By refusing to participate in a virtual debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden, a change forced upon organisers by his own Covid affliction, President Donald Trump has confirmed that his understanding of the customary verbal joust involves boorish interventions and shouting down both his rival and the moderator, rather than an interplay of contrasting ideas on governance to help voters come to a decision.
Mr Trump while saying he would not join such a debate on October 15 made his reason quite clear ~ his fear that he would be stopped by the moderator if he transgressed debating rules as he often did at the first debate in Cleveland. “You sit behind a computer and do a debate ~ it’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want,” Mr Trump has said.
Many of those who watched the first debate between the two contenders had wished that the moderator ~ from the Trump-friendly Fox News channel ~ would switch the President’s microphone off on at least some of the occasions he tried to shout down his rival. The possibility that this could be far more easily accomplished during a virtual debate appears to have thrown the President off his game. That a debate can be conducted while maintaining essential courtesies, even during these politically supercharged times, was shown by the two Vice-Presidential candidates, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, who assailed each other’s positions but did so with a degree of decorum.
But Mr Trump’s rumbustiousness leaves no space for niceties and it is unlikely that being afflicted by the virus soon after he had mocked his rival for wearing a mask would temper his rhetoric.
While his supporters have sought to explain the President’s increasingly erratic behaviour on the cocktail of drugs he is consuming, opinion polls ~ even though they have known to be wrong ~ suggest the race is fast slipping out of his hands.
The latest poll shows that Mr Biden has widened his lead to 10 percentage points, with 51 per cent of Americans saying they will vote for him and only 41 per cent for the President. The poll showed that 57 per cent were dissatisfied with Mr Trump’s handling of the virus epidemic and ~ startlingly ~ only 34 per cent believed he had not lied about the virus.
The fact that many voters may have already made up their minds was suggested by the finding that 67 per cent were opposed to in-person campaign rallies.
While nine out of 10 registered Democrats believed Mr Trump would not have been infected had he taken the virus seriously, what ought to worry the President is the finding that half of registered Republicans believed the same thing. Mr Trump who has called his affliction “a blessing from God” is preparing to hit the campaign trail over the weekend saying he does not believe he is still infected. Supporters who he expects will turn out to greet him might wish though that he carries a Covid-negative certificate.