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In this podcast episode, Glynn Cosker talks with U.S. Marines veteran and foreign policy expert John Ubaldi of The Ubaldi Reports about the first, and somewhat chaotic, presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Ubaldi discusses how the candidates handled themselves during the Sept. 29 debate and some of the topics covered – along with the topics not adequately covered – including an acceptable plan to fight COVID-19 and how the domestic policy of each candidate correlates with national security.
Here is a transcript of the podcast:
Glynn Cosker: Hello, I’m Glynn Cosker, and welcome to the podcast. Joining me today is John Ubaldi of the Ubaldi Reports. John is a retired veteran of the US Marine Corps with three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to his name. He’s a frequent commentator on various news outlets, and he is the author of, The New Business Brigade: Veterans Dynamic Impact on US Business, available on Amazon. How are you, John?
John Ubaldi: I’m doing pretty good, Glynn. How are you doing?
Glynn Cosker: Hanging in there. Hanging in there. So John, let’s talk about serious stuff like we always do. The nation is in the process of dealing with an unmitigated and tragic disaster. And by that, of course, I mean the first presidential debate.
John Ubaldi: Oh yeah, that was tough to watch for an hour and a half.
Glynn Cosker: It was. Our plan today was to discuss some of the salient policy points that arose from the discussion at the debate, but I don’t know, I couldn’t find a segment where the candidate even finished a sentence, but anyway, let’s briefly chat about your thoughts on the debate. And then perhaps we can move on to what perhaps should have been discussed with regards to important subjects.
John Ubaldi: When it comes to the debates, I know I got extremely contentious. And I was talking with a friend because I was doing another event and I told him, “I’m more of the policy side.” That’s what I was looking for and that’s what I was hoping they would debate on.
And then they talked about the economy, the coronavirus, but I was looking about how they were going to fix the economy, how they were going to get the economy moving. And the one issue they didn’t talk about, which goes to the economy is our national debt.
Now, we’ve got the national debts about 27 trillion. And then the Congressional Budget Office this month said, “Since we ended the fiscal year today, we’re at three point something trillion dollars for the budget deficit.” So, that’s what I really wanted, so how are they going to tackle these issues?
Glynn Cosker: Yeah. And of course, the way they did tackle them was a little bit, I don’t know if embarrassing is the right word, but it was definitely chaotic, but they did discuss the economy at one point, mostly talking about how COVID has shut it down.
So there was some policy points that came out of it. What did you think what they did discuss about the way the economy was shut down and then reinvigorated and how each of the candidates said they… well, how Joe Biden said he would have done things compared to the way things were done by President Trump?
John Ubaldi: Yeah. I mean, that came up that how he would have handled the Coronavirus, and I know he was, in July, he was interviewed on Joy Reid Show on MSNBC, and she asked him, “If you were president, what would you have done differently than what President Trump has done?” He laid six things out. The unfortunate part, those were the six things that President Trump had already done or is currently doing, but then they pivoted to his economic policy.
And Chris Wallace had asked him that, “Your plan states that you want to raise 4 trillion in new taxes, and you want to increase spending by $11 trillion dollars,” but he never went into much depth how that would impact the economy as we’re growing out of this deep economic recession that the country finds itself in.
Glynn Cosker: They did touch on the mask-wearing debate. What did you think about their exchange about the masks and not wearing them and wearing them?
John Ubaldi: Well, it’s interesting. They both had different views on how to deal with the mask, how they deal with the coronavirus. And then when we did a previous podcast, we talked about the coronavirus, and it just seems like there’s dueling medical and scientific experts. And if you go back to the original start of the coronavirus back in January, science is not absolute, it’s you get the best data as you get at the time, and then as you learn, as you go.
So it’s interesting how both of them went about dealing with the coronavirus and how that impacted that we shut down the economy and then we’re where we’re at right now, and how do we move forward as we get closer to hopefully a vaccine by the end of the year or the first part of next year.
