Patterico's Pontifications


Presidential Debate Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:51 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Well, tonight’s the big night. The first of three presidential debate begins at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) and you can watch it on every major network and cable news channel as well as on YouTube.

So, how’s the debate prep going for the two candidates? Frankly, the former TV reality star doesn’t appear to be too concerned about doing any serious preparation ahead of tonight’s event:

On Monday morning, he made a surprise appearance on the South Lawn to survey a new all-electric pickup truck. He convened reporters in the Rose Garden later in the day for an announcement on Covid testing.

On Saturday, the President was largely preoccupied with the pending announcement of Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee and held no formal debate prep sessions, according to people familiar with the matter… After the announcement Trump flew to Pennsylvania for a campaign rally.

On Sunday, Trump spent much of the morning and early afternoon at his private golf club in Virginia — and was seen playing a round on the course midday — before convening an early evening press conference, which had no discernible purpose other than repeating his praise of Barrett and making false claims about mail-in voting. Christie and Giuliani joined him off to the side, and Trump said they were alternating playing Biden in debate practice sessions…

“We had a little debate prep before we came here,” Trump said at his news conference. “I think this whole thing, though, is debate prep. You know, what I do is debate prep every day.”

But there is some loosey-goosy-on-the-go prep happening:

In reality, people familiar with the matter said, both men along with several of the President’s aides are informally tossing out lines they believe Biden might use to see how Trump responds.

That includes accusing Trump of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic, which the President is likely to rebut by citing his decision to ban travel from China — and accusing Biden of being soft on Beijing. Aides also expect Biden to bring up reports Trump disparaged members of the military, which he will seek to counter by pointing to his record of securing Pentagon funding while accusing Biden of supporting endless foreign wars.

Trump’s Director of Communications Tim Murtaugh echoed the President:

“The president prepares by being president. And by regularly facing hostile news media. That’s pretty good practice by any measure.” The president spokesperson added that while President Trump’s ABC News Town Hall last month advertised questions by “uncommitted” voters, the president was pressed. “He faced a rigorous and challenging questioning, I think, to put it mildly. It was a good debate practice workout.”

And yet, one would have to believe that surely his aides and campaign handlers are peppering the President with strategical responses to the just-released analysis of his tax returns. Specifically on how he should respond to Americans’ outrage over $750. With a massive number of voters now unemployed, losing their businesses, being evicted from their places of residence, and/or relying on food banks for the first time all because of the pandemic, how does Trump explain the paltry sum to frustrated Americans? Certainly blathering on about tax laws and loopholes, etc., is not going to cut it. While one would think that his base would continue to see this as just another unfair attack on him, might this just be a bridge too far for those supporters that have actually taken a financial hit during the pandemic? And of course, what about the undecideds? How does he reach them in light of this latest revelation?

For Joe Biden, debate prep is happening in the traditional do-your-homework manner:

[D]ebate prep has been taking place both in-person at his Delaware home and virtually, in huddles with long-time advisers and top campaign officials, according to a campaign source familiar with the strategy.

The Democrats are reviewing the president’s almost daily tweets about Biden, his record and his family as examples of the type of attacks they think the president will focus on.

“The people know the president is a liar,” Biden said in a MSNBC interview on Saturday. “He doesn’t know how to debate the facts, because he’s not that smart.”

“He doesn’t know that many facts. He doesn’t know much about foreign policy. He doesn’t know much about domestic policy. He doesn’t know much about the details,” Biden added.

For their part, the campaign believes Tuesday’s debate topics — specifically, COVID-19, race and violence in cities, and election integrity — allow Biden to highlight what he sees as the president’s most serious missteps. He’s expected to retool criticisms of the Trump administration he has been using for the past few months.

Biden is also expected to defend the Affordable Care Act and connect its fate, in part, to the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, since Democrats see the nominee as potentially hostile to the Obama-era healthcare plan.

Axios lists some possible pitfalls that Trump and Biden need to watch for, respectively. I’ve taken their list and added my own thoughts and examples to it, thus it’s not in blockquotes:

Overconfidence. He hasn’t taken debate prep seriously. He is a bully by nature, and he may try to strongarm Biden – who has had 47 years of debate experience.

Policy. Can he clearly articulate what his second-term agenda would look like without the use of a teleprompter, or will he just go on some generalized stemwinder, which is what he is most comfortable with?

Attacks on the moderator. Think: Megyn Kelly.

Downplaying the coronavirus. How can his team even prepare him to answer to valid attacks by Biden on his mishandling of the pandemic when he has steadfastly refused to admit to it?

Lying. This will be a big problem for Trump, who likes to make stuff up in general. Given that Chris Wallace won’t be fact-checking the President, this presents the risk of Trump getting away with any number of lies during the actual debate (although his lies will be called out afterward).

The potential pitfalls for Joe Biden include: misspeaking, transposing numbers or seeming to lose his train of thought.


Losing his cool. He has been confrontational with voters while on the campaign trail, and has aggressively gotten in their faces. So, when Trump baits him tonight, will he be able to keep his cool? It’s a problem for Biden, especially as he has even lost his temper and blamed Democrats for his own words. Remember when he was a guest on radio host Charlamagne tha God, and made his now infamous comment, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” and the next day angrily blamed the black radio host for baiting him? Another example was, when he was questioned by a reporter about whether he had taken a cognitive test, Biden got angry and demanded to know whether the reporter was a junkie.

