Of course, while watching the debate, I thought of things that Biden needed to say. When Trump talked about Russia, I wanted Biden to ask about the $400 million mystery loan that was probably filtered to him through Deutsche Bank via Putin.
When Trump talked about Biden’s son, I wanted Biden to mention Cult 45’s kids feeding at the trough—and making millions while doing it.
But today, while writing an article, I listened to myself in an interview with one of my subjects: During the call, I didn’t get even the most basic points my subject was saying. I didn’t ask the right follow-ups, either. My subject repeated himself and interrupted me, obviously thinking he was talking to an idiot. We got what we needed, but it was no thanks to me. So while writing the article, I yelled at my computer screen. Which… I know. Can you backseat drive yourself?
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people—literally hundreds. And every time I listen to the recordings, I think: Who is that idiot asking those stupid questions? With that in mind, I now think Biden did fine. He missed some jabs. But I don’t think he needed to jab.
He needed to appear sane.
That’s all. Just sane.
Had he jabbed at Cult 45, he may have outraged that middling, on-the-fence voter who is starved for a candidate with politesse. So, maybe what we saw was the best performance possible. These debates aren’t aimed at any of us who have already made a decision. They are rallying cries, sure. But mostly they are aimed at the wobbly voter—our goal is to encourage that wobbly voter to either vote for Biden or if they are lean-Republican to be so repulsed by Trump to not bother to vote for him—by simply not showing up. I think Biden succeeded there.
He was the kindly bland old man who asks us what we learned in school today and then gives us old candy from another era—maybe Mary Jane or Heath Bar. We sniff at the candy, try it, and wonder how people got by in that earlier era. Then we decide that old man is a whole lot better than that addled, drunk uncle raging in the backyard. Why is our drunk uncle yelling at the swing set? Who knows. Let’s lock the back door and pretend we’re not home.