The first sentence of the Star Tribune’s presidential debate coverage floored me (“Chaos center stage,” front page, Sept. 30). The paper reported that “President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, shouting over each other and the moderator, repeatedly accused the other of lying and incompetence Tuesday night.”

That would be similar to a headline in 1941 saying, “Japanese air force and U.S. Navy battle over Pearl Harbor.”

The shouting and other boorish behavior was one-sided and the guilty party was Trump.

When will U.S. journalism give up its “both sides” fantasy?

Joel Clemmer, St. Paul

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Thomas Jefferson said that a properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate. The first presidential debate did little to inform voters. Instead, the Presidential Debate Commission and the media put on a spectacle.

We must demand better. Voters deserve to know what each candidate proposes and why. We should not have to cull that information from sound bites and accusations. Moderator Chris Wallace specified that neither candidate knew the questions ahead of time. Why not give them specifics ahead of time so they could prepare? Five minutes without interruption would allow for details and reasoning. Then, each candidate could be given time to respond to the other’s proposals. There are difficult issues facing our country. To responsibly exercise our right and privilege to vote, we need to have the best information available. And, if the participants can’t abide by the rules, cut off their microphones, dang it.

Elizabeth Melton, Minneapolis

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The “Chaos center stage” headline is right. The boorish, content-free, rude behavior by both Trump and Biden at Tuesday’s debate changed no minds, except perhaps for people who decided not to watch the second and third debates. The game-changer, for me, would be if one of the candidates stepped forward and said, “I apologize for my behavior at the debate on Tuesday. The American people deserve better. They deserve to hear their candidates talk about plans, policies, facts and substance. I pledge to do better at the next two debates and earn your vote through an honest discussion of our differences.”

That kind of honesty — and concern for what we the people want and need during this fraught election year — would be spine-tinglingly delightful. And we all need a little delight about now.

Susan Rivard, Maple Grove

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The chaos provoked by the belligerent attitude of the president during the presidential debate last evening parallels the chaos in our cities which he apparently refused to condemn. Thank you to Biden who, whenever he had an opportunity, turned to the camera and spoke to us as Americans about his policies and positions in a clear, direct, even-tempered and respectful manner.

Barbara Sommer, Mendota Heights

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I’m betting the most quoted phrase of the first presidential debate will be Trump’s “stand back and stand by” in reference to the Proud Boys. I thought Biden was over the top in calling Trump a racist but never expected Trump to acknowledge it.

Paul Oman, Brooklyn Center

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Tuesday’s debate (debacle) was painful, shameful and embarrassing. I think the two additional scheduled debates should be canceled or each candidate should be given the allotted time to answer questions submitted to them with no rebuttals. Short of shock collars that could be used for interruptions or a real-time fact-check buzzer, I am at a loss for any solution to remedy our current political climate. I mourn the loss of civility.

Nancy Olson, Maple Grove

• • •

Imagine someone with the temperament and self-control of debater Trump being anywhere near the nuclear button.

Victoria Roller, Northfield, Minn.

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Is Trump a “law and order” president? Are you kidding me? He couldn’t behave according to the simple rules of the presidential debate format even after the moderator asked him to do so.

Howard Schneider, Lakeville

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I have watched every presidential debate in its entirety for 60 years — until this year. After the first half hour I turned it off. Why? Because it was not a debate. It was an insult to the American people. Yes, at one point Biden understandably and openly wished Trump would “shut up.” I did shut him up by turning off the TV. I sincerely hope other Americans did the same.

Wallace tried to control the interruptions. After a few failed attempts, here is what he could have announced: “Mr. Trump, I am in charge here. You are not. Stop the interruptions. Period. Otherwise the only way for me to be in charge is to charge off this stage. I will not be part of any attempt to bully the American public by not letting them listen to your opponent. Will you comply, sir, or not?” That approach would have taken an unprecedented act of courage. Unprecedented, but not impossible.

Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park

• • •

Fixing the debates:

Option 1: Candidates speak from soundproof booths; moderator cuts mic of whoever doesn’t have the floor.

Option 2: Bouncer removes candidate from stage for speaking out of turn; moderator grants interruptee triple the stolen speaking time before interrupter returns.

Option 3: Schoolmarm stands behind candidates and applies dunce cap for not answering the question; official scorer announces dunce cap totals following debate.

Option 4: Suspend debates until 2024.

Chip F. Peterson, St. Paul

• • •

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or other, there must be part of you that was disgusted with the behavior of the presidential candidates during their (so-called) debate. Not only was it disgusting in its own right, but it also insulted the intelligence of the populace. What we saw was two bratty children throwing sand at each other. If anyone was looking to the debate for answers to policy questions, either they heard none or missed them in the midst of all the talking over each other done by the candidates. In a country of 330 million people, this is what we get for the two major party candidates?

Marvin A. Koski, Minnetonka


Wrong line of attack on Barrett

When Amy Coney Barrett was being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee when President Donald Trump nominated her for the Court of Appeals in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein criticized Barrett for her devotion to her Catholic faith. Not only was that the stupidest attack imaginable, it looms as the key ingredient of the forthcoming Democratic attack on Barrett in response to her nomination to the Supreme Court. Add to the equation that it came from a Jew, it did and will generate an undercurrent of anti-Semitism. Here’s my Jewish kick in the tuchus for Feinstein, who made a divisive, angry, bitter, contentious situation worse.

Dan Cohen, Minneapolis

• • •

Regarding the confirmation of Barrett: The question is not her faith but her ability to resolve conflicts between that faith and the law in a way that serves the law rather than her conscience.

James Hamilton, St. Paul

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