I’m not saying it’s over, but it looks like it’s over.
I’m not saying it’s over, but it looks like it’s over.
Remember this quote from January 2016?
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”
Only in 2020 Donald Trumps didn’t need a gun. All he needed was a hefty viral load of SARS-COV 2 and a callous disregard for others‘ safety, perhaps even their very survival.
Meanwhile, the West Wing outbreak continues to grow, with more than a dozen people in the president’s close orbit infected, and the potential for hundreds of additional cases among his donors, supporters, and their friends and families spread out from Duluth, Minn. to Doral, Fla.
But if you thought he’d come out of this experience in any way chastened, or at least empathetic for the plight of the 7.4 million other Americans who have contracted the virus, none of whom have access to the kind of medical treatment that he received, or the families and loved ones of the more than 205,000 who have died, think again.
I guess those folks were losers and suckers too.
So was he right? Could Trump stand in the equivalent of Fifth Avenue, shoot someone, and not lose any voters? We’ll find out in a few short weeks.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden square off in the first of three presidential debates tonight starting at 9 pm. And while I’d like to treat it like the fellow above, I’ve got to watch it so I can sound smart on the radio tomorrow. Because misery loves company, you should watch it too.
So what should we watch for? Well, the New York Times suggests this is Trump’s best chance to change the narrative of a race where he’s lagging far behind. So from Trump expect a lot of personal attacks on Biden and his family, and a loose relationship with facts and the truth. Biden has to avoid taking Trump’s bait and keep rein on his temper and emotions.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post points out that Trump hasn’t really prepared, believing his experience as president is preparation enough, and testing out attack lines on close aides and with rally audiences; moderator Chris Wallace doesn’t intend to act as a live fact checker; and any slips of Biden’s will likely pale besides those of his counterpart.
Over at Politico, the writers compile what they expect to be the “10 biggest whoppers” told on the stage tonight. Brace yourself for this, but they expect most of these — 7 out of 10 — will come from Trump.
John Dickerson at The Atlantic reminds us that debates are about more than facts. Rather they are a window into a candidate’s temperament, character, and style of leadership. As I suggested last week, I think we have that covered when it comes to Donald Trump. But we might see something interesting about Joe Biden tonight. Besides, the burden of fact checking really ought to be on us as viewers.
Finally, will tonight’s debate really matter? Well, according to the folks at fivethirtyeight.com, first debates tend to help the challenger more than the incumbent, though that may not play out this time around. There are frankly too few undecided voters left to be persuaded. And Biden may have the most to lose because he’s so far ahead.
So there you go. You can read all of that, or just take it like the guy in the photo. I know which one I’d choose if I could.
If you’re curious about that photo, it’s a still from the classic 1951 Civil Defense film “Duck and Cover,” starring Bert the Turtle. Watch it here.
The convictions that leaders have formed before reaching high office are the intellectual capital they will consume for as long as they continue in office.Henry Kissinger
Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.Michelle Obama
I’m opening this post with these quotes because I’m spending a beautiful early fall afternoon depressing myself by reading over the last nearly five years of pieces I’ve written in this space about Donald Trump. I link to a bunch of them individually below, but if you want to suffer along with me, here’s a link where you can find all, or nearly all of them.
One thing is really clear to me. We have known all along who and what Donald Trump is, and we elected him anyway.
Take this example, from Dec. 7, 2015, my very first entry on him, right after Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States …”
And so Trump takes the fear and xenophobia already rampant in Republican ranks, already being stoked by his slightly less hysterical rivals, and ramps it to new, nauseating heights.
When he declared, most everyone, myself included, played the Trump candidacy as a diversion, an amusing little gag. Well the joke’s not funny any more. It’s really not.
As I wrote four years later, Trump’s pitch was not a bug but a feature:
Way back in 2015, Donald Trump began his run for the White House with a naked appeal to fear rooted in racism. And for the last four years, as he first campaigned and then as he has governed, his tune has remained the same.
In hindsight, the joke never was funny, no matter how many people fell for it then, and still fall for it now. Trump, ever the showman with the uncanny ability to manipulate the media while lying with the ease of one for whom it comes naturally, knew how to give the people what they wanted, and what they wanted was someone who appeals to their base instincts, angers, and resentments. And he knew then, and knows now, who his best friends are, European fascists and American racists and anti-semites.
Which squares perfectly with his fondness for and admiration of authoritarian strongmen, his lust for the adulation they can command, and his craving for the power they enjoy but our system (so far) has managed to deny him. His refusal to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose in November is no surprise given his refusal to commit to honoring the outcome in 2016 if Clinton won. That he has armed militia followers who might back that play in 2020 should not surprise either given the pro-Trump stance militias took four years ago.
So what are we to do now, with less that 40 days until the general election? My answer today is the same as what it was in March 2019, when Democrats were still entertaining the fantasy that Robert Mueller, or impeachment, or the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or the 25th Amendment, or some other deus ex machina might rid the country of Trump.
We’ll have to beat him at the polls. By voting early and in person where allowed, by mailing in our absentee ballots as soon as possible to ensure our votes are counted, or by walking into our local polling place on Nov. 3 and filling out our ballots, which is what I am going to do.
Joe Biden wasn’t your first choice? Hey, mine either. But given the stakes, #ADWD.