Glynn Cosker: I’m thinking the American people, if they’re watching this and they have been affected by COVID-19 be it they know someone who might have died or gotten seriously ill, they might’ve lost a job, or know somebody who’s lost a job and they might be in terrible disarray right now and now watching this, and surely, I mean, put yourself in their shoes, they must be thinking, what is happening? Tell us what you’re going to do and give us some advice on how we should be making things better or how are you going to make things better for me? And I didn’t see too much of that going on, did you?
John Ubaldi: No, I really didn’t. I mean, they just criticized each other what they would do with the economy, how they would handle COVID-19. And as we said in the previous podcast, there’s no really one national standard. The president, not just President Trump or any president, he can only do so much. Each state, like I live in Florida, Florida just reopened to stage three. So it gives a little bit more freedom of movement for employers and employees, but that’s not the same up in, let’s say, New York State.
And then what New York State is doing is far different than California. So there’s no really one standard to go off of. I mean, you can take your recommendations, but each state because of federalism we have, can do it kind of what it wants. So the president can only do so much.
And then when he came to the vaccine, I think people need to understand, I don’t care who the president is, there’s limitations and there’s roadblocks. And basically that before a vaccine comes to market, there’s certain checkpoints they have to meet, and no one president, and it’s set up like that, can change those rules. There’s safety mechanisms how you get from stage one to stage two to stage three and their testing before you finally get a vaccine that you can let the entire population of United States get vaccinated from.
Glynn Cosker: Of course, that’s exactly right, because you introduce something that doesn’t work and hasn’t been vetted and tested appropriately under the same measures that every other vaccine has been tested, you’re going to have disaster part two, because you’re going to have people getting allergic reactions or something to the vaccine. So they did talk about that extensively.
They also began talking about some of the civil unrest that’s been going on, and there was a heated discussion, another heated discussion, it would have been fun to see an unheated discussion, but they were talking about Vice President Biden’s policy on public safety and law enforcement. And that got a bit testy as well. What were your thoughts on both candidates’ idea on dealing with race relations and civil unrest and law enforcement, because President Trump mentioned it a few times?
John Ubaldi: That’s a dividing line. I mean, because President Trump has stated he’s the law and order candidate, and there’s a lot of issues that go into that. Like as an example, I think it was 2016, there was five police officers were shot and killed out of Dallas, and the Dallas Police Chief, who’s now the Chicago Police Chief, stated at the time, We want law enforcement to do everything, to be the therapist, to be the counselor, to be this, to be that, and it’s an unfair burden placed upon them.
And both candidates really didn’t talk about the core problems in these areas. Now, we learned this the hard way in Iraq. You can’t have economic security unless you have physical security, like you feel safe. I think both candidates talked above each other on that. How do you provide safety for these communities, then you expand into economic opportunities, and then you go into educational opportunities as well? And that just really wasn’t discussed by either candidate.
Glynn Cosker: Right. So if you were in charge of deciding what each of the segments of this debate would have been, what other things would you have added and what would you have liked to have seen them discuss?
John Ubaldi: For Donald Trump, what was your plan if you get a second term? What would you do to grow the economy? And then for Joe Biden, you put out your economic plan. How do you feel like that would grow the economy by raising taxes and more regulation to expand that? Because the one thing that was never even attempted to be addressed is we got a $27 trillion national debt and we got a budget deficit at $3 trillion. That has to be addressed at some point because this impacts American national security, not just here in the United States, but across the world.
Glynn Cosker: Yes, it does. And that was not discussed at this debate. I’m assuming if the pattern of previous debate series is the same this time around, then they will get extensively into that next time, or at least foreign policy, they should have been talking about it last night. President Trump mentioned at one point, he talked about Obama’s final three years and he mentioned something like they had the slowest economy recovery since 1929 or something like that. What did you think about that remark?
John Ubaldi: Both sides are going to twist their facts to meet their like… because I know Chris Wallace had mentioned that the last three years, the Obama economy created just as many jobs as the first three years of the Trump economy. But if you dial back into some of these things, you’ve got to look at some regions of the United States do better than others. Even right now, Florida is opening up while New York isn’t. So you’re having certain parts of the country doing fairly well with lower unemployment and certain parts of the country not doing well. And that impacts the entire country.