Verbosity. It is nearly impossible for Biden to go straight from Point A to Point B in a succinct and coherent manner. He is prone to finding himself out in the weeds, resulting in a tuned-out-glazed-over audience. He needs to make cogent and succinct arguments.

Lying. Biden is prone to storytelling and has been known to tell some real whoppers.

Tripping over his own tongue. He is also a human gaffe machine who has insulted any number of minority voters.

And there is this: “He’s also a creature of decades spent in the Senate, and some of his parliamentary verbiage is better understood in the cloakroom than in American living rooms.”

Two points of attack by Trump which are almost guaranteed to provoke an angry response from Biden will be questions about his age and mental acuity, as well as anything to do with Hunter Biden.

P.S. – The Trump campaign has made a last-minute request that both camps allow a third-party inspection of the debaters’ ears tonight for any electronic devices or transmitters. While Trump has agreed to this, Biden has declined to any such ear check.

It should be a fun night!


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I’ll try to be active in the comments. Let’s keep it friendly! Biden did make this joke on Twitter:

Parents Logging Off To Protest Online School

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:00 am

[guest post by Dana]

Parents frustrated with distance learning in California are planning to log off in protest:

Families who say they have had enough of distance learning are calling on students to log off statewide for a full week to protest the continuing closure of public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The planned weeklong protest is starting Monday, September 28, and is set to go until October 2.

With distance learning, you can’t just ask the teacher to help you,” said student Nicholas Han.

His mother Syndie Ly has four children who have all been learning at home. But this week, they plan to participate in the “Zoom out.” Ly helped organize the strike through the Facebook group Reopen California Schools. It now has more than 6,800 members.

“It’s very difficult to take AP classes doing distance learning twice a week. You can’t possibly do AP classes doing distance learning,” she said. “With regards to my middle school, he has expressed a bit of depression.”

Most of the state’s K-12 schools did not reopen classrooms when the academic year began. To reopen schools, counties must first move from the purple to the less restrictive red tier. In many cases, districts then have to renegotiate terms with teachers unions before making a decision.

COVID-19 cases have remained fairly low across the Bay Area. But last week, state public health officials warned that hospitalizations could dramatically increase over the next month. Many of these cases could be tied to Labor Day outings. Flu season is also on the horizon.

Meanwhile, the White House was reportedly putting pressure on the CDC to massage a more positive message about students physically returning to schools:

The White House put the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under immense pressure to produce more evidence that suited the Trump administration’s agenda to send kids and teachers back to school in person before the election despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports. One member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff claims that she was repeatedly asked to instruct the CDC to write more reports that showed a decline in virus cases among young people. The staff member, Olivia Troye, said she regretted being “complicit” in the effort, and left the White House in August. One unnamed former public-health official told the Times that, before a task force briefing in June, White House officials asked the CDC for supportive data in “a snazzy, easy-to-read document.” Recent data shows that hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-1 have increased at a faster rate in children and teens than among the general public. One coronavirus tracking project has reported at least 30,000 cases in U.S. schools since the school year began.

While there have been outbreaks at numerous schools throughout the U.S., and districts have had to reverse course and move to online learning as a result, there is some positive news:

Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities.

This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they charter the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.

“Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

On Wednesday, researchers at Brown University, working with school administrators, released their first set of data from a new National COVID-19 School Response Data Dashboard, created to track coronavirus cases. It found low levels of infection among students and teachers.

With 570 public and private schools and school districts participating in both in-person classes and hybrid classes volunteering data to Brown University, here are some details:

The researchers found that during a two-week period beginning Aug. 31, about 0.22 percent of students and 0.51 percent of teachers had a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus. The rates were even lower when looking solely at confirmed cases at 0.075 percent for students and 0.15 percent for teachers.

The Post noted that additional early data in Texas and the Northeast are signaling optimism as well.

According to data released last week, about 2,350 students who were found positive for the coronavirus — or about 0.21 percent of the 1.1 million students attending school in person. The Post noted that an additional 2,175 school employees tested positive, although a rate could not be calculated because it was not clear how many of the state’s more than 800,000 school staff members were working in school buildings.

And finally, New York City’s elementary students are returning to in-person classes today:

Elementary school students in New York City streamed back into classrooms with masks, temperature checks and globs of hand sanitizer on Tuesday as the nation’s largest school district tries to safely open schools amid the coronavirus pandemic…New York City’s daily positivity rate rose to 3.25%, the first time it has gone over 3% in months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. The 7-day rolling average positivity rate stands at 1.38%. If that 7-day rate goes over 3%, de Blasio has said that the city will close all schools… The in-person education is limited: A hybrid schedule has students in the classroom only a few days a week, with the rest of their learning online. About 54% of students are participating in that blended model, while 46% opted for fully remote learning, according to the latest preference survey results from NYC’s Department of Education.


The Michael Flynn Hearing Is Underway

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

The call-in lines are all full, but the matter can be followed via live-tweeting from various reporters covering the case.

So far the judge has said that sentencing was technically already underway, since December 2018, and that many of the steps he has taken are standard steps, like issuing a standing Brady order or appointing an amicus, but still got a lot of attention.

Consider this an open thread. I may update it at noon.

UPDATE: The hearing is over. No decision today. I think perhaps the most remarkable thing about the hearing is that Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell admitted she recently talked to President Trump about the case. When Judge Sullivan asked her for details, she initially tried to claim executive privilege (!!). LOLOL. She ended up admitting that she had asked Trump not to pardon Flynn and claimed that was all she had talked to him about.

I hope Chris Wallace asks Trump about that. He ought to.

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