Riley Rates: The First Presidential Debate


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President Donald Trump (left) and former Vice President Joe Biden (right) squared off in the first presidential debate on September 29th at Shelia and Eric Samson Pavilion in Cleveland, Ohio.

Riley Rates: The First Presidential Debate
Even if you didn’t sit through its grueling 90 minute runtime, you can rest assured that no important moments of this year’s first presidential debate will go unmentioned. Although thousands of journalists have already ripped apart the key points, the Riley Rates column is proud to bring a new statistical tool to the table: the Riley Rates 5-Star System. This election is undoubtedly one of the most important in American history, and for that reason, I see it as my civic responsibility to provide my peers with such information.

This debate was one like no other: it was the first-ever debate to feature no moderator. At least, “moderator” Chris Wallace acted more as a “suggester” to keep the candidates at bay. Throughout the debate, whenever things seemed to be getting too over-the-top, Wallace was there to very politely suggest that they consider taking it down a notch. It was as effective as hiring a fish to watch your dog. 2 stars.

If audiences were eager to hear Biden speak a complete sentence, they were sorely disappointed to hear Trump interrupt him again and again. According to Kare 11, Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, while Biden only interrupted Trump 22 times. The interruptions were annoying and I hated them, but come on… 71! That is just too impressive of a number to ignore. Even 22 is high for a typical debate. Because of their sheer commitments to asserting verbal dominance, I give the interruptions 4.5 stars.

New Techniques
Biden must’ve watched Monty Python just before the debate because he deployed a cinematic technique that could not be contained by the boundaries of the screen: breaking the fourth wall. After giving up on talking to Trump early on, Biden spoke directly to the camera for quite a long time, even shooting the occasional finger guns. Because Biden transcended the television-debate medium, I have to give the innovation 3 stars.

Though most candidates in a typical modern election would want to remain professional, calm and assured, this is not a typical election. Things were getting heated with verbal jabs coming from both sides. “You graduated last in your class, not first in your class,” Trump said. Not exactly true, but he did graduate in the bottom half. Overall a weak jab, 2 stars. “Will you shut up man?” Biden said. A strong one-liner for sure, but it would prove mostly ineffective. 2 stars again. Biden later said, however, “It’s hard to get any words in with this clown.” That’s a true zinger right there. Makes a great headline, 4 stars.

End Rating
All in all, the debate made for a simultaneously entertaining yet predictable showing. Had any past candidates behaved this way during their own debates, it would have been quite the story. But what occurred during the Biden-Trump debate was hardly a surprise. In the context of all modern debates, this one will be the most remembered for the most unpleasant reasons. 5 stars.