'That was a s---show': Pundits called the Biden-Trump debate an unwatchable failure that was mostly the president's fault
- Pundits were exasperated in their attempts to sum up Tuesday night's debate, which was dominated by cross talk, shouting, and President Donald Trump constantly cutting off Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
- "I'm just going to say it like it is: That was a s---show," CNN's Dana Bash said. "And we're on cable, we can say that. Apologies for maybe being a little bit crude."
- "If hearing that this debate is over is music to your ears, you may not be alone. What could have been a low point in American political discourse … just took place over an hour and a half," NBC's Lester Holt said.
- "It was a train wreck. But it was the making of one person," NBC's host of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd said, referring to the president.
- "And it was not an equal-opportunity experience," CBS' John Dickerson said. "The president of the United States ... was by far responsible for a greater share of the jaggedness of tonight at a time when America does not need jagged. America is experiencing jagged."
Once Tuesday night's debate wrapped up, cameras in the network and cable TV studios blinked red and pundits were tasked with trying to sum up what just occurred.
Many of them were more blunt than usual.
"I'm just going to say it like it is: that was a s---show," CNN's Dana Bash said. "And we're on cable, we can say that. Apologies for maybe being a little bit crude."
—#Song4Mom on iTunes (@iamTyphus) September 30, 2020
"But that is really the phrase I'm getting from people on both sides of the aisle on text, and it's the only phrase I can think of to really describe it," she added.
Even CNN's conservative pro-Trump panelist Rick Santorum could not defend President Donald Trump for constantly cutting Democratic nominee Joe Biden off and ignoring moderator Chris Wallace's calls for civility.
"I think the president overplayed his hand tonight," Santorum said.
Wolf Blitzer, who normally does not wage into controversial takes, offered a startling semi-prediction.
"I wouldn't be surprised by the way if this is the last presidential debate between the president of the United States and the former vice president of the United States, but we shall see fairly soon," he said.
Biden's vice presidential pick, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, later told CNN's Jake Tapper that Biden never gives up and would return to the debate stage.
On NBC, "Nightly News" host Lester Holt broke from his measured newsman role to offer a rather scathing assessment.
"If hearing that this debate is over is music to your ears, you may not be alone. What could have been a low point in American political discourse … just took place over an hour and a half," Holt said.
"If you showed up looking for a food fight, you got a brawl between these two men. Language that we have rarely heard from candidates in a political debate," he said. "Name-calling that went to a new level."
Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier called the debate "fiery," while his fellow panelist Dana Perino said, "I think Joe Biden cleared the very low bar that had been set for him."
CBS' John Dickerson underscored how the cacophony and chaos of the debate failed to meet the moment of multiple crises facing the United States.
—John Dickerson (@jdickerson) September 30, 2020
"And when the stakes were that high, the debate couldn't have been lower," Dickerson said after citing the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's reckoning with racism, and economic distress.
"And it was not an equal opportunity experience. The president of the United States ... was by far responsible for a greater share of the jaggedness of tonight at a time when America does not need jagged.
"America is experiencing jagged."
The focus kept coming back to Trump.
"It was a train wreck. But it was the making of one person," NBC's host of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd said. "I mean, we know who did it."
Former Obama strategist David Axelrod said that the president's behavior drove the dynamic of cross talk, shouting, and disrespect.
"It isn't a normal night," Axelrod said, "but it's normal for this president."
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