It is what it is because you are who you are. — Joe Biden on Trump’s handling of COVID.
That was one of Biden’s best lines at last night’s debate. Amid a torrent of Trump’s interruptions, lies, and attacks, the former Vice President maintained his composure, discussed policy with ease, and proved yet again that, unlike his opponent, he cares about the American people. He did that by showing his empathy repeatedly, invoking those who have an empty chair at home because they’ve lost a relative due to Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus response — and again when Trump tried to press an attack on Biden’s son Hunter, Joe turned to the camera and said, “Look. This isn’t about his family or my family, but YOUR family.”
Perfect. That’s something that Trump can’t do because he never thinks about anyone but himself and has no empathy for anyone.
Trump was so over the top in attempting to bully both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace that I couldn’t help but imagine what it’s like to be in a meeting in the Oval Office, trying to present information to him or have an intelligent discussion about anything while being berated by a loud, ignorant blowhard.
Suburban housewives don’t like it when men don’t let them speak for two minutes without muttering “wrong.” — Nell Scovell on Twitter.
How do you handle such relentlessly rude behavior? Perhaps Biden should have said, “You can’t even follow the rules of a debate, so don’t tell me about law and order.” Or, “Can you act like a human being for one minute and not interrupt me?” My brother-in-law Stuart suggests, “Mr. Trump, this isn’t a schoolyard where you can be a bully. In fact, schoolyards aren’t available because of your mismanagement of the pandemic.”
Clever as those lines might be, they wouldn’t have stopped Trump. Even if Biden’s team tells the debate commission to mute the microphones next time the other candidate is speaking, Trump’s team will never agree. They think the way he acted was great. His supporters no doubt saw it as yet another example of him “owning the libs.”
Without a mute button he could operate like the host of a Zoom call, there wasn’t much Chris Wallace could do about Trump’s constant interruptions, either. His repeated attempts were the equivalent of a parent trying to stop a loud, obnoxious child from running around a restaurant and bothering other diners by saying, “Okay, Donny, please come sit down now.” Not gonna work. I find it ironic that in the run-up to this debate, Wallace said, “If I’ve done my job right, at the end of the night, people will say, ‘That was a great debate, who was the moderator?'” Instead, most viewers came away thinking: “What the fuck was that?”
You can’t use reason to convince anyone out of an argument that they didn’t use reason to get into. — Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter.
As for anyone who thinks Wallace should have played the role of fact-checker, there’s no way he could have kept up with the torrent of lies Trump spewed. As Daniel Dale, CNN’s fact-checker says, Trump is impervious to fact-checking. Even when his claims have been debunked, he continues to repeat them.
But I did like when Wallace took Trump on about climate change in an exchange that went on for a couple of minutes while Biden happily remained silent. At that point, I’ll bet Trump had flashbacks to the disastrous interview Wallace conducted with him a few weeks ago. That sort of stuff sticks in Trump’s craw.
Wallace also got Trump to say one of the scariest things he’s ever said, when he was asked if he would condemn white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys. Trump’s reply: “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by!” That is not a condemnation by any stretch of the imagination. I’d guess that the Proud Boys talked back to their televisions: “OK, sir, we are standing by!!” One of the best indicators of whether you are a racist is if white supremacists and their ilk think you’re one of them. So it’s not surprising that, within less than an hour of Trump’s words, that hate group had incorporated them into its logo on social media.
While they are celebrating what they consider the go-ahead to continue their dangerously bigoted ways, imagine what it must have been like to be a person of color watching with your children and trying to convince them everything will be all right — when you know it won’t be. Or later, when Trump worked in another page from his Racist Memes playbook, attempting to scare white suburbanites that black and brown people are going to move in and destroy their neighborhoods. He played that sad song again last night, but fortunately, Biden was ready:
You wouldn’t know a suburb unless you took a wrong turn. The suburbs are by and large integrated. People driving their kids to soccer practice are black and white and Hispanic in the same car, more than at any time in the past. They are dealing with Covid. They are dying in the suburbs. They are being flooded and burned out. That is why the suburbs are in trouble.
While Biden was clearly prepared for the issues to be discussed, with a few quips his team whipped up for him, Trump did the only thing he knows how to do — play to his base, with no effort to reach out to swing voters. Instead, he repeated the Tucker Carlson/Sean Hannity talking points he hears every day and night on Fox News.
I suspect there were some people who watched this unpresidential ego implosion who haven’t paid attention to much other news about this election recently. They got the Full Trump — and it’s not going to help him. He needs help in particular with women, who aren’t going to respond to his bullying methods because they’ve spent their lives avoiding big abusive guys like that.
Other thoughts, in no particular order:
- Trump claims nobody got COVID and died from attending one of his rallies. How quickly he’s forgotten his close friend Herman Cain.
- Speaking of COVID, Tyler Pager from Bloomberg News tweeted: “A Cleveland Clinic doctor with masks just walked up to a number of unmasked members of the audience on Trump’s side of the room and asked them to put on masks. She told me they refused to take one and wear them.”
- In a discussion of climate change (finally!), Trump made a bogus list of the ways Biden’s plans will be harmful for the environment and actually said this: “They’re gonna take out the cows!” Surprisingly, that didn’t earn him the support of my vegan, animal-loving daughter.
- When you’re in your seventies and think it’s an insult to talk about where the other guy in his seventies went to college, you’ve run out of talking points.
- I can’t believe Trump is still invoking Hillary’s name.
- Not that it matters anymore, but the reason Obama couldn’t fill all the federal judicial vacancies is because Mitch McConnell blocked them.
- When Trump said, “Don’t ever use the word ‘smart’ with me,” I thought, “No one ever has!”
Here’s the bottom line: Biden’s performance showed the country what life can be like when the nightmare ends and the madman has left the building, while Trump’s performance showed the desperation of a man who knows he’s losing and can’t do anything about it because he is what he is.
Yet, presidential debates rarely move the needle even a little bit, a fact that’s likely more true now, at a time when most Americans have long since come to a verdict. So, don’t look for the polls to budge much in the coming days.
Unfortunately, that still means two out of five of our fellow citizens plan to vote for the man who gives new meaning to the phrase “bully pulpit.”