From the earliest moments of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Trump’s plan for victory was clear: Steamroll his opponents — including both his actual opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace — with so much noise that it was impossible to get a clear message through to voters.
When Biden started to weigh in on the topic of filling the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump interrupted and overtalked him. Biden tried laughing off the interruptions, then grew heated, calling Trump a “clown” and finally growling: “Will you shut up, man.”
And when Wallace tried following up with a question about Trump’s non-existent health-care plan, Trump interrupted the question before Wallace could complete his query. “I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump said to Wallace.
The problem with debates is that they hinge more on style and image than on the substance of the presidency. Philippe Reines, who played Trump for Hillary Clinton during her debate prep in 2016, wrote recently that he prepared for the job, in part, by watching Trump “with the sound off to focus entirely on his gestures and body language.”
Trump’s strategy had three obvious effects:
First, it allowed him to make the case that he looked like the most powerful figure on stage — if he’s talking and nobody else can get a word in edgewise, he must be the alpha male, right?
Second, it frustrated Biden into dropping his “Grandpa Joe” image for a few minutes.
Third, and most obviously, it gave Trump the chance to do what he’s been doing for years: Create so much noise, much of it false, that the natural response is befuddlement. Who knew really what was going on on the debate stage? When Trump keeps talking over everybody, it’s difficult for anybody else to communicate — or for the truth to be heard. Joel Mathis