Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Presidential debate, Round 2 | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Presidential debate, Round 2

The second and last presidential candidate debate happened Thursday. It was, to quote author Douglas Adams, “Mostly harmless.” Joe Biden managed to stay awake and semiresponsive through most of it, and President Donald Trump didn’t bite heads off chickens or participants. For those who didn’t watch, a good transcript is at USAToday.com.

The president was pretty straightforward in his responses, even to soft smears like, “What about that bank account in China?” To which he explained that as a businessman, he had bank accounts abroad, all a matter of public record. The China account was opened in 2013 in anticipation of a deal; it didn’t finalize so the account was closed in 2015.

Biden, in contrast, was in average-politician mode throughout. Challenged about rumors of corruption, he huffed that they were investigated and “not one single solitary thing was out of line.” He may have forgotten that in 2015, U.S. diplomat George Kent warned the White House that Hunter Biden’s deal with Ukrainian gas company Burisma “looks terrible” and threatened ongoing anticorruption efforts there. Or perhaps he wasn’t told;  at the time, Kent was fobbed off with the comment that the vice president “didn’t have the bandwidth” to deal with the issue.

When pressed, Biden changed the subject. Staring into the camera, he would earnestly intone, “It’s not about me; it’s about your family,” before opening a can of fustian about how people were miserable — ironically because of economic collapse provoked by policies he would strengthen.

Biden said he would force China to “play by the rules” on trade, an echo of his argument for allowing the Communist country into the World Trade Organization. Membership, he argued in 2001, would force China to follow the rules of international trade. Every year since has offered proof that Biden was wildly wrong — then and now. China will not follow rules it doesn’t make, and compelling it to do so will require more than the weak rhetoric Biden has deployed to date.

On North Korea, Biden harumphed about Trump’s unconventional approach to the Hermit Kingdom, and allowed that he would sit down with the mini-tyrant only if “he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity to get there.” Which is woodenheaded. If elimination of Kim’s nukes is the goal of negotiation, why does the vice president think he would agree to do so before talks even began? And “the Korean Peninsula should be a nuclear-free zone” is also the position of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because they insist that any prohibition would extend to the nukes possibly held by U.S. forces in South Korea as a deterrent against a sudden attempt to reunify the peninsula by the world’s fourth-largest military. 

The vice president trotted out well-worn scare tactics on Medicare, saying Trump would bankrupt it — thereby throwing granny off a cliff. When he promised to “create a public option” with automatic enrollment in Medicaid, one can only shake one’s head. According to Biden, Medicare will be bankrupt in three years, so he will add many more users without increasing revenue. Remember, he promised not to raise taxes for anyone making under $400,000 a year; unless he’s fibbing, that includes FICA. Expecting the system to flourish thereafter requires innumeracy.

At least it wasn’t an outright lie, like “I do rule out banning fracking.” The vice president got hot when challenged on this, demanding proof he said he would do so, which was available the following day. On Saturday, Biden told an audience in Pennsylvania that he would not ban the practice. But the record says he’s telling different audiences what they want to hear, even if it’s a fib.

This and other mannerisms mark Biden as a lifetime professional politician, as Trump remarked more than once in Thursday’s debate. His words are empty promises, meaningless games and nostalgic fables. After 47 years of federal officeholding, his major accomplishments are dragging China into the WTO and passing bills that imprisoned large numbers of young black men. His only plan now is for more of the same sort of aimless drift.

One may not like Trump’s personality or manners; he doesn’t drink tea with his pinky finger raised. But he gets results, he keeps his promises, and as Lincoln once said of Grant, “He fights.” In a rapidly evolving, increasingly competitive world, these are vital traits for the United States and its people.  So forget high tea and go vote.


Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at mcliddick@hotmail.com.

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