Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer behind New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power; American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House; Franklin and Winston; and Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, is leveraging his encyclopedic knowledge of past presidents to underscore the gravity of last night's debate.
"No hyperbole: The incumbent’s behavior this evening is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency since Andrew Johnson’s racist state papers," Meacham wrote on Twitter. By implication, Meacham declared that Trump's debate performance was a worse moment than Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Teapot Dome scandal, and many more blemishes on the nation's highest office.
No hyperbole: The incumbent’s behavior this evening is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency since Andrew Johnson’s racist state papers.
— Jon Meacham (@jmeacham) September 30, 2020
It certainly was a debate like no other. President Donald Trump repeatedly interrupted Democratic nominee Joe Biden—despite the pleadings of the moderator, Fox News's Chris Wallace—leaving almost no space for Biden to articulate a full thought. Trump refused to condemn white supremacists after Wallace's prompting, instead telling radical racist group the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." He also would not reassure voters about the legitimacy of the electoral process, or commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the election, but rather encouraged his supporters to "go into the poll and watch very carefully" for suspicious behavior.
In contrast, Biden assured that he would accept the results of the election, and sought to reassure voters of the process's integrity.
This was only the first debate for Trump and Biden, who will face off again on October 15 and October 22, in advance of Election Day in November. Their running mates, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, will take part in a vice presidential debate on October 7.
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