NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

Liveblogging the first presidential debate of 2020 from the great Pacific Northwest

Good evening, and wel­come to NPI’s live cov­er­age of the first pres­i­den­tial debate of 2020. NPI staff will be watch­ing and shar­ing impres­sions of the debate between Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden and Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump as it pro­gress­es. The debate, spon­sored by the Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial Debates, is being broad­cast on all major net­works as well as online platforms.

We high­ly rec­om­mend C‑SPAN if you’re livestream­ing the debate as opposed to watch­ing it on a cable or broad­cast tele­vi­sion net­work.

Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty and Cleve­land Clin­ic is host­ing the debate, which will be mod­er­at­ed by Fox’s Chris Wal­lace. The for­mat is as follows:

The debate will be divid­ed into six seg­ments of approx­i­mate­ly 15 min­utes each on major top­ics to be select­ed by the mod­er­a­tor and announced at least one week before the debate.

The mod­er­a­tor will open each seg­ment with a ques­tion, after which each can­di­date will have two min­utes to respond. Can­di­dates will then have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to respond to each other.

The mod­er­a­tor will use the bal­ance of the time in the seg­ment for a deep­er dis­cus­sion of the topic.

The debate will begin at 6 PM Pacif­ic and run for about nine­ty min­utes. The can­di­dates will stand at podi­ums, while Wal­lace will be seat­ed in front of them at the mod­er­a­tor’s table. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion for gen­er­al elec­tion pres­i­den­tial debates, there will be no com­mer­cial breaks or interruptions.

Wal­lace has announced the selec­tion of the fol­low­ing top­ics for the debate:

Sub­ject to pos­si­ble changes because of news devel­op­ments, the top­ics for the Sep­tem­ber 29th debate are as fol­lows, not nec­es­sar­i­ly to be brought up in this order:

The Trump and Biden Records
The Supreme Court
COVID-19
The Economy
Race and Vio­lence in our Cities
The Integri­ty of the Election

Notice­ably miss­ing from the list is cli­mate dam­age, which is an exis­ten­tial cri­sis that has repeat­ed­ly been shame­ful­ly ignored in past pres­i­den­tial debates. Hope­ful­ly, Joe Biden will bring up the top­ic even if Chris Wal­lace does not.

“Race and Vio­lence in our Cities” is not a neu­tral or objec­tive term, and presents the issue through a right wing lens. An objec­tive term would have been Amer­i­ca’s Reck­on­ing with Racism, or some­thing of that nature. The con­se­quences of sys­temic racism and mass oppres­sion are not con­fined mere­ly to U.S. cities.

Our live cov­er­age will begin below at the time the debate starts.

UPDATE, 6:15 PM: The debate is under­way, but it has been far more crosstalk than actu­al debate so far. Don­ald Trump start­ed out sound­ing sub­dued, but is now start­ing to riff and inter­rupt in the extreme.

“Well, we had hoped there would be some civil­i­ty in a debate for­mat and with­in the first five min­utes, Trump has shown exact­ly who he is. Will­ing to fight with lies and slan­der,” King Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chair Shasti Con­rad observed.

Trump’s plan for tonight appears to nev­er stop talk­ing, so as to throw Joe Biden off bal­ance and refuse to allow him to make a sin­gle point.

UPDATE, 6:25 PM: Biden start­ed out the COVID-19 seg­ment by offer­ing a blis­ter­ing cri­tique of Don­ald Trump’s han­dling of the pan­dem­ic… a com­ment that most­ly went unin­ter­rupt­ed by Don­ald Trump, for a change.

NPI’s Lit­er­ary Advo­cate David John­son, assess­ing the first twen­ty min­utes of the debate, said: “It def­i­nite­ly feels like a rel­ic of a pre­vi­ous time when it had some util­i­ty. But hav­ing them both on stage togeth­er with Trump rant­i­ng — what ben­e­fit is any­one get­ting out of it except being remind­ed this is the most pow­er­ful per­son in the world who can kill us all with nukes at any time?”

UPDATE, 6:35 PM: NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cilmem­ber Robert Cruick­shank, reflect­ing on this joke of a debate, notes: “Trump is just being ridicu­lous and act­ing like a twelve year old try­ing to bring Biden down to his level.”

Nicole Belle observes: “So what exact­ly is Chris Wal­lace’s job? He won’t fact check. He won’t mod­er­ate. He won’t tell Trump to stop talk­ing for one (exple­tive) sec­ond. What’s the point of this?”

Greg Greene adds: “Seri­ous­ly, let’s sum up the Trump strat­e­gy tonight: stop view­ers from see­ing a sharp, dialed-in Biden by inter­rupt­ing before Biden can even com­plete a sentence.”

UPDATE, 6:45 PM: Our staff (and many peo­ple on social media) thought of the late Her­man Cain (a for­mer Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and deceased sup­port­er of Don­ald’s) when Trump false­ly claimed that there have been no prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with his cam­paign hold­ing ral­lies in sup­port of his reelection.

“Biden has a strong response direct­ed to the Amer­i­can pub­lic about the real­i­ty they are fac­ing. Trump is con­stant­ly gaslight­ing every­one by deny­ing their real­i­ty,” King Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chair Shasti Con­rad said ahead of the debate’s midpoint.

