard about debate moderators and media people just asking the candidates, “Do you condemn political violence?”, instead of framing it as an issue about either antifa groups or white supremacists? Framing it as a left or right thing is a plain attempt at capturing some kind of gotcha moment, or accusing Trump/Biden of “both sideism” when they say, “Yes, I condemn violence whether it is coming from the left or right”, such an accusation then fueling extremism in a tit-for-tat escalation. Violence in itself should be condemned as wrong, not “right-wing violence” or “left-wing violence”.

    Reply
    1. Jake

      Sir, I’m going to have to cite you for bringing up common sense, decency, and basic leadership skills in the context of modern electoral politics. Please think more carefully about future comments and drive safe out there on the internet. It’s a wild and untamed environment.

      Reply
      1. SHG Post author

        Was it wrong of Wallace to ask a question specifically directed at each candidate, dealing with the particular concerns that public might have about their particular supporters? I don’t think so.

        Reply
  14. John S.

    I remember the first presidential debate I deliberately watched was Reagan vs. Mondale. There is no comparison to any “debate” held today. In 1984, I saw two men who both presented themselves as leaders deserving consideration to be our country’s next leader, and a moderator who presented a neutral program. They presented their policies, took their turns to speak and rebut, and followed the moderator’s instructions. Last night was nothing more than schoolyard bickering between three misbehaving brats. Forget policies, I saw nothing displayed by anyone on stage that gives me confidence our country will be in responsible hands no matter who wins. I have doubts that anyone in politics understands the concept of leadership these days.

    Reply
  15. John Barleycorn

    Cheer up esteemed one, if you didn’t know, rumor has it the Commission on Presidential Debates is an independent body, and if they want to make an assessment about different charges for debate rules they can!

    That makes them sort of like the Grand Jury of Presidential Debates, and I bets they actually know they have them some powers, unlike your typical grand juror, so expect them to roll out some indictments of last nights no-knock raid and at the very least, make them some administrate adjustments for the next debate.

    Cow bells for the neighbors in the audience and air horns for the moderator serving up the warranted investigative questions would be pretty cool, eh?

    Reply
  16. Crum Petree

    The debate was a chaotic mess. Trump’s boorish behavior made me cringe practically the entire time. The post-debate analysis is equally cringe-worthy.
    Why couldn’t Trump just condemn white supremacists? It’s easy enough. As easy as raising your fist in the air and shouting “black lives matter,” while trying to enjoy dinner at a restaurant with your significant other. And while we’re at it, condemn all racists, Nazis, and the boogeyman as well. Just say it, and signal that you’re willing to condemn the evil doers of society. But which ones? The white supremacists who are looting and setting fire to buildings? The ones who think that the removal of statues should be done democratically? Or the white supremacists who fail to capitulate to the mob while dining at a restaurant? The right-wing protesters are “provoking the rioters,” says Biden. Rioters who can’t be dissuaded from protesting as long as it’s in a “mostly” peaceful way. But please, let’s make sure the entirely peaceful right-wing “extremists” stand-down, because their protests are intolerable, and we can’t abide that. According to the arbitrary rules of politics, protests can’t be provocative. Who knew? It must be the job of an effective president to condemn those benign groups, while he “stay out of the way,” as Biden puts it, of all the violence and destruction happening around the country.
    Based on the debate critique, Trump’s problem is he’s a Nazi (apparently). That must be it. That’s the thing that’s wrong with him, and not the million other things. And despite my dislike of him, I must be a Nazi too by way of attribution. A conclusion that is one of the least factual, logical, or principled idea I can imagine. And yet, that is what occupies the relentlessly indignant and outrage-prone commentary. Our ability to interpret the debate honestly, rationally, and objectively matters as much as the debate itself.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Being in a presidential debate isn’t quite the same thing as being in a restaurant accosted by protesters. This isn’t a good argument.

      Reply
  17. Guitardave

    As a longtime observer of audiences, ( oft times, like the comments here, they’re more entertaining than the show) there’s only one thing i can say to you all…

    Reply
      1. Guitardave

        I didn’t say that.
        Hanging out at this here hotel for a while now, your ‘show’ was not unexpected. Your take on the three ring circus erroneously called a ‘debate’ was, as usual, well done and entertaining. ( rub,rub)
        If the comments caused me a few more knee-slaps than your post that provoked them, its only because i find the stupidity/audacity of certain types commenters, and the snark of others, hilarious.
        Like you say about the results of changing something bad not always turning out better, sometimes the results of doing something fun leads to more fun…so lighten up buttercup.

        Reply
  18. James

    Trump said he was willing to condemn and ask to stand down the White Supremist and Militia groups. The line Trump refused to cross was when Chris Wallace labeled the Proud Boys as White Supremist. I am not sure how the Proud Boys qualify as White Supremist given their black members and black leaders. The organization itself denounces White Supremacy.

    Reply

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