By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “Elections have consequences,” said President Trump during Tuesday night’s debate.

So do debates. The instant polls gave Joe Biden a clear win, but we’ll know more when the broader polling picture emerges.

In the meantime, here are a couple of highlights and lowlights for each candidate, starting with Trump, who handled the very first question calmly and adroitly, defending his move to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat from Biden’s claim that it’s an abuse of process.

“We won the election and therefore we have the right to choose her,” said Trump. “And by the way, the Democrats wouldn’t even think of not doing it” were the situations reversed.

Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden debate at Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photos by Win McNamee and Scott Olson/Getty Images)

That was fair enough, but Trump debased himself later when Biden cited the military service of his late son Beau. “He was not a loser, he was a patriot,” said Biden, a dig at Trump’s reported disparagement of US military killed in action.

Trump would have done well to let the topic pass, but he continues to be obsessed with unproven claims about alleged conflicts of interest involving another Biden son, Hunter. “I don’t know Beau but I know Hunter, he got thrown out of the military, he was dishonorably discharged,” shouted Trump.

That’s false, and while Hunter’s business dealings may be fair game, Trump shouldn’t have gone there.

In a debate that featured plenty of loathing but little empathy, Biden offered an exception when he looked into the camera to talk about the victims of the pandemic. “How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because a loved one died of Covid?” he said.

That had the added benefit of baiting Trump into this emotionally tone-deaf remark: “you would have lost far more people.”

But Biden stumbled when moderator Chris Wallace asked for his position on expanding the size of the Supreme Court, a move some Democrats have been debating as a possible remedy to conservative dominance of the court. “Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue. The issue is the American people should speak, you should go out and vote,” he said.

Perhaps their vote would be better informed by a straight answer from the candidate.

Jon Keller

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