Finley: Biden allowed to dodge son's bullet

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Give Joe Biden the victory in Thursday night’s final presidential debate because he was able to get off the stage without having to talk about the emerging scandal involving his son’s foreign business deals while he was vice president.

People watch from their vehicles as President Donald Trump, on left of video screen, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a Presidential Debate Watch Party at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The debate party was organized by Manny's, a San Francisco community meeting and learning place.

And give an assist to moderator Kristen Welker of NBC, who asked only one softball question about the conflict of interest allegations, never mentioned Hunter Biden’s laptop computer, which is now in FBI custody, and did not press the Democratic candidate to explain emails that suggest the elder Biden was not only aware of his son’s dealings, but stood to potentially benefit from them.

Biden insisted he’s never taken money from a foreign government, but that’s not the issue. Did his son get money? The answer to that is yes, but Biden got away without having to explain whether Hunter leveraged his dad’s position for family profit.

Trump, in his typical disconnected and rambling manner, kept making murky references to the Hunter Biden controversy, but was never able to focus the attack. “You’re the Big Man, I think” was a great line, but without context, fell short.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

The other pressing issue that Biden was allowed to dodge: Will he pack the Supreme Court in retaliation for the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett?

Welker, who was getting high marks on social media for her handling of the contest, still kept a light thumb on the scale in Biden’s favor, interrupting Trump roughly 30 times and challenging him on responses, while breaking in on Biden only twice.

On the whole, though, it was a much better debate than the first one. The muted mic format actually worked to Trump’s advantage in that it forced him to focus on his own answers rather than talking over Biden.

Trump was rightly knocked back on his tax returns, and was curiously unprepared to articulate a going forward plan for combatting COVID-19, beyond waiting for a vaccine.

Biden, though he promised a plan, didn’t really deliver one, except to say we need more resources for schools and small businesses, apparently unaware of the $3 trillion already dedicated to virus relief.

Viewers looking for reassurance that the two men who want to lead them through the pandemic are prepared to do so went to bed disappointed.

Trump’s most effective moments came in attacking Biden for his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill that led to a huge increase in incarceration rates, mostly of Black men. And in reminding viewers that Biden has had 47 years in politics, including eight as vice president, to get done the things he now promises to do.

President Donald Trump speaks during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden scored in holding Trump accountable for his management of the COVID crisis: “Anyone responsible for that many deaths should not remain the president of the United States.” 

It was a powerful punch.

By the time the debate started, 50 million Americans had already cast their ballots. It’s not likely the face-off moved the election needle.

What it mostly accomplished was to reveal two deeply inadequate and uninspiring presidential candidates, one of whom we’ll be stuck with for the next four years.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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