A Presidential “Debate” like No Other

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For two decades, I watched presidential debates with a notebook in hand, ready to write an analysis for my King Broadcasting affiliate in Portland; there were good ones and bad ones, but never one like last night.

Dana Bash (CNN) got it right: it was a “shit show.” How a decent man like Joe Biden weathered the 90 minutes deserves a medal. I felt for Chris Wallace, knowing that I would not have been able to take control of Donald Trump, either.

Trump scored zero points, on my book. Biden scored on voting, and demeanor. He put to rest the rumors he was not up to the job. Trump blew his best if not last chance to turn the trends in this election. Even the Republican panelists on CNN and MSNBC admitted it was a disaster for their candidate.

Where from here? Trump’s dog-whistle to white supremacists to “stand back and stand by” was frightening, for it ramps up the possibility that his ultimate response to defeat will be to call out the militia. There will be parsing of his words tomorrow by White House sycophants, but we all know what he meant.

A nasty night, unlike any presidential debate in my memory.

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Floyd J. McKay, emeritus professor of journalism at Western Washington University, covered Pacific Northwest politics as a reporter and opinion writer for four decades, primarily in Oregon. He was commentator/news analyst at KGW-TV (King Broadcasting) from 1970 to 1987. Previously a print reporter, he returned to print and online reporting and commentary from 2004 to 2017 with the Seattle Times Op-ed page and Crosscut.com. He is the author of Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State (Oregon State University Press, 2016). He lives in Bellingham.

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