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What you need to know about COVID-19: October 20, 2020
Jim Carrey and Alec Baldwin took to the stage last night to — no, wait. I’m thinking ahead to the return of Saturday Night Live this weekend, and what I’m certain will be a livelier, much shorter version of the 90-plus-minute debate that took place in Ohio last night. I’m hoping that Donald Trump’s little magic trick of pulling a face mask out of his breast pocket gets turned into a bit where he pulls out all manner of objects, like a cartoon character.
I tuned in to the first 2020 presidential debate hoping for theatrics, zingers and maybe a bit of light entertainment, used to hearing clips of Trump on the likes of Seth Meyers’ Closer Look segments, or coming out of the mouth of comedian and celebrity lip-syncer Sarah Cooper.
Instead, I watched an ugly slugfest that recalled, to borrow from Hollywood, the tagline of 2004’s Alien vs. Predator: “Whoever wins … we lose.”
“We,” of course, refers to the American people, whose traditional two-party system briefly became a three-party donnybrook when Democratic hopeful Joe Biden debated President Donald Trump debated moderator Chris Wallace, with all three men shouting over each other as they struggled to make themselves heard.
“I’ll ask Joe,” Trump said at one point, unhappy with the line of questioning and, as he tends to be, with the media in general. Wallace responded: “I’m the moderator of this debate and I’d like you to let me ask my question.” To which Trump remarked: “I guess I’m debating you, not him.”
When that calmed down, other issues bubbled up. Trump was gunning for Biden’s son Hunter, while Biden tried to chuckle, sometimes looked shocked, and on one occasion told Trump to “Shut up, man.”
It was a debacle, and it just got worse whenever Trump was called to defend or denounce his more extreme views. On whether he believed that humanity bears responsibility for the climate change crisis he managed this: “I think a lot of things do, but I think, to an extent, yes.” He added that his goal was “beautiful, clean air.”
On the subject of white supremacists he was less clear. Asked to explain his decision to end racial sensitivity training programs at the White House, Trump said he did so because it was racist – against whites, he implied. “If you were a certain person you had no status in life. It was sort of a reversal.” Biden was more succinct in his rebuttal: “He’s a racist.”
Wallace then asked Trump to condemn white supremacists and militia groups. He said he would. “Go ahead, sir,” said Wallace. “Say it. Do it. Say it,” added Biden. Trump wanted to know what to call them. Biden gave him Proud Boys, naming a neo-Nazi group. “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
And on the crucial question of whether either leader would urge calm from their supporters in the event of a contested election, Trump would not. “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” he said, continuing to complain about spoiled Trump ballots allegedly found in rivers and “wastepaper baskets,” an oddly anachronistic phrase.
“This is not going to end well,” he rumbled ominously. And on that I believed him. I’m still counting on SNL to turn this into something we can all laugh about. Because, for all that Biden tried to chuckle, no one was laughing last night.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020