Debate is the latest norm Trump shatters

It was the real mistake by the lake. Donald Trump and Joe Biden did everything but bolt from the debate hall and go roll in the mud on the banks of the Cuyahoga River.

The first of three scheduled presidential debates quickly descended into an incoherent brawl that made for tough viewing by anyone looking for a sense of national leadership or purpose from the exercise.

“Trump set the tone for the worst presidential debate in living memory” said the headline over an analysis piece by veteran Washington Post reporter Dan Balz. The Globe’s James Pindell dropped any current-era qualifier, calling it“the worst general election presidential debate in American history.” “A disgusting night for democracy,” was the headline over an Atlantic piece by James Fallows.

Trump and Biden both got in on the effort to badger the other with interruptions and insults, but it was Trump who decided the debate would instead be more of a cage match, dragging the session in the mud from the start and interrupting Biden far more often as he tried to bully his way through the 90 minutes.

“This was the Trump who lives on Twitter, not someone who occupies the highest office in the land,” wrote Balz.

“Is there a single American voter who tuned into tonight’s debate genuinely undecided and is now in Trump’s camp? Are there any voters who were won over by his nonstop bullying and hectoring?” asked the Globe’s Jeff Jacoby.

Biden clearly came prepared to hit back if Trump decided to go low, calling the president at various points a liar, clown, and racist. Exasperated by the constant interruptions, at one point he simply said, “Will you shut up, man?” In between the exchange of verbal punches, Biden looked into the camera at several moments to turn the focus back to what voters are going through, something Trump never even tried to do.

Most pundits seemed to agree that, if anything, the debate slightly helped Biden, if only because it more or less left the race where it stood before Tuesday night — with polls consistently showing Biden holding a lead. Post-debate polls showed voters thought Biden won by a small margin, but the breakdown more or less reflected the candidates’ standing in national polls.

Pindell gave Biden a “C,” saying he seemed tired and unsure in what was hardly a crisp performance. But he said Biden’s team nonetheless has to be happy because “this hot mess of a debate is not likely to change a single poll.”

The old election adage offered up by Boston Mayor Kevin White, among others, implored voters: “Don’t compare me to God, just compare me to the other guy.”

Which is why Biden can live with “C” from a night that his opponent, Pindell says, earned an “F.”

Trump clearly decided to go postal. In what seemed like a Hail Mary from a candidate down in the polls, he hoped doing so would rattle his opponent into doing something that would become the night’s headline.

“But he never rattled Biden,” says Pindell. “So all we are left with was Trump being a bully. Polling is clear on why this is bad. Trump is losing women, independents, and the suburbs because they are tired of his antics. Even his own supporters wish he would tone it down. Trump needs those groups to come around his side. He only gave them more reasons to pick something new.”

As with so many time-honored norms that have been shattered since his arrival on the national stage, Trump came to Cleveland and laid waste to any idea that presidential debates require at least a minimum level of decorum. Whether things ever return to what they once were is now the question.

“I hope there are no more debates before this election. If they happen, I won’t waste another minute of my life watching them,” Fallows wrote. “The modern presidential debate was invented in 1960. We may have seen the end of its useful life this evening.”

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Despite growing infection concerns, Gov. Charlie Baker continues to reopen the state’s economy.

The latest reopening effort takes the state in a new direction, allowing most communities to move forward while holding back those considered high risk for COVID-19. With Baker’s community-by-community approach, he drops the category of moderate-risk communities and describes all but 15 of the state’s cities and towns as low risk.

COVID notes: New rapid Abbott test is expected to go to schools…Baker says Massachusetts is tops in testing in the US on a per capita basis….Baker aide says COVID reporting law came with verbal caveats.

State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley says the MCAS exam will resume in the spring, despite objections from teacher unions. Parents complain to the state board of education about the lack of in-person learning.

A task force developing a Boston police report says the Suffolk County DA’s recently released Brady list will not be addressed.

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A large party involving Salem State students leads to one arrest and a house being designated a “disorderly house” by the police, which means future police calls could result in fines. (The Salem News)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tells the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce there is much more to be done to combat racial inequality in the city. (Boston Globe) Walsh sounded as if he was planning a run for reelection during his address. (WBUR)

The Springfield City Council votes to proceed with a lawsuit against Mayor Domenic Sarno to force him to reinstate a civilian review board to oversee the police. (MassLive)

The Nahant Board of Selectmen rejects a proposal from Northeastern University to accept a conservation restriction on eight acres of land the university holds at East Point. (Daily Item)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Haverhill expects to move into the high-risk category for COVID-19 due to a nursing home outbreak. Cases are also emerging at Haverhill schools. (Eagle-Tribune)

Two trustees of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have resigned in the last three months. Trustees will discuss firing former Superintendent Bennett Walsh at a meeting tonight, but in executive session, where the public cannot listen. (MassLive)

Cape Cod Healthcare abandons a plan for an outpatient campus in Hyannis, opting instead to expand an existing building, and to build a box store and apartments. (Cape Cod Times)

ELECTIONS

Over 98 percent of mail-in ballots filed by Massachusetts voters in the September 1 primary election were deemed valid and counted, according to data released by the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office on Tuesday. (GBH)

Cape Cod Times has an explainer on the new state ballot portal.

The Globe appears to endorse Democrat Sara Gideon for Senate in Maine, but devotes almost its entire editorial to why Republican incumbent Susan Collins is no longer a good fit to represent the state, only mentioning Gideon briefly in the next to last paragraph.

Harvard professor Danielle Allen makes the case for ranked-choice voting, while Tufts professor Eitan Hirsch says adopting the new voting system would be a bad idea. (Boston Globe)

Westboro surgeon Syed Hashmi, an independent, is challenging state Rep. Danielle Gregoire for her House seat. (Telegram & Gazette)

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation attack President Trump for failing to condemn white supremacism in last night’s debate. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Gov. Charlie Baker is urging the New England Fishery Management Council to develop a program so the commercial groundfish industry will not have to pay for their own at-sea monitors. The monitors are now paid for by congressional appropriation but that money is set to run out. (Gloucester Daily Times)

A new observatory is on tap for the top floors of the Prudential Tower where the now-shuttered Top of the Hub restaurant operated for years. (Boston Globe)

Demand for golf equipment leads New Bedford’s Acushnet Company to hire hundreds. (Standard-Times)

EDUCATION

The entire Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District “may be forced” to switch to fully remote learning after 15 students have tested positive for COVID-19, the superintendent said. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Andover town officials say Columbia Gas was responsible for a recent gas leak. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A murder conviction is set aside because of emails showing the racism of Plymouth County prosecutors. (WBUR)

The CFO of the short-lived Boston Grand Prix race was arrested on federal tax, fraud, and other charges related to the race that never was. (Boston Globe)

Western Massachusetts lawmakers ask Gov. Baker to appoint an SJC justice from Western Massachusetts. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Rev. James Breeden, who led early school desegregation efforts in Boston and was arrested as a part of Freedom Rides in Mississippi, died at age 85. (Boston Globe)