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Tuesday's angry and chaotic presidential debate quickly devolved into an unconstrained mess - surpassing prior encounters in the force and severity of the attacks but also into the constant cross-talk and breakdown of orderly discussion

by Graig Towle (2020-10-10)


Tuesday's angry and chaotic presidential debate quickly devolved into an unconstrained mess - surpassing prior encounters in the force and severity of the attacks but also into the constant cross-talk and breakdown of orderly discussion. 

Coming into a debate where his team acknowledged he skipped the typical policy cramming of such contests, President Donald Trump relentlessly went after rival Joe Biden - frequently cutting him off mid-sentence. 

Biden, determined not to get out-muscled and mindful of Trump's slashing 2016 attacks on Hillary Clinton, came armed with his own insults - branding Trump a 'liar' and a 'clown' and also 'a racist' - but sometimes merely sat back and smiled amid Trump's own charges.

During one exchange, Biden told the president to 'shut up.'

Moderator Chris Wallace was helpless to rein in the slug-fest, repeatedly lecturing Trump, to little avail.  

Trump, for his part, brought up Biden's son's past cocaine use and inaccurately accused him of getting a dishonorable discharge from the Navy.

He called his rival a 'socialist,' and repeatedly tried to tar him with 'radical' elements like Antifa. 

He tried to yoke Biden to a 'manifesto' of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and accused him of backing the Green New Deal on the environment.
Biden said he backs the 'Biden plan.'

Nominal moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News repeatedly lectured Trump, telling him 'I'm the moderator of this debate' at one point. His efforts were mostly fruitless.

'Please let him speak, Mr.

President,' Wallace said when Trump was cutting off Biden following a charge he reached a 'manifesto' with Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

But Wallace let the two candidates go at each other for long stretches, seemingly powerless to enforce rules negotiated for months by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential debates. 

It was a departure from the one-on-one format where Wallace, who commands the TV stage on 'Fox News Sunday,' this summer cornered Trump with questions about his cognitive test and accepting the results of the election. 

When the smoke cleared after 90 minutes of attacks and interruptions that left many viewers floored, it was not evident that Trump had accomplished the game-changing takedown of Biden's that his team was hoping for. 

CNN's Jake Tapper called it a 'hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,' as well as a 'disgrace,' in one of many efforts by commentators to make sense of the carnage.

Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders said it was 'just a lot of chaos from Donald Trump.' 

Even the famously pugnacious former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who helped prep Trump at the White House and urged him to go on the attack, found it to be too much.
'It was too hot. Listen, you come in and decide you want to be aggressive, and I think it was the right thing to be aggressive, but it was too hot,' he said afterward.

Biden entered the debate leading in national polls and in key battlegrounds.

Hours before the debate began, the Cook Political Report moved Ohio and Iowa to 'toss-up' status - a sign of the increasing pressure on Trump to change the game. 

The state of map upped the pressure on Trump to raise doubts about Biden, whose favorabl