What can we learn from a debate that—to be honest—sucked?

Bernie Scolaro is a retired school counselor, a past president of the Sioux City Education Association, and former Sioux City school board member.

My father is 95 years old, but you would never guess his age by watching him or talking to him. Unlike President Joe Biden. He shows his age, and like all presidents, has been aged by the job.

In the president’s recent CNN debate against Donald Trump, Biden shuffled to the stage like the elderly man he is. He often stumbled for a loss of words as he tried to recall accurate, real facts and statistics. 

I could relate; in school, having to memorize dates in history or speeches for English class, it wasn’t easy. Words did not always flow—and I wasn’t on national TV at the time. I wasn’t 81 years old. I didn’t have a lifelong stutter. I wasn’t debating for the soul of democracy. And I wasn’t debating against someone who doesn’t know how to engage in civil discourse.

Yes, Biden gazed a lot into the distance as he listened to his opponent speak. Perhaps as we all did as we listened to repetitive lies spouting out of Trump’s mouth like a broken water fountain. 

Trump does not need to memorize or review information of his presidency, or presidencies past or present, because facts are irrelevant when he debates. He outright lies, and either embellishes numbers (like millions, tens of thousands) or throws out numbers he cannot back up. He just claims everything he did is the “biggest, the best, the largest” while any opponent is always the “worst.” He doesn’t even try to regurgitate information; he just spews his “pet” phrases or lines to his base like he was Pavlov feeding his salivating dog. 

He projects his corruption onto Biden because he knows his lack of debate skills, his felony convictions, his lack of moral character doesn’t matter if he can confidently fabricate information, even when his word salad is hard to digest. He just needs to make fun of Biden and rouse a laugh for an audience devoid of knowing that he is also laughing at them for believing everything he tells them. I am just glad he spared us his “happy dance” entrance he does for his rallies.

The debate sucked for Biden. And he shouldn’t have lowered himself to repeat that Trump was the real “sucker” (which Trump once called the military). Or call Trump a child. Name-calling shouldn’t win a debate. 

Repeated lies shouldn’t win a debate. Embellished numbers and made-up numbers shouldn’t win a debate. The debate sucked for Trump too.  

We shouldn’t be debating who won the debate. No one won. In fact, debate teachers could use it as a prime example of what not to do. Besides, as teachers argue, one standardized test at a given point in time does not measure a student’s knowledge. Neither does one debate.

So, what can we learn from the debate?

For me, the debate provided one important comparison, highlighting our choice in November. Either we vote for someone who is all performance with no vision, or we vote for someone who is all substance and knowledge but lacks the “reality star power.” Personally, I will gladly vote for the elderly wise statesman who shuffles onto the world stage over the guy who would be just as fulfilled winning the mirror ball on Dancing with the Stars.

About the Author(s)

Bernie Scolaro