Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!

Yes, it’s Superman — strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights the never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.

I don’t know just who exactly the three principals in that auditorium for the first presidential debate of 2020 thought they were last Tuesday evening, but to the millions who tuned in to see a debate, they were each anything but the American Way.

While they didn’t drop in from Superman’s mythical planet Krypton, they were most certainly on another planet that night. Most likely Planet Ego, a planet with a level of projection and self-aggrandizing that is alien to even the most cynical political observers on this one.

Yes, yes, I know Mr. Peabody (Hat tip to Rocky and Bullwinkle), our politics have always been personal and cutthroat, but what transpired on that stage in Ohio was beyond disappointing, pathetic, disgusting — insert your own word.

I would reference the Three Stooges, but that would be an insult to the actors who actually put in the effort and gave their audience a show worth watching.

To allow the word debate to get anywhere near what Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Chris Wallace managed to do on that stage Tuesday night would be the mother of all mischaracterizations.

The Drudge Report headlines Wednesday were blunt:

"DEBATE CIRCUS"

"WILL YOU SHUT UP, MAN"

"NIGHT EXPOSES NATION IN DECLINE"

Drudge is Drudge, but not a truer headline exists for whatever that debacle was the night before.

Trump deserves every bit of criticism he’s getting, not just for his own behavior but for letting that inner urge to tantrum ad nauseam blow the chance he had to expose how weak Biden the politician and Wallace the moderator truly were.

Lost in all the “me, me, me, me, me, look at me” is that when Biden was specifically asked about whether he would support the Senate abolishing the filibuster or if he favored “packing” the Supreme Court, the former vice president refused to answer. And in an act of journalistic malpractice for the ages, Wallace couldn’t be bothered with pushing until he got an answer.

Knowing Trump, I suspect he blew off advice of much smarter people to actually prepare for the first debate. After all, he is Donald Trump, star of "The Apprentice," the originator of the phrase “You’re fired,” king of Twitter and sometimes president of these United States.

For some, Trump’s personal behavior should be all they need to switch their vote.

But I know the history of “Uncle Joe," the people behind his candidacy, the powers that be of the D.C. establishment who are salivating for a Biden/Harris (or is it Harris/Biden?) administration, and it is that history that scares me far more than any Trump tweet.

And it’s not just that history that keeps me from voting for him: It’s the future that he refuses to define, the questions he won’t answer.

Trump’s a TV showman full of bluster and inflated ego, but he’s known, and prior to China pushing a pandemic out to the world, the American economy was performing as I’d never seen it in my lifetime.

Biden’s a “thank God the media doesn’t report my first two failed campaigns” candidate, and according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." He's the party placeholder while it adjusts to its progressive wing of the future.

As Robert Johnson, founder of BET, put it in a recent CNBC interview: “Where I come out as a businessman, I will take the devil I know over the devil I don’t know any time of the week. ... In my opinion you’re better off dealing with somebody you know where they’re going to be than somebody you really have no idea what decisions they will make at such a critical time. ... Absolutely do not know what Vice President Biden will do, I haven’t heard anything coherent out of what he said he will do.”

So here we are, America. Superman’s ticked, the Stooges are looking for a defamation attorney and every circus performer since the inception of the circus is trying to get out of town unnoticed.

And 2020 still has three months to go. God help us.

Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin. He can be reached at gc@caldwellscorner.com.