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A Debate Mess


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It was unlike any presidential debate before it.

From the opening moments, President Trump repeatedly interrupted Joe Biden and told lies — about Trump’s own tax payments, Biden’s health care plan, the environment and voting by mail. As a result, last night’s debate was almost impossible to watch and did little to shed light on the biggest issues facing the country or the substantive differences between the candidates.

One of Trump’s own debate advisers, former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, called his performance “too hot.” At one point during the debate, the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, said: “Mr. President, your campaign agreed both sides get two-minute answers. Uninterrupted. Your side agreed. Observe what your campaign agreed to.”

Afterward, Jonathan Martin of The Times wrote: “The president’s bulldozer-style tactics represented an extraordinary risk for an incumbent who’s trailing Mr. Biden in large part because voters, including some who supported him in 2016, are so fatigued by his near-daily attacks and outbursts.”

Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic wrote: “The point of Trump’s performance in that debate was to undermine confidence in the election and in democracy itself.”

Biden was not always sharp. He rarely is during debates. Last night, he sometimes stumbled over words and struggled to make his points. When Trump gave him openings, Biden didn’t always take advantage.

At other moments, though, Biden conveyed his ideas clearly. “Biden made the debate about the country and the American people, not about Trump,” the historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote in her newsletter.While Trump listed his own grievances, Biden spoke to the camera, asking Americans what they needed, what they think.” He behaved as many previous presidential candidates, of both parties, have during debates.

Trump did not. With his performance, he seemed to reject the basic idea of allowing American voters to hear from both candidates.

More on the debate:

  • Asked by Wallace and Biden to condemn white supremacy, Trump said “Sure” but then declined to do so. Biden named the Proud Boys, a far-right group, and Trump replied: “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by … Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” The group celebrated his response online and began using the phrase, “Stand back and stand by.”

  • Biden’s bottom line: “Under this president, we have become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent.” Trump’s bottom line: “In 47 months, I’ve done more than you’ve done in 47 years, Joe.”

  • Who helped his election chances? Most analysts thought Trump did not. An instant CBS poll showed that slightly more voters thought Biden the winner than Trump. Doug Rivers of the polling firm YouGov wrote: “Trump did badly with his base. 15% of his supporters thought it was a tie, compared to only 4% of Biden supporters. Only 49% of Trump supporters thought it made them think better of Trump.”

  • Rich Lowry, National Review: “The key takeaway is that Trump set out to make Biden crack, and it didn’t happen.”

  • Nate Cohn, who analyzes polls for The Times: “What a mess. There was no winner, certainly not the United States. And that makes Biden the winner. He’s the frontrunner. It’s Trump who needed the win, and I think most anyone would agree, as Chris Wallace said, that the president was largely responsible for the debate.”

  • In The Times: We have summarized the debate with a news story, a news analysis, a five-minute video and a fact check. We’ll follow post-debate reaction on this page today.

    Opinion writers from The Times also weighed in.

The Indian Health Service, which provides health care to more than two million members of America’s tribal communities, has long struggled with underfunding and mismanagement. The coronavirus has magnified the problems. Hospitals struggled to find protective gear, and they quickly ran out of beds and ventilators. Deaths surged.

In other virus developments:

The company said it would eliminate 28,000 theme park jobs in the United States, about 25 percent of its domestic resort work force, in a sign of the pandemic’s ongoing economic damage.

Disney’s California theme park has remained closed because of state restrictions. And while its Florida location reopened in mid-July, attendance has been weak.

  • Seattle is the second major U.S. city, after New York, to approve a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, requiring the companies to pay drivers roughly on par with the city’s $16 hourly minimum wage.

  • Robert Mueller rejected a former colleague’s claim that his investigation should have done more to scrutinize Trump’s Russia ties, calling the criticisms “disappointing” and “based on incomplete information.”

  • Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and other senior officials, accusing them of human rights violations against protesters after a fraudulent August election.

  • Researchers at M.I.T. are developing a small version of a nuclear fusion reactor, which generates energy in a way that mimics the sun. The technology does not burn fossil fuel or emit greenhouse gases.

  • Scott Reed, the top political adviser at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a longtime Republican strategist, parted ways with the group. The business group said it fired Reed “for cause.” Reed said he quit because of the Chamber’s drift to the political left.

  • Helen Reddy, whose 1972 hit song “I Am Woman” became a feminist anthem, died yesterday, at age 78.

  • Lives Lived: Lillian Brown was a makeup artist to nine presidents, but she did more than powder noses. She advised on diction, apparel and camera angles, helping them put their best selves forward. Brown died at 106.

Nearly one in six restaurants in the U.S. have closed since the pandemic began, according to a recent survey. And the coming winter will bring many more closures, as cold weather makes outdoor dining difficult. What can restaurants do to survive?

Stay warm: Sales of propane heaters and patio fire pits are soaring, as restaurants take steps to keep open their outdoor areas. Streamlining permit processes for outdoor dining areas could also be beneficial.

Clean the air: Restaurants are risky because people spend an extended period of time in one room, typically without wearing a mask. To reduce the risk of virus transmission through the air, some restaurants are upgrading their air-filtration systems or installing movable partitions between tables to trap virus particles. In New York, Grub Street reports that some restaurants are already having trouble procuring the proper filters, because they are selling out.

Diversify: Some restaurants have tried to find other ways to make money. Among the ideas: selling family-size takeout meals; converting part of a restaurant into a gourmet grocer; and creating a “ghost kitchen,” a restaurant within the restaurant that serves a new menu of takeout food, The Washington Post reports.

Ask for money: Of course, these upgrades cost money — at the same time that restaurant revenue is down. That’s why many restaurant owners are hoping for government help. A $4 million grant program in Charlotte, N.C., will help local restaurants, bars, food trucks and caterers, The Charlotte Observer reports. And in Congress, House Democrats have proposed a $2.2 trillion relief bill that includes $120 billion for restaurants.

Here’s a relatively easy recipe for pork chops by the cookbook author Toni Tipton-Martin. The pork is dressed in a glossy sauce made of capers, parsley, lemon and butter, taking it from a simple to elegant weeknight meal.

For more inspiration, check out our list of the best 14 cookbooks for fall.

The N.B.A. finals, between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, begin tonight at 9 Eastern. The Lakers — with the great LeBron James, appearing in his ninth finals in 10 years — are the favorites. The Heat, with a young roster, are trying to become the second-lowest-seeded team ever to win a title.

Among the subplots: James is facing one of his former teams, having won two titles in Miami; the Heat’s president and architect, Pat Riley, is also facing his former team, having coached the Lakers in the 1980s. The cities of Miami and Los Angeles have never faced each other in the finals of a major professional sport.

The Metropolitan Opera canceled its 2020-21 season because of the pandemic, but with that long break comes a reboot of sorts, making amends for a lack of more representative programming at the institution. It will open its 2021-22 season with Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” — the first work by a Black composer ever presented by the Met. Five productions will also be conducted by women, the highest number in a season.

“These moves are all heartening and important,” the classical music critic Anthony Tommasini writes. “Yet what took so long?”

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