The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | How Biden’s team set him up for failure in first debate

Photo Courtesy of Anthony Souffle / TNS
Gov. Tim Walz defended Joe Biden after a halting debate performance that has renewed concerns among some Democrats about his campaign.

Prior to the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Thursday evening, I was admittedly assuming that the focus — and eventual negative highlight — would have been Trump repeating his malpractices from four years ago: being boisterous and constantly interruptive.

I also perhaps naïvely presumed that after all the criticism and worry from even within his own party about his age, President Biden’s advisors would emphasize the importance of being assertive, clear and even domineering during the debate.

To the horror of most Democrats nationwide, even many in leadership positions, Biden not only fell flat but corroborated the widespread belief that he is too old to serve another term as president.

Despite gaining some relative traction towards the middle and end of the debate, the beginning was especially difficult to watch: The worst part for Democrat viewers was when the president rambled incoherently for several seconds and didn’t clarify himself.

In my opinion, Biden’s feeble performance could have been almost entirely masked with a few simple agreements with CNN and adjustments to the format of the debate — an oversight by the president’s team that might have cost him the entire election.

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First — and probably most importantly — there was a glaring need for a live system of fact-checking, or at least for the moderators to hold the two participants accountable for any false statements like many journalists do during live interviews of politicians. Biden’s team could have put this in their terms the same way they argued for the ability to have mutable microphones, but did not. 

As a result of the inaction of Biden’s team, Trump was able to incessantly and consistently lie without any repercussions, all while Biden barely acknowledged them. According to a fact-check by CNN, Trump lied over 30 times in the debate, compared to Biden’s nine false claims. Among Trump’s most extreme falsehoods was claiming many Democrat states allow for abortions after birth, that the 2020 election was fraudulent, that “everybody” wanted Roe v. Wade overturned and that there were no terror attacks during his presidency.

Additionally, when Biden’s team won the coin flip and chose which side to be on on the debate stage instead of having the last word, I was astonished. Sure, apparently people’s eyes gravitate more towards the right side of their screens, but did Biden really want more attention on his face throughout the debate? 

Biden should have taken the last word instead of the right side of the screen and crafted a stronger, less long-winded closing statement. Instead of his lengthy comment on tax cuts, he and his team seemingly forgot that his opponent just a few feet away from him is a convicted felon who also happened to incite a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. That would have been a much more cogent path to take, especially considering Trump dodged questions relating to both.

I want to be clear in that I don’t believe there is a direct correlation between President Biden’s verbal stumbling during debates and that distinctly affecting how he carries out any actual presidential duties.

Biden has plenty of political experience and, when it comes down to it, can make good enough policy-related decisions in the privacy of the Oval Office relatively naturally. It’s also important to note that the president is not alone in his decision-making and has advisors and other connections to receive plenty of help and advice if he needs it. 

However, this debate was more about the president needing to dispel the notion that he is senile and unstable, and he failed to achieve that objective. To beat Donald Trump, who is actively campaigning on the sentiment that Biden is unfit for office, that was a big misstep. Now we just have to wait and see what consequences might befall his campaign, among which could even include another Democrat replacing him as the nominee for president, a move that many are now calling for.


George is a senior in LAS.

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