On one channel, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. On the other, a rerun of Celebrity Deathmatch. Or, at least, that’s how it felt.
After more than a week of inter-campaign sniping, furious Twitter denouncements, fretful consultations with public health experts, and a last-minute surprise scheduling coup, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden squared off on dueling town hall stages—one on NBC, the other on ABC.
In a matchup that was head-to-head rather than face-to-face, the two presidential contenders did less to paint their pictures of the America they hope to lead than they did exemplify the two sides of the America we’re all stuck in: the fatigued, and the furious.
The level of energy in Biden’s town hall was like a rip in the space-time continuum that transported the viewer to an Al Gore presidency, where every response was given in exhaustive detail and every question was asked without a quick Google to see if the answer might just be on the Biden campaign website.
But beyond the aspects of the appearance that reminded viewers of an uncanned stump speech—regular anecdotes about his childhood in Claymont, Delaware, where “you either became a cop, a firefighter or a priest,” were peppered throughout the evening—were the parts where Biden seemed to genuinely care if the person he was addressing felt heard, regardless of whether, as in Trump’s town hall, they were subtly hitting on him.
Someone else said it was Washington Week in Review against WWE. Or Mr. Rogers vs. “Someone’s Crazy Uncle,” which is what NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, who moderated the Trump show, actually called him.
I watched Biden, only flipping over to MSNBC after Trump was done. My BP couldn’t take listening to Trump, but Mr. Biden was comforting and soothingly boring. Yes, boring. After four years of chaos, boring is good, and if he wins, I won’t be reaching for my phone at 3:30 in the morning to wonder if the world is still here.
I’ll let the Very Serious Pundits tell us if either of them said anything substantive, but what it did show viewers with a thumb on the Previous Channel button on their remote what the choices are.
And if there’s anyone who is still undecided, perhaps you had better spend the next two weeks wondering why you bother to vote at all.