President Donald Trump achieved a vital objective on Thursday night’s second (and final) 2020 Presidential Debate: he revealed his Democratic challenger, Former Vice President Joe Biden, as a mercenary career politician who has already spent too many years feathering his nest in public office. After an excellent performance by a calm, collected, and sharp Presiden Trump, Biden limped off the stage as a man implicated in an exploding pay for play scandal, covering up for his contradictory statements about fracking, and having just committed to, if elected, putting the oil industry out of business to satisfy the radical proponents of the Green New Deal.
If by some miracle, Joe Biden wins the presidency, it is possible that Trump will not attend his inauguration. The President’s message was clear: It is time to go, Joe.
During the debate, the President deftly alluded to Biden’s fondness for hiding out in his basement and made the case for the doddering political hack to go back there for good: “We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does. He has the ability to lock himself up. I don’t know, he’s obviously made a lot of money, someplace, but he has this thing about living in a basement. People can’t do that … I, as the president, couldn’t do that.”
If President Trump is re-elected on November 3rd, this will probably be the last time these two septuagenarian political foes meet—publicly or privately. If by some miracle, Joe Biden wins the presidency, it is possible that Trump will not attend his inauguration. The President’s message was clear: It is time to go, Joe.
This was a vastly different debate format than last time, with the candidates being allowed two-minute rebuttals, and even brief clarifications, at the pleasure of the moderator, NBC News journalist Kristen Welker. Welker exercised a degree of fairness, courtesy, and objectivity not seen for decades in this forum. If a candidate went overtime, program rules meant his mic could be muted. But this rule was not abused and was apparently only invoked once, against Trump.
The candidates behaved differently too. Since his last bout with Biden, the President appears to have listened to the advice that he no doubt heard, both privately from friends and advisors, and freely dispensed by pundits and media personalities. He offered the nation a completely different Donald Trump than the tightly string brawler that appeared during the first debate.
The President allowed Biden to speak freely this time, and, in so doing, provided the increasingly flustered and tired former Vice President with the rope to hang himself. At times, it was difficult to know whether Biden was lying, or has simply forgotten the positions he has taken and the statements he has made over his 47 years at the public trough. But he blatantly denied things that are so easy to verify that it appears he must have convinced himself of his own mendacity.
After a four day break from the “campaign trail,” Biden appeared ready to debate, although he kept nervously gazing at his watch throughout the event—as if fearful the transformation from a relatively coherent career politician to the stumbling, forgetful has-been we’ve all grown accustomed to would occur when the clock struck midnight. He also resorted to many of his standard tropes and tics when confronted by President Trump, saying, “Come on” repeatedly, or speaking directly into the camera, appearing to focus on an imaginary family gathered around the kitchen table for a serious political discussion.
Still, the debate moved at breakneck speed, and Welker forced both Trump and Biden to move swiftly from one topic to another.
PRESIDENT TRUMP FRAMES BIDEN’S POLITICAL CAREER AS INEFFECTIVE AND CORRUPT
Six topics were on the docket for last night’s event: the fight against COVID-19, Race in America, national security, climate change, leadership more broadly, and the struggles of American families. Further discussions over the economy, election interference, and health care also came up, but the debate ultimately came down to two essential questions: whether Biden is a corrupt politician who took kickback money from Ukraine and China and why a man who has spent most of his adult life in politics has achieved so few of the goals that he now espouses, and how that bodes for a potential Biden White House.
“He is the Vice President of the United States and his son, his brother, and his other brother are getting rich. They’re like a vacuum cleaner. They’re sucking up money.”
Throughout the debate, Biden frequently accused Trump of being friendly with “thugs,” a tactic of deflection. It was the President’s job (which he masterfully executed) to show Americans that it is Joe Biden who, in enriching himself and his family through his tenure in office, was not so much a thug as a political gangster. The Hunter Biden email scandal was the elephant in the room from the moment the two candidates stepped on the stage. President Trump successfully raised the issue, repeatedly, even though Welker only had one question for Joe Biden about the scandal that’s taken conservative media by storm.
Just before the debate, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, held a news conference to confirm the veracity of the Biden emails that suggest the former Vice President was peddling his influence on behalf of his son, and reaping financial rewards for doing so. The only major media outlet to cover Bobulinski’s appearance was Fox News. All other mainstream media stations ignored the story, just as they have ignored the Hunter Biden emails and the laptop that is now the FBI’s possession.
In fact, since the New York Post first reported the story over a week ago, liberal cable stations and the networks have steadfastly refused to examine the contents of Hunter Biden’s potentially politically lethal laptop, in the knowledge that it will overturn their election campaign narrative of Biden as a “decent” guy who will save America from that overbearing and boorish Trump. National Public Radio went so far as to say it doesn’t want to “waste the listeners’ and readers’ time with stories that are just pure distraction.” Liberal media are not the only ones: Democratic henchmen in Silicon Valley have also done their part to keep the scandal from going mainstream.
Ultimately, despite all the interference on his behalf, by both the media and the debate moderator, it was Biden himself who opened the door for President Trump to attack. The Former Vice President, despite never directly addressing the veracity or existence of the emails, accused the former New York City Mayor (and close ally of the Trump Administration) Rudy Giuliani, of being a “Russian pawn” for his role in disseminating the email story. He continued: “He’s [President Trump] being used as a Russian pawn. He’s being fed information that is Russian, that is not true.