Like I still follow California politics because I was born and raised there. California is up about 14 to 15% unemployment, the real unemployment. They’re 20% of the country and they’re facing a lot of problems there. New York is doing the same, so is New Jersey. And that goes back to my first point is the deficit and the debt need to be addressed.
And this is going to come up in another debate when they do the national security, because we’re facing threats from Iran, especially from China and Russia. And how we respond, we’re going to need some kind of funding to do that. And without that, because of our own economic problems, we’re not going to be able to react to some of these crises.
Glynn Cosker: I agree. I definitely agree. And you mentioned China and of course that was mentioned a few times last night, but there’s a quote here that I’m going to read from a Chinese controlled newspaper, Global Times. An official said that the debate had, “Just showed the world a divided and chaotic US that is no longer an attractive superpower in terms of politics and soft power,” saying that the debate reflected, “The recession of US national power.”
And that’s a scary statement to hear from China about a debate involving one of the two people who will be sworn in as the next president in January. This can’t help our national security at, I mean, you are a seasoned veteran of the US Marine Corps who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan serving our country, protecting our country. What is your thought on something like what happened last night? Because I have a feeling that your thoughts are probably similar to a majority of people who have served the nation in some capacity.
John Ubaldi: Well, the thing is I was disappointed because these are elected officials. These are the people who are going to make these tough choices so that when you get that phone call at three o’clock in the morning, one of these two is going to make that decision of what to do and what not to do. But see, right now we’re in a period where most of America, especially our elected officials, have never served. I think we’re into the third election in a row. I think the last time we ran a candidate who was an actual veteran would have been John McCain in 2008. So we went through three presidential elections where the vice president or president of either party has no military experience.
Now, Mike Pence does have a son who served. I know Joe Biden had his son who served in the National Guard, that was mentioned last night, but they themselves do not have direct involvement in the military. Now that could be good or bad. President Roosevelt never had experience except for Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson.
The society is the country has moved away from any connection to the military, and that’s to me the bigger danger when, it was mentioned again last night of how they use the military. And it just seems like both sides don’t seem to understand what that means of military service.
Glynn Cosker: And when you listen to the quote like the one I read from China, that’s a disturbing quote when you look at it in terms like that. The presidency used to be quite connected to American pride, pride in the military.
And I’m not saying that either these candidates are not very proud Americans upstanding, you know, standing up for military causes and such, but it just seems to me that… I guess what I’m trying to say is that somebody like you, you went over there and put your life on the line.
And thousands of people have recently, hundreds of thousands, millions of people over the years, and then you tune in and you just see this debacle. And I hate to put it in those terms. But I mean, there isn’t anybody that watched that thing and thought, “Oh, that was great.” And it’s distressing.
John Ubaldi: Yeah. I mean, the only ones that would is those who are very partisan. The only reason I watched it for an hour and a half, because obviously I have to because I follow politics, I study to prepare for this podcast, but I was dismayed from both. They didn’t talk about the issues, they just talked above each other, they name called, they… it’s just the most disgusting names they were calling each other, shut up, you’re a racist. It just got sickening to me.
Glynn Cosker: Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, if you were to list off all of the various things that they said to each other, I mean, you’ve got clown, Putin’s puppy, and the worst president ever, and all of these different insults flying back and forth. It was surreal in a way. And I’m trying to explain to my 13 year old son, you know? I mean, imagine all the people like me, who they’ve got their blossoming young man or young woman next to them or younger or an older teenager, and they’re watching this. I mean, horrifying to me.
John Ubaldi: Oh, it is.
Glynn Cosker: And it’s like, well, why are they yelling at each other, dad? How do you answer that?
