Debate Fiascos

Trump Should’ve Been Muzzled. Unfortunately, Wallace Is A Pro

Wallace knows what’s at stake for Trump. And he should’ve played by different rules too.

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

I am surprised Chris Wallace didn’t catch on to President Trump’s debate strategy. Mr. Wallace is a seasoned journalist. He’s covered politics for over forty years. He knows the political system, the Trump administration’s infrastructure, or lack thereof, and the controversies and conundrums that lie within it.

Furthermore, Mr. Wallace knows Mr. Trump’s two futures are laid bare before the country-he’ll either be president or wind up a private citizen embroiled in legal and financial trouble until the end of his days, if not in jail. So it makes sense that he’s trying to shenaniganize the election, void the voice of the American people, and seize the White House indefinitely.

Underestimating Trump is Where Wallace Failed

So why wasn’t Mr. Trump’s destructive debate strategy clear as day to Mr. Wallace? It should’ve been. If you think about it, why would Mr. Trump want to stand in front of 330 million people and debate the referendum against him? He knows he’s losing, he knows he’s wrong, he knows he’s in trouble, and after 200,000 deaths on his watch, debates will not save him, but only sink him deeper. And, as a result, Mr. Trump detonated bombast from coast-to-coast.

The truth is Mr. Wallace hoped Mr. Trump would play nice. Wallace hoped Mr. Trump would give Biden the political courtesy to explain his many “deals”. But Mr. Trump refused as he always does and always will. Mr. Wallace should’ve been ready for it and he wasn’t.

Wallace Was in Denial. Civility Never Had a Chance.

Because here’s the deal, the debate had two sets of rules-the ones agreed to by the campaigns and Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Wallace failed to see that. In an article in The Hill, he says, “I guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

Mr. Trump’s rules are the only ones that matter to Mr. Trump. He likely said to his campaign, “Go ahead, make any rules you want. I’m fine with it. I’ll do whatever they want.” Regardless, his plan was to interrupt often, not listen, and wield his power to silence and summon.

Bullshit. The pillars of secrecy and bombast have long been part of Mr. Trump’s strategy long before he rode the escalator down to announce his campaign. Others include break laws, deny, deny, deny, and spark chaos at all costs. These are proven to the point where I don’t need sources to prove it. If you need proof, you can see it on TV, you can read about it on your phone, and you can smell it in the air.

Mr. Wallace knew all of this. He observed Mr. Trump’s irresponsibility over the pandemic, his crude comments about military men and women being “suckers” and “losers”, his cozy relationships with the globe’s most ruthless authoritarians, and his tax payments equating to couch change to name a few of Trump’s gut punches to our government. And Mr. Wallace also knew, on debate night, Mr. Trump was a sitting duck while Biden held a loaded cannon, and not filled with confetti.

Why did Mr. Wallace expect Mr. Trump to just stand at the podium quietly while Biden made his case for office directly into the camera? Mr. Trump wasn’t about to follow the rules. Mr. Trump’s rules are the only ones that matter to Mr. Trump. He likely said to his campaign, “Go ahead, make any rules you want. I’m fine with it. I’ll do whatever they want.” Regardless, his plan was to interrupt often, not listen, and wield his power to silence and summon.

And Mr. Trump knew Mr. Wallace would be the consummate professional and give him a chance to be presidential. However, giving chances is a rule in humanity’s rule book. In Mr. Trump’s rule book, professionalism is a waste of time and control is numero uno.

Wallace Suffered Consequences Too

Mr. Wallace was victimized by Mr. Trump’s brash and bumptious abuse. When Mr. Trump says, “Excuse me,…”, everyone knows that’s a ploy to clear the platitudes so he can twist realities, deliver fake news, and castigate the real news.

As soon as Mr. Trump said excuse me, Wallace should’ve caught on. He should’ve stood up and said:

No Sir, I will not excuse you. I will not excuse you, Mr. President. The 330 million Americans have the right to hear where each of you stands on the most important issues of our time and what the next President will do will have an immeasurable impact on generations to come. Now Mr. President, the campaigns agreed to the rules of this debate that means you agreed to the rules of this debate. If you care to continue, we expect you’ll follow said rules or we can end this right here, right now so what will you do, Mr. President? Americans want to know. What will you do?

Mr. Wallace should’ve leaned in. Put the heat on him. And you know what? Mr. Trump would have settled down. He likes the dickishness in people. Dickishness is dominant in his genes. He likes it in Putin. He likes it in Turkey’s Ergodan. He likes it in DeJoy, Pompeii, and all the rest. It’s what he understands so it’s what he respects.

And Mr. Wallace is one of the few journalists that could pull this off. Anderson Cooper couldn’t do it and Rachel Maddow doesn’t have the rep. Joy Reid, forget it. Mr. Wallace has served both liberal and conservative media and is considered one of America’s most trusted news sources. The Commission on Presidential Debates selected Mr. Wallace because they knew how the debate would play out and they knew Wallace has the backbone and reputation to survive it.

For over 40 years, Mr. Wallace has been challenging party scripts by asking politicians questions Americans want answers to. He’s a Harvard grad who, throughout the 1980s, anchored the NBC Nightly News and moderated Meet the Press. In 1989, he spent the better part of his career as a correspondent on ABC Primetime until 2003 when he joined Fox News as the host of Fox News Sunday. (Source: Wikipedia)

Americans still trust Mr. Wallace, and they still should. He cut his teeth in the previous era-an era many Americans either loved, liked, didn’t like, didn’t know, loathed, or just simply forgot about. Mr. Wallace’s fast-talking stoicism rebuffs Mr. Trump’s political cartooning that so easily befell Reince Prebuis, Chris Christie, Rudy Guiliani, Jeff Sessions, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, Rex Tillerson, and now the postal service and the CDC. Mr. Trump has tried to cartoon Dr. Fauci, but Mr. Trump cannot touch him. Fauci has confidence and command of his material; Mr. Wallace could’ve used a little more of both of those on Tuesday night.

The Debates Look Bleak

After the debate, Mr. Wallace admitted he was dreaming. The situation he walked into was so clear cut. The president needed a hard shutdown and Mr. Wallace needed to do so at every single turn never giving an inch. In fact, Biden’s “shut up man” was indicative of Wallace’s failure; it was bad for Wallace, bad for Biden, and even worse for the president.

I doubt the other debates will be any better. You know Mr. Trump has no respect for C-SPAN. And you know Mr. Trump has no respect for women. Heck, he’s the Constitution like you read mail from your realtor. The whole situation is unfortunate. Wallace was America’s only hope for a somewhat civil debate.

Published in The Boston Globe Magazine; Trying to figure it all out by expressing ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams; I have a dog, a very influential dog. Very.

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