There isn't anything good to say about how Donald Trump acted in the first 2020 presidential debate last night. So if you're a Trump fan who is in deep denial about what a horrible person your Dear Leader is, prepare to be faced with some uncomfortable truths about the debate.
(1) This was the worst presidential debate ever, because of Trump. Being a progressive who strongly favors Biden, my biggest pre-debate fear was that Trump would do the smart thing for him politically and act presidential for 95 minutes.
After all, currently Five Thirty Eight gives Biden a 78% chance of winning the election. Trump needed to do something to shake the race up. Instead, he dug himself into a worse political position by acting like a complete asshole, which isn't how you attract undecided voters or peel away Biden's advantage among women voters.
The TV critic for the Washington Post thought the debate was one of the worst moments in television history.
(2) Jake Tapper had the best pithy description of the debate. The post-debate analysis on CNN was scathing. Dana Bash said it was a "shitshow," because of Trump's despicable behavior. Not long after, Jake Tapper said:
“That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck," Tapper told viewers. "That was the worst debate I have ever seen, in fact it wasn't even a debate. It was a disgrace."
(3) Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacy was his worst of many bad moments. Debate moderator Chris Wallace teed up what should have an easy question for Biden and Trump to answer about whether they condemn white supremacy. But Trump refused to do this.
That led Van Jones to speak passionately on CNN. Here's a tweet from him.
(4) The debate was a national embarrassment. Once in a while I see videos of altercations, fights, basically, taking place between members of parliament in a foreign country -- such as Iraq. But last night's debate was much more of a national embarrassment.
The rest of the world saw the President of the United States acting like a two year old. He bullied. He failed to keep to the debate rules he'd agreed to. He talked over Biden. He called Biden names. He lied.
And he did all this not a few times but almost non-stop. Yes, Biden made a couple of intemperate remarks. However, Biden only did this after Trump had exhibited intolerable childish behavior on the debate stage.
I'm pretty sure that I've watched every presidential debate during the last fifty years. (Yeah, I'm old.) As others have noted in stories about last night's debate, there was a huge controversy over one of the Bush's looking at his watch during a debate, and Al Gore emitting an audible sigh. In the old days, that's what passed for inappropriate debate behavior.
Trump went so far beyond those standards, he broke new ground in how to act like a complete jerk in a debate. Most of the rest of the world already laughs at the United States for having a clown as president. Now they have even more reason to feel superior toward us. A Politico story says:
Sure, it is easy to make fun of civics-class pieties about how the election ultimately belongs to the voters, and how America as the oldest democracy serves as an example to the world. But aren’t those maxims supposed to be at least kind of true?
It is hard to imagine how the evening could have been more disrespectful to voters, or a more embarrassing glimpse into the state of American political culture at moment when the country’s reputation in the world is already under severe challenge. Cumulatively this made the debate simply uncomfortable, like accidentally opening the office supply closet and seeing a naked colleague—just avert your gaze and walk away.
(5) Trump's lies about voter fraud were especially disturbing in his torrent of falsehoods. Lie after lie spewed from Trump's mouth during the debate. It's hard to pick the worst lie, since they all were disgusting.
However, his lies about voter fraud rose to the top for me, in part because they seem designed to establish an erroneous foundation for federal courts and state legislatures to step in and override the will of the people by declaring victory for Trump in states where he actually lost to Biden.
Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post analysis of Trump's lies about voter fraud. (They call it disinformation; I prefer lies.)