After months of uncertainty and rumors to the contrary, it appears the American people will be treated to a 2020 presidential debate Tuesday night on live television, barring an act of God.
Here are four things to expect from tonight’s debate:
1. Supreme Court standoff
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 kicked off what’s likely to be a bruising confirmation battle, with Democrats desperately vying for a Republican-controlled Senate to delay efforts to fill the resulting vacancy until after Election Day.
Backed by the overwhelming support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump has already forwarded a nominee for the seat in originalist Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The move has placed members of the Democratic establishment and left-wing media on war footing, as many argue the move is hypocritical given McConell’s successful months-long campaign to stonewall Obama-era Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals following the death of stalwart conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
Given the weight of the moment, with the pendulum now hanging between a 5-4 swing court and a more substantial 6-3 conservative majority, discussion of the topic was inevitable for the night’s events.
Today, it was my great honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett… pic.twitter.com/l2yezt2UOi
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2020
The judiciary has become something of a feather in Trump’s cap in recent months, with conservatives heralding the president for working with McConnell and the Senate GOP to see at least 200 judicial appointees elevated to the federal bench.
Trump has, on numerous occasions, represented court appointments as quite possibly the most important decisions of his Oval Office tenure, given their impact on how the U.S. Constitution is interpreted years after a president’s administration ends.
His selection in Barrett reveals the administration’s will to see the original intent of the Founding Fathers upheld and the Bill of Rights protected — a point the president will likely hammer home on the debate stage.
Supreme Court decisions affect our everyday lives, and the Constitution was designed to give voters a voice on who makes those decisions.
The Senate shouldn’t act until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.
Americans deserve to be heard.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 26, 2020
Biden, on the other hand, has held the Democratic Party line, demanding Republicans leave the electorate to decide which party should replace Ginsburg.
“Supreme Court decisions affect our everyday lives, and the Constitution was designed to give voters a voice on who makes those decisions,” Biden wrote Saturday on Twitter.
“The Senate shouldn’t act until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress.
“Americans deserve to be heard,” he added.
The former vice president has, as of yet, been unwilling to disclose who would make his shortlist of potential candidates for the current vacancy, according to CNN, leaving independents and conservatives to wonder whether the candidates in consideration are too radical to produce positive optics this close to the election.
2. Combating COVID-19
With more than 200,000 U.S. deaths reported and the coronavirus crisis quickly transformed into one of the most partisan issues of the year, another substantial discussion will also undoubtedly spin up around the topic of global pandemic response.
Biden and Trump have forwarded fundamentally different public health platforms on the campaign trail, as the president’s administration continues to urge the states on to economic re-opening, suggesting the consequences of prolonged shutdowns have only exacerbated the national crises caused by the pandemic.
Despite overseeing for the United States an exceptionally low case fatality rate, Trump will likely face a barrage of negative questions and claims on the topic of COVID-19, giving Biden a cudgel with which to beat the president for points from the establishment media.
The Biden campaign has led with attacks on Trump’s coronavirus response for most of the campaign, accusing the president of engaging in “science denial” and spreading misinformation, all while targeting his opponent with misleading claims and advertisements on the topic.
Biden claims Trump is responsible for every single person who has died from COVID-19:
“If the president had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people would still be alive. All the people — I’m not making this up. Just look at the data. Look at the data.” pic.twitter.com/Z6tkk9NzHi
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) September 18, 2020
Biden himself was hit with a slew of serious fact checks last week for suggesting different action on the part of Trump administration earlier this year could have prevented “all” of the deaths that have befallen American citizens throughout the course of the outbreak.
“If the president had done his job, had done his job from the beginning,” Biden said, “all the people would still be alive.”
“All the people. I’m not making this up. Just look at the data. Look at the data,” he added.
The former vice president has put forward a nationwide mask mandate and renewed lockdowns as potential solutions to the ongoing pandemic.
Trump will be forced to stand strong on his record with regard to the topic, challenging the validity of such notions and pinning blame for the death toll where it belongs: On Democratic state governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who reportedly housed coronavirus patients with at-risk elderly populations at the outset of the pandemic, leading to mass transmission in large nursing homes.
3. Mudslinging and scandals
As with any partisan political event in recent memory, the debate will, in all likelihood, descend into mudslinging and scandal mongering.
Biden is widely believed to have been gifted another weapon this weekend by The New York Times, which reported Sunday on information about Trump’s tax returns, including a claim that the president paid only $750 in federal income taxes during 2016 and 2017.
No illegal activity was reported, but left-wing pundits have regardless expressed outrage over the millionaire businessman having paid less than many daily workers. This, of course, does not account for other taxes paid by Trump and his corporations, or the fact that Trump was exercising tax loopholes often exploited by successful business people and fellow politicians, for that matter.
More concerning is the fact that the returns also allegedly reveal the president has $421 million in debt coming due in the next four years.
Trump will not enter the debate unarmed, however.
According to Newsweek, a newly released 87-page Republican Senate investigation report has fingered Biden’s son, Hunter, with the 2015 reception of a suspicious $3.5 million payout from Elena Baturina, the wife of a former Moscow mayor.
The revelation has led some conservatives to recycle previous claims Hunter Biden improperly profited from his father’s position as vice president.
Trump is also likely to lean heavily on the policy realities of Biden’s nearly five-decade career in politics as evidence the former vice president cannot deliver on the change he has recently promised.
Biden, for his part, also comes to the table with the ability to invoke the Trump administration’s Russia and Ukraine scandals, both of which have been widely contradicted but remain a popular part of the Democratic arsenal.
4. The worst of Biden’s bumblings
Already referred to as something of a gaffe machine at the peak of his political career, Biden has also become increasingly prone to verbal snafus as the year-long campaign slog continues to wear on the 77-year-old statesman.
The fact that Biden will be unable to rely on a teleprompter or other forms of previously prepared statement throughout the course of hour-and-a-half long debate has, in turn, led the wider political audience to expectations the former vice president will suffer an inability to articulate himself — particularly given Trump’s propensity to mock, interrupt and berate his opponents.
Emergent reports seemed to indicate Tuesday morning that the Biden campaign had been uncooperative with regard to debate rules that might mitigate against such concerns, with sources suggesting the former vice president had refused third-party inspections for inner-ear communications equipment and requested breaks every 30 minutes, to no avail.
The Biden campaign requested two breaks (one every thirty minutes) during tonight’s program, which was denied by their Trump counterparts, in negotiations over the last several weeks. (3/3)
— Pat Ward (@WardDPatrick) September 29, 2020
Can confirm. https://t.co/TDG51c6b10
— Tim Murtaugh – Download the Trump 2020 app today! (@TimMurtaugh) September 29, 2020
The possibility remains, however, that Biden may over-perform the notably low expectations set for him, both in media commentary and Trump campaign publicity.
Such was the case several weeks ago at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, where a frankly unremarkable acceptance speech allowed for Biden to come away with the swagger of an all-star due to widespread right-wing assertions the septuagenarian statesman would not have the mental capacity to make it through a full-length address live.
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