Donald Trump came into the first presidential debate with a cogent strategy: dominate questions and answers with interjection until he could control the rhythm of what was being said.
Beyond his emphasis on law and order and the booming economy of last year, he also seemed to come in with a specific personal approach: Get Joe Biden to pop off and shout, something he was once known for as a younger politician. Trump drove repeatedly at Biden’s intelligence (a historic popping off point) and his younger son (a more recent occasion for the defensive word from Biden).
And for the disorienting bulk of that debate, with the exception of the occasional direct-to-camera appeal from either candidate, Trump’s constant weaving in and out of his own questions and Biden’s answers created a chaotic but effective overload — unless you were paying keen attention, you might have only caught fragments of words and phrases and subjects swarming by.
Except for one part, where the two strategies gradually combined into one and blossomed into a driveby nightmare moment: Trump attacking Biden’s living son, while Biden spoke about his late son.
“My son was in Iraq, he spent a year there, he got the Bronze Star, he got the Conspicuous Service medal. He was not a loser, he was a patriot—” Biden said while talking about the late Beau Biden, referencing the recent Atlantic reporting in which anonymous officials alleged Trump called various kinds of vets names.
“Oh really?” Trump cut in.
“—and the people left behind there were heroes, and I resent—”
“Oh really? You talking about Hunter?” Trump cut in.