“We’re signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan that the Supreme Court decision on DACA gave me the right to do.”

President Trump (July 19, 2020)

Thursday night’s dueling town hall forums provided a stark contrast in tone, content and civility.

Former Vice President Biden’s appearance on ABC provided him a setting to answer questions from several Pennsylvanians, many former Trump supporters, as well as questions from moderator George Stephanopoulos.  He then remained well after the event to continue talking with those voters.

Biden calmly and politely answered each question and used his responses to lay out what a Biden Administration’s agenda would look like with respect to such important issues as health care, COVID, taxes, environmental and energy policies, buying American, race relations, policing, women’s and LGBTQ rights and international relations with both U.S. allies and adversaries.

He also dispelled many mistruths about his positions which have appeared in pro-Trump campaign ads; Biden does not support defunding police, the New Green Deal, Medicare for All, banning fracking, raising taxes on the middle class with adjusted incomes under $400,000 or requiring people to give up their private insurance.  

He also was not ashamed to admit some votes he made while in Congress are, in retrospect, regrettable in whole or in part. 

Biden refused to be pinned down on questions about court packing, reiterating his prior position, he was “not a fan of court packing” due to the precedent it could set.  However, he would not commit to ruling out such an option if elected, although he did promise to make his position public prior to the election.

The president, with his insatiable need to be in the national spotlight and whose last-minute scheduling of his town hall was clearly meant to upstage Biden’s event, was combative with moderator Savannah Guthrie, often interrupting her.  Most of his responses to audience questions were evasive, filled with derisive comments about others and in some cases simply not believable.

For a man who brags about his brilliance he has no recollection if he had a COVD test prior to his debate with Biden; as with the Proud Boys maintains to be ignorant about Qanon, other than they are anti-pedophile, but claims to be well (if not mis) informed about Antifa.

He continues to question the universally-held view of science, including a growing cadre within his own Administration, wearing masks is presently the most effective way to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Without evidence he asserted Trump ballots had been found in garbage cans, and seems to have no compunction about retweeting wild conspiratorial theories, the latest claiming Osama Bin Laden is still alive.

On a future stimulus package Trump went on a tirade against Speaker Pelosi, when it is Senate Republicans campaigning against compromises being worked out between Secretary Mnuchin and the House.

Asked about a report he only paid $750 in taxes in two recent years, Trump alluded to his filing fee, meaning possibly he paid no federal income taxes.  As to owing $400 million, the president rambled on about his vast real estate net worth feigned ignorance about to whom such monies were owed; but added, “I will let you know who … who I owe whatever small amount of money."  Likely, no one is holding their breath.

Responding to an audience question on DACA, Trump responded, “we are going to take care of DACA”, a program he has tried to wind down since 2017 and then went off on a tangent about his Mexican border wall.

Predictably, he continues to believe he has made no mistakes in his handling of COVID-19 and, despite cases and deaths spiking nationwide, claims the U.S. is “rounding the corner”.

Trump bragged: “We’ve also brought down the price of Obamacare.” While average premiums have gone down in the past two years, that was after a double-digit hike the year before.

In one venue the man on the spot was upbeat, optimistic and talked about his plans if elected.   In the other the president seemed frustrated and defensive and lacked a substantive vision for the future.