Third Time’s the Charm…

Trump fails to impress at his second national opportunity to appeal to voters.

Aayushi Wadhawan and Kelly Liu

President Donald Trump and Moderator Savannah Guthrie at his October 15 town hall. Photo courtesy of Doug Mills from the New York Times

Severus Snape from “Harry Potter,” the Grinch and Gru from “Despicable Me” all have one thing in common: a legendary redemption arc. Given a second chance, they all won back the hearts of the audience after initially being the antagonist of their story. 

Similarly, last Thursday, President Donald Trump was given his second chance to redeem himself from his embarrassing performance at the first presidential debate. However, he still failed miserably. 

After Trump contracted COVID-19 shortly after his first showdown with Biden, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to hold the second one virtually. However, Trump refused to participate because he said a virtual debate would be meaningless. In response, Biden accepted an offer from ABC to hold a town hall. Shortly after, NBC made the controversial decision to offer Trump his own town hall held at the same time as Biden’s. This decision hurt the undecided voters who were forced to switch between the town halls or choose one over the other. 

But let’s look at the town hall itself— rather, it could be more accurately described as a debate. Instead of answering the questions, Trump spent much of his time arguing with the moderator, Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. When Guthrie began to question Trump on white supremacy, he interrupted her multiple times before finally denouncing it, albeit defensively. 

The only real standout performance of the night was Guthrie who continually challenged Trump. On the topic of QAnon, Trump insisted that his retweet of a conspiracy involving Biden was harmless. Guthrie then remarked, “You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

Like in the past, the President presented unreliable claims. On the topic of COVID-19, he stated that 85 percent of mask wearers contract the virus. Trump cherry-picked this number without revealing the context. As revealed by the CDC, Trump’s interpretation is incorrect due to unreliable surveying methods. Trump neglected to mention that the study was a phone survey in which participants were asked about their mask usage but were never monitored and that the data included activities in which participants had to take off their masks, such as eating and drinking. 

Furthermore, Trump kept downplaying the virus by claiming the U.S. death toll is lower than expected based on doctors’ initial predictions. However, this is misleading because the number he mentioned was calculated assuming the country took no action. He also “could not remember” if he had gotten tested prior to the first presidential debate, even though it was required as part of the safety protocol. Trump still has yet to confirm whether or not he took the test, another indication of his inability to handle the pandemic.

Adding onto his slew of misleading claims, Trump said, “I have done more for the African-American community than any president, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.” The New York Times fact-checked this statement and concluded that it is false. Historians agree that among modern presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson had the most impactful legislation for African-Americans.

The only shining moment in Trump’s performance was his response to Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett when he answered that he doesn’t expect Barrett to rule for or against him on election issues.

However, this moment was short-lived. When asked about healthcare, Trump didn’t provide a clear answer about his future plans. He simply said that Obamacare isn’t good and that he wants it to be better and less expensive. 

When asked about his debt, the President understated the severity. One thing was on clear display by the end of the night: President Trump was out of touch with the American people, calling his 400 million dollars in debt “a peanut.” 

After botching his first and second opportunities to push his reelection agenda on a national level, President Trump only has one last chance to impress voters at the October 22 debate. At this point, all America can hope for is that the third time really is the charm.