Cleveland will be the center of public attention on Tuesday night when President Trump and Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden arrive to duke it out for 90 minutes before a tiny audience in a big empty hall. Ordinarily, a presidential debate is cause for some jubilation and excitement. This may not be the case in the era of COVID-19 and public unrest.
The host city of Cleveland is still recovering from a protest-turned-riot on May 30 that resulted in $6.3 million in damages to the Ohio city. Businesses are still boarded up, neighborhoods are jittery. The town fears a repeat.
The Cleveland Board of Control has issued a lengthy list of what is not welcome for anyone who ventures near the debate “event zone.”
The list of what’s prohibited encompasses 24 different categories and covers such specific items as bicycle locks, “containers of body fluids,” drones, lumber, shovels, swords and sledgehammers. Any weapons, ordinance, chemical irritants and incendiary devices are banned, along with lasers, ladders, canned goods or grappling hooks. That’s just a spare few of the unwelcome items.
Local law enforcement is ready.
“I can reassure you that what you saw and what we experienced on May 30 will not be repeated. We have an ample supply of officers and assets on the ground. We have sufficient personnel to handle what may pop up,” Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Wayne Drummond recently told the city council.
Local police, as is the standard protocol for such events, have teamed up with state and federal law enforcement agencies and have spent much time honing their skills in crowd control, and operating on 12-hour shifts.
“They are already much better prepared than they were in May. At that time, rioting went on for hours,” reports WJW, a local Fox affiliate.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was not enthusiastic about hosting the debate; he has already requested support from the National Guard and the Ohio Highway Patrol. Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Clinic are providing the venue and have closed multiple streets on the campus, warning patients at the medical facility to “be flexible” and plan their arrivals with “disruptions in mind.”
Yes, there are demonstrations planned, hosted by groups which range from an “inter-religious task force” to those concerned about climate issues, the treatment of inmates and “reproductive justice,” according to public notices.
SO WILL YOU WATCH THE DEBATE?
Gone is the grand and raucous encounter between consummate political rivals.
There will be an audience of perhaps 75. The rivals will not shake hands. There will be few screams of delight, boos, uncomfortable silences or strategic catcalling. That is the state of the first presidential debate on Tuesday night during a pandemic — and so be it. Some analysts think this will bore the at-home audience to tears. Others claim that the no-frills event is the best possible scenario, offering a more straightforward match between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden minus the showbiz glitz.
Oh, but it’s complicated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently suggested that Mr. Biden just skip this debate and those that follow.
“Why bother?” she asked, suggesting Mr. Trump would not be truthful.
Now it appears the public may not be all that sold on the debates in the first place. Maybe they have debate dread. Maybe they just can’t face the inevitable shrill or biased media coverage. Maybe they’ve already made up their minds about who to vote for. This debut debate may not be must-see TV. A new Economist/YouGov poll finds that a mere 29% of U.S. adults say they will “definitely” watch the event. And there is a noteworthy partisan divide here. The poll also found that 42% of Republicans definitely will tune in, compared to 31% of Democrats.
Hmm. Now why would so few Democrats choose to watch this prime-time encounter, to be moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, known for his rigorous questioning?
See more numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.
FOR THE LEXICON
This became an immediate public acronym following President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It follows the public use of “RBG” for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and can be found in The Washington Post, USA Today, Slate Magazine, PJ Media and INstapundit — among others. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and WinRed — a GOP fundraising organization — are now selling limited edition T-shirts emblazoned with the motto “Notorious A.C.B.” with an appropriate graphic.
Some are offended by this acronym and its usage, though.
“Applying Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nickname to Amy Coney Barrett is deliberately degrading,” said the aforementioned Slate Magazine, which categorized the new trend as “parody that is also cruelty,” referring to the new T-shirts as “grotesque.”
‘THE TOILET WILL LAUNCH’
Bound for the International Space Station: The Universal Waste Management System will blast-off on Tuesday. For the uninitiated, this is an upgraded, brand new space toilet that was developed at a cost of $23 million and is 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the current commodes on board. The toilet will get a test drive on the space station and is destined to be used on future moon and Mars missions if it proves worthy.
“The toilet will launch to the space station aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo capsule as part of a routine resupply mission,” notes a handy analysis from Space.com.
POLL DU JOUR
•30% of U.S. adults say they “probably will” watch the presidential debate on Tuesday; 32% of Republicans, 26% of independents and 35% of Democrats agree.
•29% say they “definitely will” watch; 42% of Republicans, 18% of independents and 31% of Democrats agree.
•18% say they “probably will” not watch the debate; 14% of Republicans, 22% of independents and 15% of Democrats agree.
•14% say they “definitely not” will watch the debate; 8% of Republicans, 23% of independents and 8% of Democrats agree.
•9% are not sure whether they will or will not watch it; 3% of Republicans, 11% of independents and 11% of Democrats agree.
Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 20-22.
• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.
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