Did someone predict a "near-octogenarian cage fight"?
With all these worries facing Americans amid all their desperate need for reassuring leadership, solid ideas and good plans, the two major candidates for president spent 90 minutes on prime-time television Tuesday night spewing surely all the testosterone two old men had left.
"There has never been a better advertisement for women candidates," Astead Herndon, a national political reporter for The New York Times, wrote as a participant in the newspaper's live online analysis.
Somebody slugging somebody--Trump, Biden or Chris Wallace--always seemed only a syllable away.
I score the event a near-draw because at times Joe Biden got as low as Donald Trump, which is mighty low.
A near-draw would go the front-runner, meaning Biden.
Biden actually won, by which I mean lost, the insult contest, calling Trump a liar and a clown and a racist and the worst president ever. And maybe some other things over or under his breath.
The truth of all the insults was an insufficient excuse for not finding a less juvenile way to say them. Why not call Trump the preposterous second-place Russian-endorsed president instead?
But no pedestrian insult could get any lower than coming out against racial sensitivity training, for white trying to understand Black, equating it with militance, as Trump did.
And it's hard to get lower than pivoting from the issue of white supremacists to talking solely about Antifa, as Trump did.
And it's hard to get lower than being a president who discredits American democracy by making from whole cloth allegations of Democratic fraud in mail voting, as Trump did.
And it's hard to get lower that the utter rule-breaking assault of interruption that Trump inflicted, apparently as part of a desperate-seeming plan to make poor old sleepy Joe crumble.
Biden merely wilted at moments, rather than crumble altogether.
As Trump railed wildly with mostly inaccurate accusations against Biden's son Hunter, as if Hunter was running, Biden was reduced to holding his head down--as if browbeaten--and saying over and over "totally discredited, totally discredited."
Joe looked at that moment weak, when, most likely, he was trying hard to keep his promise to his advisers not to lose his cool as Trump wanted when the family insults arrived.
It's better to look wilted by a bully's attack on your son than to lose your cool against a man who has no better tactic in his arsenal than to try to bait you. I guess.
The question is whether anything about the election changed in this 90-minute affront to America.
Did any Biden supporter see any reason to switch to Trump?
Did any Trump supporter see any reason to switch to Biden?
Were suburban women aghast at Trump's behavior and integral to Biden's polling lead given any reason to be any less aghast?
Did Trump even try to soften himself for appeal to them?
No, no, no ... all no.
It appears Trump's plan simply was to bully his aging prey, this man he'd demeaned as demented, into a meltdown or breakdown. But he was able to bully him only into a little wilting and a lot of playground name-calling.
I don't expect a significant change in the polls, because, sadly, it's still the case that no women are running.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.