John Ubaldi: You know what, Glynn? You know what the interesting part of it that didn’t get a play at all. When they first introduced each other, I know they couldn’t shake hands because of the distancing from the coronavirus, but it had to have been one of the coldest acknowledgement that I’ve ever seen in a presidential debate. It was like, “Hey, hey, how’s it going?”
I was like, dang! I mean, I know you don’t have to hug each other, but can you at least fist-bump or elbow-bump?
Glynn Cosker: Yeah. Something. Something.
John Ubaldi: Then I knew that was going to start, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is going to be a wild ride.”
Glynn Cosker: There were a couple of things that Vice President Biden did which were in stark comparison. When he actually addressed the camera, looked straight into it and talked to the American people, that for me was the highlight of the debate because it just, although it’s probably a memorized speech that he’s just reading into the camera, at least he looked at the camera, at least he addressed people who were in need.
John Ubaldi: I would agree with that. And then the question is, how do the independent voters respond to that? Because Biden’s going to appeal to his supporters, Trump’s going to appeal to his supporters, but you don’t win just with your base alone, you’ve got to cross over and get other demographics coming to your side. So I’ll be curious to see as the days go on, how does that play off?
Glynn Cosker: Yeah, I agree. And I think the key to this election will be the independents, the people that are on the fence, and they’re going to probably make up their mind on Election Day.
John Ubaldi: But I would like to have gone into the proposal by Joe Biden and Donald Trump, how they’re going to fix the economy and get it moving. And now the economy has moved. Now, you could say we’re at a V shape. I know Biden will disagree, say we’re more of a K shape. We’ve brought back half the jobs. Now, Friday the unemployment report comes out and it looks like probably 800,000 to a million jobs are being created. Drop it down to 8.2.
The end of, I believe, October, the third-quarter GDP, a lot of economists are speculating it’s going to be about a 32% increase. So these are the things that I wanted them to talk about. How are you going to help small business, especially the retail sector and the service sector? There are about 22% unemployment, there’s a potential bailout or assistance to the airline industry. How are you going to fix that? What about the next stimulus? That really wasn’t talked about. So there’s a lot of key issues that weren’t talked about that would help average Americans and get us back to that level where we kind of were before the pandemic.
Glynn Cosker: Yeah, I agree. And even when they did, like I said earlier, when they did start bringing up these subjects, it was just a few sentences that we were actually able to sort of hear. Vice President Biden did mention at one point about small businesses and there’s not much being done. They’re closing. He says, “One in six is now gone.”
There is a trickle down effect because it affects national mood, it is a huge factor in whether or not we’re going to go into a deeper recession. Because a lot of these small businesses, obviously they drive the local economy. And so that’s why COVID-19 is such a big talking point in regards to national safety issues.
John Ubaldi: You’re right, it trickles down to everybody. And that just wasn’t really discussed. I mean, they talked a little bit about the CARES Act when it first was implemented, but they didn’t go into where we’re at now with the Heroes Act by… the Democrat proposed in May, and we’re still waiting on that. The next stimulus act. I know Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary is meeting personally right now with Nancy Pelosi. So we’ll see if something comes out of it right before the election. So we’ll have to see.
Glynn Cosker: Yeah, we will have to see. The last thing I want to talk about is, near the end of the debate, when Chris Wallace asked about the transition, will both of the candidates say that they’re going to accept the results and move on. And of course, there was an ambiguous response from President Trump. And to me, that is also a matter of national security because I mean, let’s think about all the elections we’ve ever had since Washington. That’s so unprecedented to even think about, to hear somebody, a sitting president say, Oh, well, you know, we’re going to have to check this thing out, the ballots, there’s fraud. I don’t know. I’m not going to… you know.
Glynn Cosker: And he actually came out right and said, I’m not going to accept it if I feel there’s something amiss. And if we think we have civil unrest now, if that came to fruition, I mean, what do you think would happen?
John Ubaldi: You’re right. It’s problematic and both sides need to extremely dial that down. The other thing that didn’t get much play is how our elections are run. Because we don’t have independent officials running our states when it comes to the elections, and they are very partisan, either Republican or Democrat, it’s done at the state level. Now, you can request an absentee ballot like I do, and they know who is requesting it and they send it to me, but when it comes to mail-in ballot, we’re changing the rules so fast and we’ve never done that before.
