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Is the debate an audition for Donald Trump and Joe Biden to star in Grumpy Old Men III?

Is the debate an audition for Donald Trump and Joe Biden to star in Grumpy Old Men III?

Joe Biden Donald Trump presidential debate
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

No one knows what to expect from tonight's debate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of hearing about today’s debate between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. Everyone has a prediction, an opinion, and thoughts regarding the possible outcomes.

The truth is, no one has any idea what will happen when a 78-year-old motormouth goes up against an 81-year-old gaffe machine. When a real jerk goes up against a really kind man.

They are both old. That’s baked in. Biden even admits he’s old. Trump, of course, would never call himself old. That’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about the Grumpy Old Men movies recently.

The films starred Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon as two cantankerous neighbors — irascible and angry old men. Granted, only those of us of a certain age — equally angry and irascible — remember the films that were box office hits back in the mid-1990s. But I can’t help suspecting that behind closed doors, both men have been bristling like grumpy old men at the very thought of going up against each other.

Look, I don’t want to come across as ageist. Yet, after having turned 60, I see how close 78 and 81 have suddenly become. I know even at my age, I would be thoroughly pissed if I was forced to do something with someone I can’t stand. Ten years ago, I would have bit my tongue and made it work; however, at this point? I’m not so sure.

Can Trump be boring? Possibly. Can Biden be energetic? Possibly. Can both stay awake after 9 p.m.? Possibly. Can they both tear into each other? Most likely.

Pundits and prognosticators have been incessantly saying that Trump is aware that he can’t come off unhinged like he did in the first debate with Biden in 2020 because that will further alienate those middle-of-the-road voters who expect him to behave.

As if Trump has any modicum of self-control, after a lifetime of doing pretty much whatever he wants and getting away with it, any inconvenience is likely to set him off. It makes me laugh when I hear so-called experts think they can predict the behavior of a spoiled, volatile, and prickly 78-year-old man.

Similarly, there are others who are saying that Biden needs to be sharp and \ focused and ooze vitality on Thursday night. If viewers see that they will say, “Oh, he’s up to the job.” As if a 90-minute window into the psyche of an 81-year-old man will act as an anti-senior balm. Most of the people laying these attributes at Biden’s feet are half his age. What do they know about what it’s like to be an octogenarian?

Talking heads are raising lots of questions: How will Biden respond if Trump tells lie after lie after lie? Will Biden fall into the trap of wasting his time fact-checking Trump in real-time? How will Trump react if Biden repeatedly calls him a convicted felon? Or sex abuser? Will Trump waste his time talking about how “Biden’s justice department” rigged the charges and trials against him? Will Trump keep repeating that he’s bearing the brunt of misplaced justice, so his supporters don’t have to?

What if Trump starts meandering, telling story after story after story, without any relevance to the questions being asked of him? What if Biden stumbles on his way to the podium and fumbles once he’s there?

There’s been so much speculation about the ensuing spectacle that I’m speculating that all this speculation is a misplaced spectacle in and of itself. Everyone is tripping over themselves trying to predict which candidate will be tripped up.

If I had to look into a crystal ball, I’d say that it’s likely that the debate will turn into a facsimile of two grouchy neighbors arguing over their shared property line.

And if that doesn’t happen. If it’s not a Grumpy Old Men remake, then the only other possibility is a redux of the 1988 presidential debates between Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis and Republican nominee Vice President George H.W. Bush. Both debates were forgettable.

But not to me. I was on the Hill at the time, and I had to watch the debates to form a reaction statement for the press from the congressman I was working for. I was only 24 and not steeped in how to craft BS and puffy statements; yet I vaguely remember having a hard time staying awake watching the two candidates.

And more urgently, I had no idea what to say about the debates. I was at a loss for words.

There is a chance the Biden-Trump debate could be another snoozefest, especially because there will be no audience and their mics will be shut off after they speak. And because, after the 9 p.m. hour, these two men, without an audience to juice them up, could get sleepy answering questions from the wonkish Jake Tapper and equally wonkish Dana Bash.

Expect me to say more about this scenario? Exactly! What else can you say? How do you elaborate on boring? How do you spice up boredom?

I think the American public is expecting fireworks tonight. In other words, two old guys comedically going at it like Matthau and Lemon’s characters in Grumpy Old Men. That’s because the media has built up these high expectations of the two duking it out.

In reality, the viewing public is likely to be disappointed. It could turn into a rematch of Dukakis and Bush. If that happens, will I be at a loss for words again on Friday trying to figure out how to sum it up.

John Casey is a senior editor at The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

Joe Biden Donald Trump presidential debateJIM BOURG / POOL / AFP

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.