- - Thursday, October 1, 2020

Well, that debate sure was painful to watch.

The tens of millions of Americans who tuned in to Tuesday evening’s presidential debate between President Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, were treated to a childish, raucous affair that more closely resembled a playground fight than a serious battle of ideas.

Mr. Biden repeatedly told the president of the United States to “shut up” and called him a “clown.” For his part, Mr. Trump insulted Mr. Biden’s intelligence and interrupted him at nearly every turn. 

Despite doing his best to try, moderator Chris Wallace woefully failed to prevent the debate’s derailment. The night did feature some semblance of meaningful debate over the COVID-19 crisis, health care, the U.S. Supreme Court and a few other important issues. But between all the crosstalk, incompetence and immaturity, many other key issues went ignored and overlooked. 

For instance, there wasn’t a single question about foreign policy. 

The president’s most important role by far is that of commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The significance of any domestic policy debate or partisan issue area pales in comparison to the president’s control of nuclear launch codes and responsibility to keep Americans safe. Yet, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump hardly made a mention of how they would serve as commander-in-chief during the debate — and weren’t asked about it. 

This is an absurd oversight on the part of the moderator and the candidates alike. 

Right now, the U.S. has hundreds of thousands of troops deployed throughout the world, and our military is involved in too many conflicts to keep track of. More of our heroic soldiers continue to die in these conflicts each year and billions more in taxpayer dollars are poured down the drain. Yet, Mr. Wallace failed to ask Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump about their intent to end either the decades-long forever war in Afghanistan or any of the other perpetual conflicts we are embroiled in. 

In fact, the candidates weren’t pressed on how they would handle rising hostility with increasingly dangerous rivals such as Iran and North Korea nor the many other national security threats the country faces — like China and Russia’s open aggression toward American values and interests.

But don’t worry: The candidates still found time to squabble over crowd sizes at political rallies and call each other names.

The 90-minute meltdown also featured zero meaningful discussion of the out-of-control national debt, even though polling shows the economy is a top issue for many voters and the debt is approaching an astounding $27 trillion. For context, that’s roughly $215,000 per U.S. taxpayer. 

Since Mr. Trump took office, he has done little to rein in our tremendous levels of debt. He has signed Congress’ bloated budget bills without much of a fight, and he failed to secure spending cuts to offset tax cuts. This comes despite Mr. Trump promising during his 2016 campaign that as president he would eliminate the debt entirely. Yet Mr. Trump was not pressed on this inconsistency during the debate. 

And Mr. Biden certainly wasn’t forced to explain how we can afford his proposed $11 trillion in new spending over a decade when we’re already drowning in debt and sentencing future generations to financial despair. On this issue, Mr. Biden is no “moderate” — for context, he supports six times more new spending compared to what Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016. (She supported $1.65 trillion in new spending over a decade.)

Ignoring the two candidates’ glaring debt failures is inexcusable — especially in light of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that shows our debt will exceed the size of our economy as soon as 2021. On our current trajectory, we will reach the highest levels of debt in American history by 2023.

This sure seems like a relevant issue for presidential candidates to discuss. Yet they squabbled over Hunter Biden and insulted each other instead.

So, too, voters who stuck it out for the entire debate left with no new information as to how either candidate plans to address the looming bankruptcy of our entitlement programs.

Social Security, for example, is projected to reach insolvency by 2034. At this point it will be forced to slash benefits. Unless the next president acts to address Social Security’s looming fiscal disaster, the program that so many Americans have been forced to pay into and are relying on will descend toward all-out bankruptcy. 

Might have been worth a mention on the debate stage, huh?

According to a CBS news poll, 70% of debate viewers said they found the debacle “annoying.” It’s hard to blame them. This kind of substance-free toxicity is why normal people increasingly tune out of our politics and feel unrepresented and unconnected. We can only hope that in the next debate, the moderators and candidates focus more on the issues that matter. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

• Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a conservative journalist and senior contributor for Young Voices.

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