President Trump, however, kept calm and was quick to connect the dots:
“But you were getting a lot of money from Russia. They were paying you a lot of money, and they probably still are. But now, with what came out today, it’s even worse. All of the emails, the emails, the horrible emails of the kind of money that you were raking in, you and your family,” Trump said as Biden quickly put on the face of abject denial, smiling, closing his eyes and shaking his head.
In another instance, President Trump suggested, “He is the Vice President of the United States and his son, his brother, and his other brother are getting rich. They’re like a vacuum cleaner. They’re sucking up money.”
Biden then went on to suggest that President Trump was also acting under the undue influence of China: “China is paying [you] a lot… your hotels and all your businesses all around the country… China’s building a new road to a new… golf course you have overseas.”
President Trump was relentless in his reply, and again raised the issue of rank political corruption in the Biden household:
“I don’t make money from China. You do. I don’t make money from Ukraine. You do. I don’t make money from Russia. You made $3.5 million, Joe, and your son gave you, they even have a statement that we have to give 10 percent to the big man. You’re the big man, I think. I don’t know, maybe you’re not, but you’re the big man, I think. Your son said we have to give 10 percent to the big man. Joe, what’s that all about? It’s terrible.”
“And Joe, you were Vice President when some of this was happening, and it should have never happened. And I think you owe an explanation to the American people. Why is it, somebody just had a news conference a little while ago who was essentially supposed to work with you and your family, but what he said was damning. And regardless of me, I think you have to clean it up and talk to the American people. Maybe you can do it right now.”
Biden chose not to mount a defense, but the issue was impossible to ignore, and the moderator finally asked him outright if there was any truth to all this talk “about the work your son has done in China and for a Ukrainian energy company when you were vice-president. In retrospect, was anything about those relationships inappropriate or unethical?”
“Nothing was unethical,” Biden had the gall to respond. With the certainty of a blind man trying to cross the street, he continued: “With regard to Ukraine. We had this whole question about whether or not, because he was on the board, I later learned of Burisma, a company that somehow, I had done something wrong.”
He then went on to insist: “Yet every single solitary person, when [Trump] was going through his impeachment, testifying under oath, who worked for him, said I did my job impeccably. I carried out U.S. policy, not one single solitary thing was out of line, not a single thing, number one.”
Just what Biden was talking about here, of course, is uncertain, but President Trump had the last word on the issue. He was effective in framing Biden’s political legacy as not so much a source of experience, but a reason for rebuke—and not just for the rampant corruption. He also framed Biden’s long career as ineffectual: “For 47 years he didn’t do it. He was now there as vice president for eight years. And it’s not like it was 25 years ago. It was three and three quarters… It was just a little while ago, right? Less than four years ago… He didn’t do anything. He didn’t do it.”
In an ironic twist, Trump revealed that Biden and his political legacy had been an inspiration for him—to leave the private sector and run for the presidency because the Obama-Biden show had failed so dismally: “I ran because of you,” he said.
BIDEN SIGNS HIS OWN POLITICAL OBITUARY
Unlike the first debate, this debate was also able to bring into focus the competing policy platforms of the two candidates—although Biden’s performance was no better for it. When the debate focused on race relations, President Trump, who was well within his right to go for the jugular given Biden’s record on the issue, chose instead to remind viewers of Biden’s role in the 1994 “three strikes Violent Crime and Law Enforcement that filled U.S. prisons with young black men—the same ones that Biden referred to as “predators.” Trump also highlighted his own record of supporting historically black colleges and universities, his recent initiative to create black economic opportunity zones with the Black America Plan, as well as his historic achievements on criminal justice reform.
“He is going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”
Differences also became apparent over the issue of healthcare. Moderator Welker asked Bident flatly, “What do you say to people who have concerns that your health care plan, which includes a government insurance option, takes the country one step closer to a health care system run entirely by the government?”
Biden tried to deflect the issue: “Look, the difference between the president—I think health care is not a privilege, it’s a right. Everyone should have the right to have affordable health care. And I am very proud of my plan.”
President Trump, however, held him to the fire: “When he says public health option, he is talking about socialized medicine and health care. When he talks about a public option, he’s talking about destroying your Medicare, totally destroying—he’s destroying your Social Security.”
But the most inflammatory political fuel might have been reserved for the end of the debate, when Biden flatly admitted he wants to shut down the energy sector in America, saying he will “transition” us from the oil industry, and rely instead on the elusive (and ultimately unachievable) promises of green energy.
President Trump spoke directly to the voters then: “He is going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”
And the voters will remember.
There is just over a week to go before the November 3rd presidential election, and there is a good probability that Biden’s remarks rang loudly in the oil-rich states. There is also a good chance that, despite the mainstream media’s assiduous efforts to bury the story, more voters will learn of Hunter and Joe Biden’s efforts to leverage their political power to raise foreign capital for their personal coffers.
In the time that remains, however, President Trump will have to continue to talk about what he has called the Biden family “a criminal enterprise,” so the message gets through. The mainstream media is in the bag for Biden, and they absolutely refuse to address the strong allegations of corruption—or even question why a presidential candidate should be allowed to routinely end the day’s campaigning at 10 a.m., while his opponent is crisscrossing battleground states and speaking to rallies until late into the evening.
Biden may have written his own political obituary in his parting remarks: “What is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect. Treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that.”
Well, if you’re going to flatly lie to the electorate, you might as well do so in a grand way—but he’s right in his promise that Americans were going to get a dose of all that “decency, honor [and] respect.”
He’s going to lose.