LaVarr WebbIf you're a political junkie, this evening's back-to-back candidate debates should provide a real high. At 6 p.m. we get to watch gubernatorial candidates Spencer Cox and Chris Peterson face off. And at 7 p.m. Donald Trump and Joe Biden clash in a highly-anticipated presidential debate.

I expect the gubernatorial debate will get feisty. Cox has nothing to gain by criticizing Peterson, but Peterson needs to get aggressive to show a sharp contrast and give voters a reason to vote for him over the Republican.

Peterson will likely especially criticize Cox over the Herbert administration's COVID-19 response, especially as cases rise across the state. Cox will have a good response to the criticism. But it will be interesting to see if Cox breaks with Herbert on any issues like a statewide mask mandate.

It will be difficult for Peterson to wound Cox. He is viewed very favorably by most Utahns.

The presidential debate may get bloody. While I would advise Trump not to attack Biden in a personal way, or call him names, Trump will likely not be able to help himself.

I would also advise Trump to try to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters, rather than just throw red meat to his base. He owns his base and they're not going to abandon him. The debate is an opportunity to reassure mainstream conservatives that Trump can be empathetic and presidential in tone.

But, again, Trump is likely to follow his instincts, which are to slash and burn.

Trump needs to draw Biden out on policy issues and push him to say if he supports or opposes some of the far-left positions espoused by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Biden has avoided answering some of those questions.

Biden will, no doubt, have plenty of ammunition against Trump on COVID-19, and he now has new talking points on Trump's taxes. The debate host will also likely ask Trump if he will commit to an orderly transfer of power if he loses.

Biden has been preparing for the debate for weeks, studying the issues likely to arise and taking practice questions from his staff. Trump has said he's ready for the debate and doesn't need much preparation.

Tonight we'll see who is best prepared.

Reader Response. I get plenty of mail. Here's excerpts from a fellow who preferred that his name isn't used.

Thank you for your words that you posted on September 28th about the US Constitution.  It has withstood several challenges in the past and has shown that it is a governing document that has helped this country for over two centuries.  I wish I shared your optimism when it came to its survival in the near future.  I have seen several instances lately where the check and balances needed have been ignored or pushed aside and this concerns me greatly.

I've been a registered Republican for thirty years now.  I have researched the issues and candidates and voted for what I thought was best for the country no matter what party they came from or backed the proposal.  While I may have disagreed with their methods and decisions, not once during the administration of the past presidents have I ever felt that the POTUS has not had the country's best interest at heart.  That was... until now.  It seems more and more that Trump is pulling the biggest con job in this country. It also appears that the once honorable members of the GOP seem to be standing by and doing nothing in fear of giving the Democrats a win or getting blasted on Twitter by Trump.  There are several local members of the GOP which have lost my future vote if they run for re-election.

My fear is that once Trump's bad influence is finally gone, it will take decades to repair the damage he has done to this country.  I do not feel that we are in a better place than we were four years ago and I don't feel that Trump is strong enough to get us through these turbulent times.

Reader Randy Wright disagreed with me that the Constitution is strong and will protect us. He suggested several amendments:

Our constitutional system is extremely fragile. The only reason it has worked as well as it has is that people have respected norms, not because the Constitution covers all the angles.

The Founders only had a limited time, and they could not have thought of everything, least of all understand our day. So they provided a sound outline and explicitly said it was up to later generations to improve it.

On this score we have failed miserably, with pathetically few amendments. Rather than following in the Founders' footsteps of invention, we have collapsed into a frozen evaluation of the Constitution, fearing to modify it, as if it is a holy artifact rather than a dynamic governing document.

In truth it is a Swiss cheese of potential trouble when people with dictatorial tendencies (think Trump, Barr and a host of Republican fellow travelers) get their hands on the levers of power and swing a wrecking ball through it's spirit.

There are so many holes in the Constitution it's hard to know where to start, but the Trump/Barr/McConnell axis of evil has brought a few to the surface:

- appointments of justices ... There should be a 100-day clock for Senate action (an up or down vote), after whose expiration the nominee is deemed confirmed. Note that the longest confirmation was Clarence Thomas at just under 100 days, so that's a good benchmark. Appointments should be prohibited within 100 days of January 20 (Inauguration Day);

- the Justice Department needs some Constitutional arms-length distance from the president to prevent its being used as a political tool;

- the grounds for impeachment need more specificity to include abuse of the machinery of government for political purposes, interference in prosecutions and abuse of the pardon power. Vague language on impeachment invites abuse.

-  original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court should be expanded to cases brought by members of the House and Senate, who should have standing to bring lawsuits directly to the Supreme Court over any constitutional violation, starting with the emoluments clause (they currently lack standing);

- presidents should be required to release their tax returns as a check on conflicts of interest that put personal interest ahead of the nation's;

- runaway spending should be stopped with a balanced budget amendment, with exception Made for a case of national emergency requested by the president and approved by a three-fifths majority in both houses of Congress;

- the practice of installing unconfirmed executive branch "acting" heads should be sharply curtailed;

- the use of iconic monuments or structures owned by the people collectively (think White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Statue of Liberty) should be barred from expropriation by members of the Legislative or Executive branch for partisan purposes;

- the rules for a constitutional convention should be laid out to limit such an event to a single subject.

So these are only a few of the things that would make for a more perfect union. Webb's claim that everything is hunky-dory is dangerously absurd. There are holes in the Constitution that you can drive a truck through, and Trump and his axis of evil have been doing exactly that. True patriots should be alarmed. Trumps populist enablers should be stopped.

If history proves anything it's that despotism always comes wrapped in the flag. Then one day, not far distant, we'll wake up and wonder, too late, where our country went.

Parting shot. Both McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, and Pres. Calvin Coolidge have been given credit for this little truism that applies to both politics and business:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

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