I think we need to be careful because we’ve seen examples like in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, there was even problems down here in Florida, Nevada, where mail-in ballots went out, they didn’t go to the right person, there was like I think Nevada had 300,000 ballots, had to be sent back because there was the wrong address. We really got to be careful, and both sides need to dial this down. And it’s not at the post office, it’s at the each individual state level.
Glynn Cosker: It is. But I mean, let’s face it. If President Trump wins reelection in a landslide on November 3rd, all talk of fraud and paper ballots and mail-in will just be gone because it won’t matter to him. That’s kind of the scary part is that if Joe Biden wins, and right now the polls are saying that he’s the favorite to win. Obviously, Hillary Clinton was the favorite to win four years ago, so who do you know? Who do you trust?
But if Joe Biden was to eke out a close win, then it might be justifiable for President Trump to say, “You know what? He only won Arizona by 0.1% or whatever, or Michigan by 0.4%.” You know, even that would be unprecedented by the way, but there might be a hint of a reason to delay things a little bit to do a recount or just check in to things. And I would think that if that was the case, that Vice President Biden would probably say, “Sure thing, why not?” But if Biden won in a landslide and Trump was still saying those things, that’s when it’s going to get ugly, and the country would suffer immensely from something like that.
John Ubaldi: The one thing that I hope is whoever wins it on the third wins it enough that no one can dispute it. But the other thing is, I wish what Donald Trump has said, I wish he would stop saying that. And then I also wish Joe Biden would stop saying, “Well, we’re going to use them. We’re going to have the military drag them out.” Don’t bring the military into this.
Glynn Cosker: He’s actually suggesting that?
John Ubaldi: What’s that?
Glynn Cosker: Biden has suggested that?
John Ubaldi: Yeah, he suggested that and some Democrats have. And I remember I was listening to a podcast by H. R. McMaster who used to be the National Security Advisor for Donald Trump. And someone had asked him that question, he says, “I’m not going there. We’re not a prop to be used in some partisan vendetta you have.” I just wish both sides would dial down that rhetoric and stop saying what one side says and what the other side says. But I do hope whoever does win the presidency on the third, wins it outright. There may be a challenge here and there, but nothing like a Bush Gore 2000, because this would be on steroids.
Glynn Cosker: Yes, it would. And I don’t think you’re going to get your wish to be honest my friend, I think-
John Ubaldi: I would agree.
Glynn Cosker: I think it’s going to go November 3rd, maybe at midnight of that evening, we will know, there might be a hint of who might be the eventual victor, but I doubt it. I think… I don’t know.
I think the way we’ll know right away, this might happen, it might not happen, but if it does happen I think we’ll know right away, every four years, Kentucky is always one of the first to be called. And Indiana I think is the other one. And the traditionally Republican States. Indiana went blue during Obama’s years, but Kentucky has been a red state forever. Recently, that is.
And so what if people look into how the vote is coming in and how much of that vote is coming from the same demographic that elected President Trump in all the other states, meaning you’re a blue collar male, there’s a demographic, white, that demographic, if they’re voting in a higher number in Kentucky or Indiana or some of those early states they call, if they’re voting in a higher number than they were four years ago, that’s not good for Vice President Biden.
If, and obviously, if the Democrats and that base and their key demographics are voting in droves for Biden, even in Kentucky and Indiana, we’re going to know something, I think. What do you think?
John Ubaldi: No, I would agree. I would throw in Pennsylvania, the western half of Pennsylvania, if there’s more swell going toward Trump than it went in 2016, we’re going to know early on, but if it’s lesser than that, then that’s going to be a difference.
Glynn Cosker: Absolutely. All right, John, well, it’s been an interesting discussion as always. Thank you for joining me today, and I’m sure you’ll be a guest on future podcasts, but until then, thank you very much for coming on with us today.