We all just want politics to be boring again

Bloomberg Opinion Today

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Today's Agenda

Mike Pence and his special guest.

Photographer: ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

A Very Left Shark Debate

Unlike last week's presidential debate, last night's vice presidential tilt was notable for not being notable. The most exciting thing about it was a fly, who will likely hold the popular imagination for less time than even Left Shark.

And you know what? It was kind of nice. Sure, partisans on both sides heard plenty to get angry about. But it was mostly low-boil political anger, a throwback to those halcyon days of 2015 when we talked about Left Shark instead of politics because politics was pretty boring. Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence debated like regular politicians, meaning they dodged questions and rolled their eyes but didn't constantly interrupt and insult each other, writes Ramesh Ponnuru. It suggests maybe, just maybe, 2021 might bring a return to the delicious, boring normalcy of 2015. 

Of course, bipartisanship was basically dead even then and probably won't return soon. But in adhering to basic rules of decency, Harris and Pence at least modeled a sort of political behavior that could possibly lay a foundation for maybe someday considering something like compromise, writes Bloomberg's editorial board.

As for the horse-race implications, no preconceived notions were harmed in the making of last night's debate. No votes were changed. But nor did Pence land any attacks on Joe Biden that really resonated, writes Jonathan Bernstein, which has been a problem for President Donald Trump's campaign all along. A tie goes to the leader, who right now is Biden. 

Oh and also we've spent almost an entire presidential campaign without wasting energy being shocked about the idea of a Black woman being a heartbeat away from the presidency. For this country, that is wonderfully boring.

Further Politics Reading: Mike Lee is wrong: America is a democracy. — Jonathan Bernstein 

Don't Believe the Regeneron Hype

Meanwhile, back here in extremely, painfully not-boring 2020, Trump and Biden are tussling over the next presidential debate, which may not happen until Oct. 22, if at all. And yesterday Trump released a video shot in front of the White House in which he extolled the virtues of "Regeneron," calling it a miracle cure for coronavirus and basically promising the Air Force would soon be dropping free pallets of it at Walgreens stores all over the country.

We have a few notes. First, Regeneron is not the name of a drug; it's the company that makes the experimental antibody treatment Trump got at the hospital. Also, we have no idea if that's what has the president feeling so sprightly, or if it's one of the many other drugs he's been taking, writes Max Nisen. The antibody treatment is still unproven. And Trump's touting of it will make further tests more difficult, using up supplies and discouraging people from joining trials where they might have to take a placebo. As for the cost, early doses will be free thanks to a deal Regeneron made with the government. But many more will not be.

Further Trump-Coronavirus Reading: Colleges are doing a better job with rapid testing than the White House is. — Faye Flam 

European Vexation

Given how poorly they've gotten along with Trump over the past four years, you have to imagine most European governments are pulling for Biden to win in November. Just today Trump's administration hit Iran with more sanctions over European protests. And a second Trump administration would be disastrous for the U.S.-Europe relationship, writes Andreas Kluth. But a Biden administration wouldn't exactly be all lollipops and rainbows with Europe, either. 

Meanwhile, the brewing war between Armenia and Azerbaijan risks fraying alliances across the Atlantic and within NATO, writes Hal Brands. It could also be a preview of a more direct, deadlier confrontation between the U.S. and Russia in the future.

Further New Cold War Reading: Trump's threat to somehow restrict Ant's Alipay and WeChat Pay is both baseless and toothless. — Tim Culpan 

Telltale Charts

We may not get stimulus or a vaccine until early 2021, and jobless claims are still painfully high, but the economy may have just enough momentum to carry us through without doing permanent damage, writes Conor Sen.

Further Reading

It's time to do away with 401(k) middlemen and let people just invest directly in low-cost mutual funds and ETFs. — Ethan Schwartz 

The pandemic has exposed how much we still need to shore up non-bank parts of the financial system. — Bill Dudley 

Morgan Stanley's Eaton Vance acquisition fits its culture and builds an asset management business for the future. — Brian Chappatta 

Dan Loeb is right: Disney should scrap its dividend and make more content for Disney+. — Alex Webb

Whole Foods seems to have become an afterthought to an Amazon with many other grocery experiments cooking. — Sarah Halzack 

China's people can't complain about much, but they can complain about sports, and they've got a lot to complain about lately. — Adam Minter 


Six people were charged with plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer.

Nancy Pelosi rejected airline aid without a bigger stimulus deal.

New Covid cases in New York and New Jersey hit their highest totals since May.

Kominers's Conundrums Hint

If you're still trying to identify the characters in our cartoon acrostic: You should be thinking Disney, if you haven't already — and don't forget it's OK to Google that green caballero. Then once you have enough names, you should fill in the unique-length ones in the grid first; that should help you figure out where the ones with repeated lengths go. — Scott Duke Kominers


Computer scientists break traveling salesperson record.

Chemist uses CO2 to turn saltwater into freshwater.

Owning an electric car saves you money.

Electric shocks to the tongue can quiet tinnitus.

Note: Please send electric shocks and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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