President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)

The bar was set so low after the first presidential debate that it wouldn’t take much to improve upon it.

And it was indeed much better, vastly better. The candidates didn’t interrupt each other. The moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, did more interrupting than either candidate, too much for my taste, but she kept the debate moving.

She also did not debate either candidate, which is always an excellent quality in a moderator. The Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to turn off microphones during each candidate’s initial response to a question helped as well.

Without question, this was a much better debate for President Trump. Again, the bar was set pretty low after the first debate, but he did not interrupt, and he appeared prepared.

The first half-hour of the debate was spent on COVID-19, and, remarkedly, I thought President Trump handled himself pretty well. Beyond encouraging people to wear masks, Vice President Biden did not articulate what he would do differently in office. 

He criticized President Trump for not negotiating a second COVID-19 relief bill, but it takes two to negotiate, and House Democrats haven’t negotiated in good faith. The Obama Administration wasn’t great at dealing with a Republican Congress either.

President Trump appeared optimistic and articulated a plan to roll out a vaccine and an update on the progress to develop a vaccine. Vice President Biden’s response was skepticism toward a vaccine and that the United States is heading toward a “dark winter.”

I don’t think that message will resonate well among undecided voters. 

Vice President Joe Biden opened the door for President Trump to discuss Hunter Biden, and the president walked through. Vice President Joe Biden made some extraordinary claims. He said that his son Hunter did not receive any money from China. Really

Secondly, he said his on’s business dealings in Ukraine were investigated. 

By who? 

I doubt the mainstream media will fact check these claims as they’ve gone to great lengths to provide cover for Vice President Biden.

That said, President Trump should have moved off of Hunter Biden and onto the Obama-Biden Administration’s record with China, which isn’t fantastic and saw little progress over eight years. Also, President Obama started a trade war with China with a tariff on Chinese tires

Yet down the memory hole that goes. At least President Trump secured a trade deal, which is more than what the Obama-Biden Administration could say. 

I think President Trump may have moved the needle on the “he’s soft on Russia” narrative. 

I have been a critic of President Trump’s rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, but in reality, the Trump Administration has been tougher on Russia. They levied sanctions against the Russians for election interference and again after Russia evaded sanctions against North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. After Russia violated conditions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and Open Skies Treaty, President Trump withdrew the United States from it

The Trump Administration provided lethal aid to Ukraine, while the Obama Administration didn’t after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. 

Considering this was a foreign policy debate, I’m surprised that the Middle East did not come up. President Trump brokered a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. ISIS reached the zenith of power under the Obama Administration, but the Trump Administration has mostly eradicated them. 

President Trump has pledged to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, ending an almost 20-year military presence in the region. 

Americans would benefit from hearing each candidate’s vision, a missed opportunity. 

Vice President Biden pledged “Bidencare,” which is Obamacare with a public option and then with a straight face said that no one lost their health care under Obamacare. That is just factually untrue. 

That said, aspects of Obamacare, such as ensuring those with pre-existing conditions have health insurance coverage, have been popular. Polling has shown strong support for a public option among Democrats and independents (though it does shift after different arguments are made). Republicans were unable to pass an alternative when they controlled both chambers of Congress. 

I doubt either candidate changed anyone’s mind over health care reform. 

When discussing the family separation issue at the border, Biden has zero credibility.

“Who built the cages?” President Trump asked.

The Obama-Biden Administration did, and their policies encouraged migration toward our southern border. That said, the Trump administration made a bad situation worse, and there is no excuse for losing track of hundreds of children’s parents. 

President Trump had a strong moment contrasting the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill he signed, with Vice President Biden’s Crime Bill of 1994. The First Step Act helped correct the excesses of the Crime Bill. 

Vice President Biden said the Obama-Biden Administration could not accomplish criminal justice reform because of a Republican Congress. Yet, during the first two years of their administration, Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. President Trump signed a bill that had bipartisan support, so that excuse was weak. 

Both men also have records of saying racially insensitive things, so I don’t find either candidate to have the moral high ground in that regard. 

Vice President Biden attempted to say, yet again, that he would not ban fracking despite video evidence of him saying he would get rid of fracking.

President Trump’s veering into what seems like wind energy conspiracy theories did not score him any points. His campaign staff needs to find a way to send him a shock when he starts talking about how wind turbines kill birds, increase emissions, and are all foreign-built. 

Ultimately, President Trump’s best point was throughout the debate pointing out Vice President Biden has been in office for 47 years, including eight as Vice President, and accomplished what?

In the end, this was the debate America should have had the first time. I think President Trump’s performance improved vastly from the first debate, and ultimately made the course corrections he needed to make. A second lousy debate performance would have proved to be disastrous. Vice President Biden’s performance, I’m sure, satisfied his base. Both sides claimed victory.

Ultimately, the American people will decide and were provided with some substance as they go to the polls. 

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