As President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden faced off for a first time on Tuesday night, ’twas not a great debate — almost regardless of your political stipe.
Perhaps anyone who envisioned a modulated stating and debating of ideas between the diametrically opposed candidates was kidding themselves. And for those who were, that pollyanna forecast was clouded from jump, as interruptions, name calling and disregard for the debate format/rules (agreed to by both campaigns, as moderator Chris Wallace often reminded us) polluted most of the long 90 minutes.
“That was a hot mess… inside a dumpster fire… inside a train wreck,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said in the aftermath, to which colleague Dana Bash responded with less high-minded words: “I’m just going to say it like it is. That was a s— show.”
“It was not a presidential debate. It was mud wrestling,” said ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, while CNN’s Chris Cillizza summed up the debate as ” horrendous” and “without question, the single worst debate I have ever covered in my two decades of doing this job.”
“Worst. Presidential Debate. Ever” was a common refrain from veteran reporters such as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who, leading right out of the network’s coverage, said that “as someone who has watched for 40 years” (and even moderated some such face-offs), “that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow similarly opined that “what happened on that debate stage is unlike anything that has ever happened on a presidential debate stage ever before,” falling well shy of offering, in the ideal, “a type of civic normal politics where there are debates that have rules…. This sort of debate shouldn’t happen in a democracy.”
TVLine readers gave Debate No. 1 moderator Chris Wallace an average grade of “D-,” struggling as he did to keep things on the rails.
Over on Fox News, Laura Ingraham described the first Trump/Biden debate as “raucous,” while Bret Baier went with “fiery.” Senior political analyst Brit Hume, in likening Trump’s performance to “a bucking bronco the entire time,” even had to admit, “I don’t know how the people at home would find that appealing.”
Given the largely poor reviews for the substance and demeanor of this first debate, many are wondering if the two parties will bother with the planned second and third (which are currently scheduled for Oct. 15 and 22). After all, who is truly “undecided” at this point? And will those who claim they are be tipped by displays such as Tuesday night’s?
The first face-off “will certainly raise a lot of questions … about the future of presidential debate between these two candidates,” said CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I wouldn’t be surprised… if this is the last presidential debate between the president of the United States and the former vice president of the United States.”
As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeted, Tuesday night represented “a disgrace, a low point in American debate history. There is no reason, not one, that Joe Biden should participate in another debate.”