By the subterranean bar set by the first presidential “debate” between President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the voices raging in Trump’s head, Thursday night’s dueling “town halls” were shining examples of civilized public discourse. 

The COVID-carrier-in-chief and the other Old White Guy in the race were slated to debate again, but Trump backed out when the debate commission changed the format to protect Biden and others from Trump’s predictable firehose of potentially lethal hot air. 

So Biden scheduled a town hall meeting with ABC News. Trump countered with his own show on NBC, airing simultaneously. NBC drew an immediate backlash — including a formal revolt from network stars and employees — but Trump is accustomed to the network who soiled the world with “The Apprentice” doing his bidding. 

Savannah Guthrie apparently didn’t get the memo. The “Today” show anchor was tough, asked sharp questions and fact-checked Trump in real time. He didn’t like it, and neither did his cheerleaders at Fox “News,” who wailed and whined at Guthrie’s “gotcha” questions, like asking Trump to address once and for all the QAnon virus that has infected huge swaths of his base. 

Guthrie raised the issue by citing Trump’s recent retweet of QAnonsense claiming that President Obama and Biden faked the death of Osama bin Laden and had members of Navy Seal Team 6 murdered to cover it up. 

“That was a retweet,” Trump said, as if spreading mental contagion is harmless if you didn’t create it. “That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.”

“You’re the president,” Guthrie responded. “You’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

POLITICAL FACT: Nothing is easier than denouncing a cult of disinformation that paints your opponents as Satanic pedophiles who drink the blood of children to stay young, even when that cult hails you as a superhero ordained by God to dispense his wrath on the wicked.

The crazy uncle punted.   

“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump lied. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia.”

QUESTION: Excepting pedophiles, who on earth isn’t “very much against pedophilia?” It’s a ridiculous standard easily met by 99.9% of the global population. In Trump’s mind, it’s fine to spread lies, promote mental illness and seed violence as long as you love him and hate pedophiles. That Trump can’t afford to denounce QAnon because he needs the votes of its addled adherents says all anyone needs to know about his Potemkin presidency. 

Meanwhile, over at ABC, Joe Biden was Joe Biden, the old white band-aid America needs right now. He was settled, well-versed on the issues and prepared to detail his policies. Boring has never been a more desirable trait in a candidate for the presidency. Above all else, Biden’s basic decency and humility were an attractive contrast to Trump, who lacks both and proves it every time he opens his mouth. 

In sum, Thursday night’s town halls likely did little to change voters’ minds, but the events were infinitely more informative than the first debate debacle. The final debate is scheduled for Thursday, but any debate about the fitness of these candidates was settled by the crazy uncle whose return to NBC gave voters more reasons to fire him on Nov. 3.