Tonight was supposed to be the second debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But after Trump contracted coronavirus and refused the debate commission’s call for a virtual event, the two candidates wound up committing to dueling town halls on major networks: Biden first agreed to go on ABC, in lieu of the debate after Trump refused to participate, then NBC offered Trump a platform at the same time.
We didn’t quite know how to cover it, so our editor in chief Paul Glastris decided to do something different. Usually, he spends any major campaign event texting back and forth with his two brothers, George and Bill Glastris. Tonight, we’re going to publish their uncensored texts as part of our live blogs. If nothing else, it will provide a window into how three Greek American men are processing this most unusual of elections. We hope you find it entertaining—and perhaps even a little insightful.
George: Trump was out of his depth on policy and was just selling.
Paul: I did notice that about Trump. When he talks policy, it’s seldom in an explanatory way, but in an old-fashioned salesman’s kind of way.
Bill: Interesting—Joe not leaving the room of him contInuing to engage with the questioners. Continues to be on TV and on brand while the ABC commentators describe his very good performance.
George: At least a used car salesman knows how much horsepower the engine has.
Paul: I’m listening to the reactions from network pundits. They’re making a lot of the same points we did. They clearly were reading us!
George: Let’s see what Santorum has to say. Oh, he’s talking about court packing.
Paul: Also, did you notice all the Biden commercials on ABS before, during, and after the town hall? That’s a campaign with a lot of money that’s smart enough to try to goose up the instant poll numbers to Biden’s advantage. Did either of you see what ads were running on NBC?
George: I didn’t notice Biden ads but I’m in Chicago.
Bill: Ok – I really am proud to support Biden. He was ready, direct, honest, and, in my view, right again and again.
George: He knows his stuff, period. Trump was just yakking.
Paul: Final question from Stephanopoulos: Will you demand at the next debate that the president take a Covid test and will you take one yourself? His answer: I expect the Cleveland clinic which runs the debate won’t make the same mistake this time as last time, and of course I’ll take the test, I take one every day, I don’t want to expose anyone, especially the folks behind the cameras and the Secret Service guys, it’s just the decent thing to do. The correct, common sense, presidential answer, and exactly on brand.
Paul: Is there a reason the Trump town hall ended earlier that Biden’s? The former keeps saying Joe doesn’t have the stamina to be president, but that’s no way to show it. Biden’s then Energizer Bunny by comparison.
Bill: “Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity”—kind of the essence of the Biden candidacy.
George: I love that line—”If I’m elected, you want to hear me race baiting.”
Bill: Joe “America first has meant America alone … I do compliment the President on the deal with Israel but if you look around the world we are not trusted anymore” Joe talking straight to this Trump voter. Not sure this questioner wants to be convinced.
George: He handled that question on foreign policy very well, disagreed with the questionnaire but very politely.
Bill: On what he’ll do about LGBQT rights being violated by Trump orders, Joe says, “I’ll flat out change the law.”
George: I’ve heard Joe tell the story about two men kissing each other when he was a kid more times than I can count. He need some fresh material. But yes, he is a friend to the LGBT community. And that was a great answer: “I’ll change the law.”
Paul: The self-described conservative asked a smart, tricky question listing a number of Trump foreign successes. Biden answered by granting him one—the Israel-Arab deal—then drowning him in examples of Trump foreign policy failures. Extremely effective answer. Biden was clearly in his comfort zone.
George: I just flipped over to the Biden town hall. This questionnaire about the environment is 10 times better than all the Trump questionnaires put together.
George: Biden’s answer compared to all of trumps answers it’s the difference between watching Ken Burns documentary on PBS and some cheap show on the history channel—night and day, night and day.
George: Hey Bill, this answer Biden is giving is like listening to Paul at the breakfast table going off on the dairy industry when all you said is, “Please pass the butter.”
Paul: You know I like me some policy.
Paul: Biden’s answer about bringing jobs to SE Pennsylvania—hire 128,000 to cap closed wells etc.—was Clinton-like in it’s specificity.
George: He needs to be careful though. This isn’t the Washington Monthly. It’s prime time
George: Don’t they claim that they burn off method because it’s not worth capturing? Or is that gas from oil wells?
Paul: I think those flames you see are on refineries. The fracking wells leak it silently. But WTF do I know.
George: Once again, Trump he’s done more for Blacks except for Lincoln. This woman just complimented his smile and told him he’s very handsome too.
Bill: Trump—“Where do you come from?” Questioner—“My grandparents are from Russia and Poland.” Trump, “Very good” Why does that matter?
Paul: Last question to Trump: for undecided voters, how are you going to convince them that you will improve? Answer: I’ve done a great job.
George: Pointed out the hypocrisy of his opposing Obama nominating Merrick Garland eight months before the 2016 election—whereas he is nominating Coney Barrett a month before the 2020 one—Trump blames the Kavanaugh hearing for why he should put Coney on the court now.
