Poor Chris Wallace.
Hunkered down at my desk, I was trying to put the finishing touches on this week’s newspaper while also keeping tabs on Tuesday night’s first presidential debate, which was streaming live on my computer.
Chris Wallace of Fox News was doing his best to referee — that is, to moderate — the showdown between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee and former U.S. senator and vice president Joe Biden. The event was held at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio.
During the roughly 1½ hour debate, the train went off the tracks repeatedly.
In a story afterward, USA Today called it “one of the most chaotic, insult-laden presidential debates in modern history.”
Frequently, Wallace struggled to maintain any semblance of order as the two candidates went back and forth answering or dodging questions he had posed, interrupting each other’s “uninterrupted” time and, generally, attacking the other's fitness for office.
Among barbs exchanged, at one point Biden became so irritated by Trump that he called him a “clown” and said, “Will you shut up, man.”
Wallace had so much trouble reining in the two combatants that he was forced to raise his voice numerous times in an attempt to regain the floor.
My favorite Chris Wallace moment of the night came once after he had to speak up, assertively, to get the attention of Biden and Trump.
Semi-comically yet matter-of-factly, Wallace said, “I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be different than the two of you?”
At another time, Wallace said, “I’m going to take back the moderator’s role,” suggesting that it had been taken from him. He was not overstating the situation.
Once, as Trump failed to yield the floor to Wallace, the moderator said to the president, “If you want to switch seats, we can do that.”
While giving closing remarks at the end of the debate, Wallace said, with a smirk, “It’s been an interesting hour-and-a-half.”
Although some critics chastised him after the debate, Wallace probably did as well as anyone could have done under the circumstances.
The debate was good theater, but there was precious little meat with which to feed someone hungering for a substantive debate of some of the key topics of the day, including COVID-19, health care, the Supreme Court and law and order.
There are to be two more presidential debates before the general election — Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, and Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hopefully, those debates will be more civil and less loud so that we can actually learn something of benefit.
Clay McFerrin is editor and publisher of The Sun-Sentinel.