A long night

To Paul’s assessment of last night’s proceedings in the adjacent post, I would only add this. If President Trump entered the debate trailing in most battleground states, as I believe he did, his performance served him poorly. I can’t believe he won over a single persuadable voter.

Trump’s performance must also have cemented the negative perceptions held by voters who have turned against him. He carried his do not go gentle into that good night mode to wild excess. Perhaps it was President Trump who needed pharmaceutical assistance to dial it back. As it happened, I thought Trump interrupted Biden on a few occasions when a Biden brain freeze was in progress.

Was Trump following a plan? RCP’s Philip Wegmann reports that he was. My impression was that Trump couldn’t have prepared for the debate. He can’t have been coached or advised to go at it in the fashion he did. His instincts have usually served him well in arguing his case, but I am afraid they showed their limitations last night.

Joe Biden has no policy or program to recommend his candidacy. On the contrary, he has to conceal or misrepresent them before general audiences. Were his insults of Trump calculated? Trump is a racist. Trump is a clown. Oh, excuse me. The insults belied Biden’s theme promising an alleged return to civility or normalcy after Trump.

Trump might have turned these insults to his advantage. His failure to do so was another missed opportunity.

Biden was still pushing the Russia hoax and asserting that Antifa is just a beautiful idea. We are apparently to be spared Biden’s views on the Democrats’ plans to pack the Supreme Court and end the filibuster. Unbelievable.

Chris Wallace was a miserable moderator. The planted assumptions and rank ignorance of his questions deserve separate comment. However, Wallace was not the source of the president’s difficulties last night.

The choice between Trump and Biden is momentous. It shouldn’t be difficult or close. Bill Voegeli ably elucidates the stakes in his Claremont Review of Books essay “The weak leading the woke.”

I gave up any inclination to predict election outcomes in 2016. I will only say that Trump needed to help himself last night and didn’t. The debate was therefore a bitter disappointment.

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