Bill: There are at least four or five options consistent with and constitutional to deal with the situation with the Supreme Court. I am not a fan of that (packing the court) but I am open depending with what happens and how it is handled. Vote for a Senator that shares your view.
Paul: George Stephanopoulos was pretty aggressive with Biden on expanding the Supreme Court. Fair enough but I’m disappointed he hasn’t asked the former VP about his position on Greece. Am I right?
Bill: It’s coming, of course. Not to worry.
George: Now the moderator is asking about his taxes. “Who do you owe $400 million to?” Trump says he borrowed $400 million as a favor to banks—that $400 million is a tiny percentage of his net worth.
Bill: Asked if he owes any money to foreign banks, Trump says, “Not that I know of but probably.”
George: Trump says he won’t release his tax returns because of common sense and intelligence.
Bill: “I’m treated very badly by the IRS,” just said the man who paid $750 in taxes to the IRS. Really??
George: Somehow, he pivoted to Hillary and the Democrats dealing with Russia; see head spin.
George: So Bill you’ve watched both; any thoughts?
Bill: Very, very different tones.
Paul: My guess is if you’re a Trump supporter—and there are almost certainly more of those watching him tonight than Biden supporters—you’re liking his answers. But it sure seems like he’s been on the defensive half the night. And I can’t imagine that’s a good thing for him. Biden much less so.
Bill: Joe nailing the tough question from this gentleman about what exactly he’s going to do for African Americans other than “ you ain’t Black.” Great question and he’s handling it really well.
George: He’s still saying we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions but won’t say how.
Paul: Biden just gave a terrific answer about the need for policies to help Black Americans accumulate wealth. “They’re behind the 8-ball now.” Would love to see poling on how that was received by Black voters, especially young ones.
George: An “undecided Democrat” is asking about another stimulus check. Of course, it’s all Nancy’s fault, Trump says.
Bill: Ok we are 33 minutes in and Joe is putting forth his best – I think his best “performance” the entire election season. Rapid fire, cogent, direct, and very believable.
George: Why do I have to watch this clown? “I’m ready to sign a big beautiful stimulus,” Trump says.
Bill: I’ll watch it on DVR later.
Paul: Outstanding answer on the value of community policing.
Biden wrote the law and he knows the details. Making the distinguish between more beat cops integrating with the community and more driving around in Humvees.
George: Now Trump is railing against vote by mail. Thousands of ballots with my name have been dumped in dumpsters [there’s no evidence of that, at all]. He’s so wound up. He’s going to bite someone.
Paul: During the convention, the Democrats and Biden were criticized, fairly in my view, for downplaying the Biden-Harris economic agenda. Not true tonight.
George. She’s asking why he didn’t ban travel from other countries but only China at first. There’s no middle ground. He was talking about differences between what he did and what he told Woodward. He still questioning masks.
Paul: Trump was doing well talking about the economy. Now he’s questioning mask usage and picking a fight with Tony Fauci.
George: Well, obviously, when he’s talking about something he wants to talk about he’s happy, but one question about something he doesn’t want to talk about he’s getting very defensive and bitchy.
George: The moderator is bringing up white supremacy.
Bill: Joe: “Look George [Stephanopolous] and I think you know well too that the words of a President matters” Questioner: “Absolutely.”
George: He’s getting really pissed off with everyone.
George: On QAnon, he says, “I know nothing about it … but that they are against pedophilia.”
Paul: Trump? At the questioners? Or at all his enemies?
George: Both. Shit, I don’t know about satanic pedophilia.
Bill: Joe pulls out a card to discuss tax revenue and tax cuts. Smart. Both avoiding a misstatement and frankly reciting facts.
George: Savannah Guthrie just said to Trump: “You’re not someone’s crazy uncle, why are you retweeing the Bin Laden lie?
Paul: Biden on Trump saying he didn’t want to panic the public about COVID-19: “The American people don’t panic. He panicked.”
George: Now Trump is being asked about Rose Garden ceremony. He’s now questioning masks. He’s saying people with masks catch it all the time. He said fallen heroes’ families want to touch him.
Paul: This is OK, but if the Cardinals had advanced in the playoffs would you have rather be watching that?
George: “Excess mortality—we’re a winner,” Trump says. Cards, yes. Trump, no.
Bill: What town hall?
George: Now he’s doing his schtick about how the cure can’t be worse than the disease but … plus China China China.
Bill: My early impression on Biden to be honest is that he’s coming across quite well. Thoughtful, direct and actually conversational.
Bill: Am I the only one that is concerned whether Joe is going to be as prepared for this event as he was for the debate?
Paul: Maybe. But I wonder if for these kinds of town has a candidate can over prepare. It’s not like he’s trying to memorize his zingers.
Bill: Sparse looking room. That in itself is a bit of a statement.
Paul: So, George, I’m glad you volunteered to watch the Trump town hall. Had you not, Bill and I would have made you since you’re the youngest.
George: My youth gives me the strength to take it.