This week, both major party presidential nominees participated in 'town hall' style meetings on national television. President Donald Trump appeared on ABC News, in a forum moderated by former Democratic campaign operative George Stephanopoulos. Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared on CNN. Here's how Politico described the disparate dynamics of the two events:
Wait, ABC orchestrated “an icy grilling” for Trump & CNN aired a “kid-gloves hero’s welcome” for Biden? I don’t believe it! https://t.co/i1SHDhxRJ6— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 18, 2020
For the second time this week, a presidential candidate fielded questions from voters in a town hall setting. But if ABC’s event with President Donald Trump was an icy grilling, CNN’s drive-in conversation with Joe Biden Thursday was more like an affable reunion of old acquaintances...And so [the chumminess] went with several other questioners and Biden during a 75-minute homecoming close by to where the candidate spent his youth...Trump had few such comfortable moments in his brutal town hall...Democratic nominee made the most of the friendly confines, relaying feel-your-pain anecdotes in mostly grammatical syntax and, until the last half-hour, with high-energy.
I'm open to the argument that if the president had been more serious and consistent in his COVID messaging, which was too often all over the map and contradictory, more people may have acted accordingly and some number of infections -- and therefore deaths -- could have been prevented. Because Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that Trump took the medical experts' major and consequential pieces of advice during key stretches of the crisis, I'm inclined to believe that the percentage of infections or deaths that could be roughly linked to Trump's errors is relatively low. Read this. That's not an excuse for him, and it's fair game for critics to hammer him for some of his actions and decisions (I've explored more of this here and here). There is plenty of material for them to work with. But many of the critics cannot help but wildly overplay their hand, and in the above clip, Biden goes way overboard. It's absolutely insane, baseless, and unscientific to claim that any politician could have magically prevented "all" the COVID deaths anywhere, let alone across an entire country.
This is reminiscent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who whose decisions absolutely led to needless deaths, a fact that he's actively trying to cover up) claiming that Trump was responsible for the virus arriving in New York in the first place. It is preposterous, unserious demagoguery and should be treated as such. Biden blathering about "the data" is meaningless nonsense. No "data" shows that Donald Trump could have prevented a highly infectious disease from arriving on our shores after originating in China, where the Communist government deliberately obscured the truth during crucial early stages. I'll remind you that Joe Biden attacked Trump's correct, early decision to restrict travel from China, a nation he just denied is an "opponent" of the US (now calling them a serious competitor, after claiming they were not even a competitor just last year). The best defense for Biden's outrageous allegation above is that it was a momentary lapse in which he misspoke. What's the excuse for this?
Really, doc? "A source" told you that at least eight in ten COVID deaths could have been stopped by Trump. We know that almost half of all deaths are linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The notion that the president, or any set of "guidelines" could have stopped nearly all of that is just nuts. Part of the CNN clip includes a conversation about mailing masks to every American, but may of the experts at the time were urging average people not to wear masks into April (when the urgent priority was finding enough masks to get to front line healthcare workers). Even some Trump-hostile observers are calling Gupta's comment "really irresponsible." That's probably being too kind. And then experts wonder why many people don't trust them, as if things like this just happen in a vacuum. Via Jim Geraghty, I'll leave you with this:
Can’t stand Trump? Fine. I get it. I _really_ get it. But approach the prospects of a Joe Biden presidency with clear eyes and no illusions. Electing Biden moves the country pretty dramatically to the left, even if Biden doesn’t want to do that.https://t.co/9CY2UHGtPT— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) September 18, 2020