Between interruptions, name calling and poorly chosen neckties, it’s fair to compare the first of the 2020 presidential debates to a meticulously planned and nationally televised car crash the American people couldn’t seem to look away from.
After watching President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden interrupt one another for an hour and half, commentators, Twitter users and politicians alike began discussing whether Biden telling the president to “shut up” or Trump attacking Biden’s son for receiving “$3 million from Russia” was enough to steal the respective candidates a win.
Make no mistake, the only person who could possibly be called a winner was not standing on the debate stage; rather, he was refereeing a bad mouthed boxing match between two grown men. Fox News anchor and debate moderator Chris Wallace somehow managed to balance wit and charm with constant calls for order and peace.
This was not Wallace’s first time moderating a heated debate, having previously done so for the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016. Undertaking the task of moderator on his own, Wallace asked pointed and difficult questions to both candidates, covering topics ranging from racism in the United States to a post-coronavirus economy. He fairly pointed out Trump’s lack of mask wearing during a global pandemic while also grilling Biden on comments made by his running mate, Kamala Harris, about muzzling scientists who disagree with certain methods of subduing the coronavirus.
While his job should have started and ended with asking these questions, viewers watched as Wallace repeatedly asked both candidates to stop interrupting one another; it was as if he was talking to children. At one point, he even asked Trump if he would like to switch places with him as the president continued to speak over his questions.
After reminding both candidates over and over again to respect the two minutes of allotted time to respond to questions, it’s impressive Wallace never seemed to lose his temper. Once, he had to raise his voice as he tried to speak over both presidential candidates to bring the focus back to the topic at hand.
“Gentleman, I hate to raise my voice but why shouldn’t I be different than the two of you?” Wallace said as he tried to put a stop to the on-stage bickering. “…I think that the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions.”
The candidates did not adjust their behavior to follow debate rules as the evening went on. Until the very end, both candidates ran over time, resulting in Wallace having to shut the conversation debate down. With a voice reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart and a hint of a chuckle, he finally signed off for the night.
“This is the end of the debate,” Wallace announced, cutting Trump off as the debate came to a close. “We’re going to leave it there, to be continued in more debates as we go on. President Trump, Vice President Biden, it’s been an interesting hour and a half.”
In past years, discussions following debates were rooted in policy differences and debate decorum; this year, the memes came flooding in quickly as citizens questioned how these men are the options for president. Like the rest of the nation, Wallace deserves an apology for being made part of the total trainwreck last night brought us.