“Biden’s peo­ple need to nego­ti­ate that Trump’s mic is cut when Biden or the mod­er­a­tor are speak­ing. That’s it. That’s the rule. No more debat­ing with­out it,” Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gist Kel­ly Steele tweet­ed.

Derek Thomp­son tweet­ed: “This isn’t a debate. It’s a DDOS [dis­trib­uted denial of ser­vice] attack hap­pen­ing in front of a human moderator.”

UPDATE, 6:55 PM: NBC’s Hal­lie Jack­son, who is in Cleve­land, tweets: “The inti­ma­cy of the debate hall tonight — few­er audi­ence mem­bers, etc. — makes the chaos on stage feel espe­cial­ly jar­ring in person.”

Doug Foote offered this time­ly reminder: “Chris Wal­lace works for a right-wing pro­pa­gan­da machine mas­querad­ing as a news channel.”

UPDATE, 7:05 PM: “Look every­body. This debate is as bad as you think,” Mau­rice Moe Mitchell of the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Par­ty tweet­ed.

“The president’s per­for­mance is designed to pro­mote cyn­i­cism and despair. Don’t suc­cumb to it. If you’re watch­ing, trans­late what­ev­er emo­tion you’re feel­ing to action and orga­nize like your life depends on it.”

“In tonight’s pres­i­den­tial debate the Pres­i­dent said the ‘Port­land Sher­iff’ sup­ports him. As the Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty Sher­iff I have nev­er sup­port­ed Don­ald Trump and will nev­er sup­port him, Mike Reese tweet­ed.

UPDATE, 7:15 PM: Offered an oppor­tu­ni­ty by Chris Wal­lace to open­ly denounce white suprema­cists and neo­fas­cists, Trump passed.

“Don­ald Trump just told the Proud Boys to stand down like they were his per­son­al mili­tia. And he refused to con­demn white suprema­cy,” Kaz Wei­da tweet­ed.

“Telling Proud Boys to ‘stand by’ is telling them to… await fur­ther instruc­tion,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweet­ed.

“Chris Wal­lace would be a ter­ri­ble sub­sti­tute teacher,” Bradley Whit­ford tweet­ed.

UPDATE, 7:25 PM: This is about as far away from a “debate” as any of us could pos­si­bly imag­ine. And that’s because the occu­pant of 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue is a neo­fas­cist bul­ly who has no respect for any­one except himself.

“Folks, I have said it before, but this elec­tion is not about Democ­rats ver­sus Repub­li­cans,” Robert Reich tweet­ed. “It’s about democ­ra­cy ver­sus fascism.”

Sur­pris­ing­ly, as the debate entered its final min­utes, cli­mate dam­age did come up as a top­ic — and it was brought up by mod­er­a­tor Chris Wal­lace, even though it was­n’t one of his pre­an­nounced debate top­ics. Nat­u­ral­ly, all Trump want­ed to talk about was rak­ing for­est floors; he declined, once again, to state whether he believes that human activ­i­ty is caus­ing cli­mate damage.

Biden effec­tive­ly focused his remarks on his cli­mate action plan and his goal of elec­tri­fy­ing Amer­i­ca’s trans­porta­tion sys­tem, which is one of the world com­mu­ni­ty’s biggest dri­vers of air, water, and soil pollution.

Jen­nifer Hay­den point­ed out that although the top­ic of cli­mate jus­tice was brought up, bare­ly any time was actu­al­ly devot­ed to dis­cussing it.

“Giv­ing Biden fif­teen sec­onds to explain a mas­sive cli­mate change plan before either Trump or Wal­lace inter­rupts and moves is a dis­ser­vice to this coun­try and the world. Debate for­mats are anti­quat­ed and serve no one.”

UPDATE, 7:35 PM: Long­time pon­tif­i­ca­tor Lar­ry Saba­to is call­ing for the can­cel­la­tion of the remain­ing pres­i­den­tial debates.

“It is impos­si­ble to have an order­ly, pro­duc­tive exchange with Don­ald Trump. Stop pre­tend­ing oth­er­wise,” Saba­to tweet­ed.

That’s true: although the next debate will not fea­ture Don­ald Trump; it will be between the vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Kamala Har­ris and Mike Pence.

As the debate’s final seg­ment (and per­haps its worst), wore on, Trump’s obscene and sick behav­ior drew fierce con­dem­na­tions across social media.

“Trump is open­ly try­ing to under­mine the elec­tion. Explic­it­ly. This is hor­rif­ic stuff,” tweet­ed NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cilmem­ber Robert Cruickshank.

“One could eas­i­ly dis­miss tonight’s debate as attacks and crosstalk that won’t change many minds. But that would be to miss the mean­ing of what we’re see­ing: a hor­ri­fy­ing degra­da­tion of our pol­i­tics by a man unwor­thy of the low­est elect­ed office in the U.S., let alone the high­est,” Bill Kris­tol tweet­ed.

UPDATE, 7:45 PM: We’ll give the final guest com­ment to MSNBC’s Rachel Mad­dow, who had this to say after the can­di­dates and Wal­lace left the stage:

“This sort of debate should­n’t hap­pen in a democracy.”

We agree.

Thanks for join­ing us tonight.

It was an ugly spec­ta­cle, but it’s final­ly over.

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