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Many Americans believe that last week’s presidential debate was embarrassing, frightening and totally unpresidential. Maury and I defected to Netflix by 10 p.m. The following day we received our son, Mike’s, email play-by-play debate “highlights.” I’m sharing this as it gives us an excuse to grin briefly, while capturing the depressing state of American politics.

Some of Mike’s retired teachers from Cammack Middle School and Huntington High School may remember him as a bright kid, who drove a few teachers crazy and, I believe, one to early retirement. Mike’s way of evaluating situations and expressing opinions, while not always appreciated in school, has laid the foundation for adult success. His commentary, abbreviated due to space limits, follows.

9:04: Debate starts. 9:06: Two-minute answer by Trump on Supreme Court. 9:08: Two-minute answer by Biden on Supreme Court. 9:12: Debate devolves into screaming. 9:15: Trump tells moderator, Chris Wallace, that he is debating him and says, “Insulin so cheap, like water.”

9:17-9:21: Biden says that Trump is a liar and “Here’s the deal” for the third time. Trump says he wants to run Obamacare great; Biden says Trump does not know what he is talking about and shut up. Trump says Biden has done nothing in 47 years. Wallace completely exasperated; may be looking to producers for a substitute.

9:22-9:38: Two-minute answer by Biden on COVID. Trump makes 32nd comment while Biden speaking, two-minute answer by Trump on COVID; Biden smirks and laughs for 12th time. Trump says, “Nothing smart about you, Joe” and “He shows up with the biggest masks.” Biden says, “Trump is a fool on masks.” Two-minute answer by Biden on economy; Trump’s answer on economy includes “China plague.”

9:40-9:49: Wallace chastises Trump for interrupting and gets 34 offers to teach kindergarten. Trump says he will show us his taxes when done (best guess is 2130). Trump says Biden will create a depression the likes no one has ever seen. Biden says, “Point 2,” and Trump says, “No, you are number 2.”

9:51-10:00: Wallace needs to stop Trump from interrupting again; seems to be looking for the dog whistle Biden keeps mentioning. Biden says, “Hard to get in anything with this clown.” Wallace says “Mr. President” for the 124th time.

10:09-10:26: Wallace probably texting FOX asking for a commercial break. Each candidate talks about his record for two minutes. Trump interrupts, is scolded again by Wallace, who now reminds me of my 6th grade teacher. Trump says, “Cars have computers all over the place.”

10:33-10:38: The two candidates actually sort of debate an issue while only interrupting multiple times. Mercifully, Wallace ends the debate early. Mike’s wife wonders how much alcohol Wallace will want post-debate.

Hopefully, this play-by-play score brings a bit of humor with sober reflections. Americans of all political persuasions must understand that our nation’s well-being and its status around the world cannot afford a repeat performance. It sounds trite, but we, and especially our leaders, must be better than this.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch Opinion page. Her email is

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