Trailing badly in the polls, Donald Trump desperately needed to change the momentum of the Presidential race. Yeah, he changed it all right.
The first Presidential debate was not Trump vs. Biden, nor was it Republican vs. Democrat. It was not even Conservative vs. Progressive.
Rather, it was a rudderless, repulsive, sickening confrontation between one demonic man’s shameless, angry, screaming, interrupting self-justifications on the one hand, and the steady march of reality on the other.
Joe Biden, playing the role of our better angels, stood his ground, resolute and unflinching in the face of the appalling crudity, cruelty, and deceit of Darth Trump.
When the full measure of last night is taken, we will see that America came to Biden’s side.
There were many people who commented that there was “no winner” of last night’s debate; many who chose to conclude that “American lost,” or that “the people lost.”
America needed to see this.
Sure, we have seen a ton of video of disgusting, insulting, ignorant, and cruel bloviation from this president, but Americans have never witnessed 90 minutes of the type of unrelenting, unhinged anger and disconnection from reality that former White House insiders have warned us about in countless “tell all” books.
America needed to see – once and for all -- that the President of the United States has the impulse control of a four year old, the self-restraint of a hungry infant with gas, and the emotional intelligence of a chain saw.
You can quibble with whether Joe Biden “won” the debate, but there is no controversy that Donald Trump lost. For starters, the CNN “instant poll” said Americans preferred Biden to Trump by 60 to 28.
An unfortunate byproduct of the rudderless shit-show is that Trump’s behavior has become the entire story of this debate, and because of that overwhelming story line, few were able to focus on the aspect of the debate that should have us terrified… the things he was actually saying.
By a quantum factor, there was a single moment in this sickening evening that should make us all realize that we have barely scratched the surface of Donald Trump’s depravity. Forty minutes into the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would “condemn white supremacists.”
Wallace: You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left wing extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia group and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.
Trump: Sure, I’m will to do that.
Chris Wallace: Are you prepared specifically to do it.
Trump: I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing.
Wallace: But what are you saying?
Trump: I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.
Wallace: Well, do it, sir.
Biden: Say it, do it say it.
Trump: What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn.
Wallace: White supremacist and right-wing militia.
Trump: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Donald Trump not only adamantly refused to condemn white supremacists, he actually sent a message that they should “stand by,” which can only be inferred to mean that they should be at the ready in case Trump needs their brand of violence and hate if the election does not go his way.
Yes, the President of the United States of America refused a direct, persistent, and urgent plea to condemn white supremacists in front of one of the largest global audiences he will ever encounter.
If nothing else had happened in the entire evening, that one exchange should be enough to declare the man utterly unfit for his office. Full stop.
And yet Trump managed to make other comments, assertions, and breathtaking falsehoods that must also be recorded on a commentary for the evening.
There was the protracted assertion that “forest management” was the real issue driving California’s ever-increasing wildfires… not climate change. There was his full-throttle broadside on the validity of mail-in ballots and therefore the 2020 election itself, no doubt causing people across the globe to lose faith in the country that is synonymous with democracy. He pretended that his administration actually had a healthcare plan so that he could finally “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
And then there was his attempt to completely invert the issue of his handling of the coronavirus.
One of Donald Trump’s most plainly visible psychological flaws is his capacity for projection: in his own mind, he appears aware of his most grievous failings, because he projects those exact failures onto his political opponents.
We’ve heard before that Donald Trump has tried to say that he’s done a great job handling the coronavirus, and that if not for his leadership, “millions” would have died… not the “mere” 200,000 souls we have lost to date. But last night, for the first time, Trump actually argued that if Joe Biden had been president, millions of people would have died.
Trump: So we built the greatest economy in history. We closed it down because of the China plague. When the plague came in, we closed it down, which was very hard psychologically to do. He didn’t think we should close it down and he was wrong. Again, two million people would be dead now instead of… Still, 204,000 people is too much.”
Yes, instead of acknowledging any responsibility for the fact that the United States has handled the coronavirus far more incompetently than all but a few developed nations, Donald Trump wanted to tell people that a Joe Biden presidency would have resulted in a geometric increase in deaths.
Donald Trump came to the podium in Cleveland last night on a search and destroy mission. With so many urgent issues before our nation, we were shocked by exactly how much time – and how often -- Donald Trump spent steering the conversation to Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Much of this time is spent interrupting Joe Biden to raise the charge that the son received money from the mayor of Moscow (ah, again, the projection) and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that invited Hunter Biden to serve on its Board. But Trump couldn’t stop there.
While Joe Biden was talking about the military service and subsequent death of
his son Beau, Trump interrupted him to change the subject back to Hunter, alleging
-- once again, falsely -- that Hunter Biden had received a dishonorable discharge from the military because
of a drug problem. Joe Biden turned to camera and made a graceful statement about his son, once again making clear the stunning gulf in the humanity of the two candidates. But the savagery, gall, and sickness of Trump hung in the air.
At this point, all one could do was recall the wrenching words of Joseph Welch, the lawyer for the U.S. Army during Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts:
“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
No, Donald Trump has no decency, so sense of shame. He is a crude, boorish, desperate man who, in his endless shouting and interrupting, was pathetically trying to drown out or change the subject from his own failures. He could not bear listening to either Chris Wallace or Joe Biden challenge the pristine narrative of his presidency that plays daily in his meetings with sycophants and nightly on Fox News. Like an insolent child, he threw a ninety minute tantrum that obliterated any constructive dialog.
Americans who tuned in to this broadcast with the hope of acquiring greater information on which to base their choice were no doubt frustrated by the incessant interruptions, the shouting, the spectacle of Trump simply trying to talk over the moderator and Biden.
But don’t think that Americans did not acquire very useful information.
In the face of the constant immature hectoring, the loud interruptions, and the vicious personal attacks on family members, Joe Biden stood at the podium and kept his eyes on the prize. Repeatedly throughout the evening, he turned and gestured directly at the camera and aimed his remarks at the American people sitting at home. He implored Americans to vote.
He came off as decent, reasonable, fully capable, and as an utterly stark contrast in temperament and substance to the raving lunatic who happens to be President of the United States.
Pay attention, Donald. There are actually three things humans cannot avoid: death, taxes, and reality itself. Yes, you’ve avoided death, so far. Yes, you’ve managed to avoid paying taxes, but that little omission is already coming back to bite you, big time.
And avoiding reality? Those who try to compete against reality inevitably find that when they get to the finish line, truth is waiting there for you.
When you race against the truth, you never win.
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