A Tale of Two Town Halls
There was quite a contrast in styles on display between the two presidential candidates Thursday night.
Donald Trump may have provided far more interesting television. However, Joe Biden delivered the calming voice and steady hand this nation desperately needs.
The ratings-obsessed Trump certainly put on a better show from an entertainment perspective during his one-hour town-hall meeting on NBC. He angrily sparred with moderator Savannah Guthrie, who asked tough questions and didn’t give the president an inch when he issued a litany of lies and expressed frustration with her interrogation.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, calmly answered queries with long, detailed and, at times, pedantic responses, giving the nation a preview of what life could be like under a president who would make America boring again.
The town halls replaced what was supposed to be the second presidential debate. Trump, who is recovering from COVID-19, pulled out because he didn’t want to do a virtual format.
Biden pounced on the opportunity to schedule a 90-minute town hall instead, to be nationally televised live coast-to-coast on ABC. Trump countered by scheduling a 60-minute town hall, to be nationally televised live on NBC on the East Coast, Midwest and in the South, and on cable-news network MSNBC on the West Coast. In the Pacific time zone, Trump’s town hall ran on NBC in prime time on tape delay.
Both men fielded questions from supposedly undecided voters and others who said they lean Republican or Democrat. But the similarities ended there.
Speaking from Miami, Trump’s evening began with a combative back-and-forth with Guthrie, who pressed the president on his prevarications with aplomb.
Trump first got angry when asked if he would denounce white supremacy, then he refused to disavow the bizarre QAnon conspiracy theorists, claiming he didn’t know anything about them. The president wouldn’t say when he last tested negative for COVID-19, and he wouldn’t tell us to whom he owes $400 million, although he didn’t deny the debt exists.
Trump exhibited a frenetic demeanor, like he had taken a shot of caffeine minutes before the event.
Biden’s event couldn’t have been more different. The former vice president had a friendly exchange with moderator George Stephanopoulos, gave lengthy answers to voters and then stuck around afterward to continue responding to more questions.
NBC has been heavily criticized for its decision to schedule Trump’s town-hall meeting on the same night and at the same time as Biden’s, especially by Democrats. But what Biden supporters fail to realize is Donald Trump’s words are the former vice president’s best campaign ad.
As far as the Biden campaign is concerned, the more people watching the president implode on national television, the better.
So, yes, perhaps fewer people watched Joe Biden in his element, as he smoothly spoke to Philadelphia-area voters and calmly evaded Stephanopoulos’s questions about court-packing. They might have missed him say, “The words of a president matter, whether they’re good, bad or indifferent,” when asked about Trump’s erratic management of the coronavirus crisis.
Donald Trump definitely put on the better TV show, and he very well might have attracted a larger audience. But there’s just one big problem for the sitting president.
He’s about to get canceled.