COMMENTARY

The Only Winner Tonight was Savannah Guthrie

Here’s your quick recap, in case you missed

I didn’t know you could win a town hall. But tonight, Savannah Guthrie did just that. Perched on a simple stool a stage apart from the president, decked in a killer hot pink suit, NBC’s morning maven embodied the cool of Miami and the spirit and spark of the people who live there. She was fearless. She was smart. And she was ready. She was a pink flamingo, not afraid in the least to stick her neck out. In fact, she was the only one — across two networks — who seemed to have her feet firmly planted in where exactly we’re at as a nation in 2020.

Across the stage from her was a sweating president. Like a guy late for a job interview who’s about to pass out from running up the stairs, the president was full of excuses. The pandemic response was botched because his car broke down. There is no replacement healthcare plan for Obamacare ready because the bus driver made a wrong turn. And his taxes are still under audit — four years later — because his dog ate his proverbial homework. Worse, he can’t seem to remember whether or not he had a coronavirus test the day of the last debate. I joke not; I quote: “Possibly I did! Possibly I didn’t!” The leader of the free world does not know when he was tested for the very plague that threatens to fire him.

Maybe it was the Florida heat or maybe just the laser-focus from Guthrie, but the man was dripping with delusion. He doesn’t live in 2020 with us. He believes that if he just says “it’s all great” enough, you will somehow ignore the 8,000,000 cases that are currently ravaging the nation. If he repeats the lies without flinching, you just might, too. And to help him out, there just so happened to be a well-dressed Black woman positioned perfectly over his left shoulder nodding her agreement with every single thing he said, for the entire hour.

Savannah was ready at every turn, though, wanting to “go back,” “understand clearly,” “button it up” — in other words — bring him into our reality. The highlight came when the president denied knowing who QAnon was, after re-tweeting a conspiracy theory linked to the group. “I don’t get that,” Savannah shot back. “You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever!” If Trump backed out of the scheduled debate because he didn’t want to face Biden, he had an even stronger opponent on that stage: Guthrie.

Meanwhile, over at ABC, live from Pennsylvania, Joe Biden talked to George Stephanopoulos and to an empty sound stage spotted with masked questioners. For the first 45 minutes, he droned on aimlessly, preferring long and painful answers to pretty easy and straight-forward questions. The lack of an actual debate meant Biden could answer, uninterrupted. And answer he did. Dems all across the country looked across the couch and asked good friends, “Why is he still talking?” None of it did any harm, but none of it was overly impressive.

Biden finally did relax into his chair and was able to communicate a few important messages: (1) he will make a decision about “court-packing” after he sees how the ACB nomination process plays out, (2) he wants a green-energy future with electric cars and jobs, job, jobs; and (3) he was not, in fact, the only one to vote in favor of the 1994 crime bill, reminding us all finally that the bill was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Senate’s only Black Senator, and a majority of African-Americans at the time.

Though he successfully found a way through, none of it makes Biden The Man of This Moment. While Pete was going viral all week smacking down Fox News, Joe was putting us all to sleep tonight with a book called “Scranton Stories.” Yes, he has my vote. Yes, he has my faithful support. But, man, it was a tough 90 minutes.

All in all, as the tale of two town halls played out across two stages, two networks, and two states, neither candidate won. You could argue that they both lost. The only winner tonight was Savannah Guthrie. She understood what this moment is calling for: honesty and concision. Cr’Uncle Donny was concise, but wildly dishonest. Grandpa Joe was honest, too honest, but also way too wordy. George Stephanopoulos was respectably neutral. But Savannah Guthrie was every one of us. We’re nauseated by the election. We just want a straight answer. And we have no more time nor patience for the utter nonsense of this president.

Julio Vincent writes weekly here on Medium. Follow to read his future pieces. He lives in New York City, where he is a writer and director. His debut feature film will be released this fall from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Learn more and join his newsletter at www.juliovincent.com.

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Where the personal, pandemic and the political meet // juliovincent.com • @juliovincent

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