The Debate Crisis: What to Do About Donald

Right now I imagine the debate commission is having a serious Zoom meeting to discuss what to do about the other two debates. Right now a lot of Serious People are callling for the remaining two debates to be canceled rather than submit the nation to another embarassing display of whatever-that-was. See:

OK, this just in:

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it would add “additional structure” to the remaining faceoffs between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden following Tuesday night’s chaotic clash in Cleveland, saying “more orderly discussion is needed.”

The announcement came as both candidates returned to the campaign trail, and Biden called Trump’s behavior at the debate “a national disgrace” during a stop in Ohio. Meanwhile, several GOP lawmakers urged Trump to address his refusal during the debate to condemn self-described white supremacists. Democrats widely denounced Trump’s remarks.

Exactly what they mean by “additional structure” is not spelled out. I’m thinking a shock collar might do it.

Some other people are calling for Biden to boycott the other two debates, although I don’t personally agree with that. If anyone quits, it ought to be Trump. But perhaps the worthless DNC is on the phone to the debate commission now to see if anything can be done to make the other two debates less ridiculous. At the very least, Trump should get his mic cut if he goes off like a lunatic again.

The second presidential debate is scheduled for October 15. “Steve Scully, who is the political editor at C-SPAN, will moderate a town-hall-style event with undecided voters from South Florida,” it says here. With the caveat that still-undecided voters must be idiots, that format ought to restrain Trump a bit. Ought to, I said. It might not.

And the vice-presidential debate will be October 7. I do intend to watch that one.

It will be four or five days before we know if that travesty changed anyone’s mind. The “overnight” polls favored Biden. But some people polled thought Trump was great. I am tempted to suggest those people need to be monitored.

There were a couple of moments that might be significant. Here is one:


One final question for you, Mr. Vice President, if Senate Republicans — we were originally talking about the Supreme Court here — if Senate Republicans, go ahead and confirm justice Barrett, there has been talk about ending the filibuster, or even packing the court, adding to the nine justices there. You call this a distraction by the president, but in fact it wasn’t brought up by the President, it was brought up by some of your Democratic colleagues in Congress. So my question to you as you have refused in the past to talk about it: Are you willing to tell the American people tonight, whether or not you will support either ending the filibuster or packing the court.

6:16 BIDEN

Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue — the issue is, the American people should speak. You should go out and vote. We’re in voting now, vote and let your senators know how strongly you feel. Vote now, in fact let people know it is your senators. I’m not going to answer the question.


Why won’t you answer the question — radical left — well, listen.


Would you shut up, man.


Who is on your list?


We have ended this segment. We’re going to move on to the second segment.

Not answering the question suggests he’s leaving open the issues of the filibuster and adding justices. So that’s encouraging.

And then there was this:

1:04:23 WALLACE

Okay, you have repeatedly criticized the Vice President for not specifically calling out antifa and other left-wing groups. But are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups? 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, as we’ve seen in Portland? Are you prepared specifically to do that?

1:04:46 TRUMP

Sure, I’m prepared to do it. I would say- I would say, almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right wing-

1:05:55 WALLACE

So what do you, what do you say-

1:04:56 TRUMP

I’m willing to do anything I want to see peace.

1:04:57 WALLACE

Then do it, sir.

1:04:59 BIDEN

Say it, do it, say it.

1:05:00 TRUMP

You want to call them — What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me —

1:05:04 WALLACE

White supremacists and, white supremacists and right-wing —

1:05:07 BIDEN

The Proud Boys.

1:05:07 TRUMP

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem

1:05:19 BIDEN

His own FBI director said — white supremacists. Antifa is an idea not an organization. Militia —

1:05:27 TRUMP

Oh you’ve got to be kidding me

1:05:27 BIDEN

His FBI said —

1:05:28 TRUMP

Well then, you know what —

1:05:29 WALLACE

Gentlemen, we’re done, sir. We’re going to go on to the next-

What FBI Director Wray said a few days ago was that antifa is more of an ideology than an organization, but whatever. Trump’s “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” is being touted as a signal to the Proud Boys to be ready to attack. “One prominent Proud Boys supporter on Parler said Trump appeared to give permission for attacks on protesters, adding that ‘this makes me so happy,'” it says here. See also DHS draft document: White supremacists are greatest terror threat.

Trump’s part of the debate was pretty much a lie-fest from beginning to end. Biden misstated a couple of things. See the Associated Press Fact Check.

And then there was Trump’s attack on representative democracy. See David Sanger, Tuesday’s Debate Made Clear the Gravest Threat to the Election: The President Himself.

He began the debate with a declaration that balloting already underway was “a fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election.”

It quickly became apparent that the president was doing more than simply trying to discredit the mail-in ballots that are being used to ensure voters are not disenfranchised by a pandemic — the same way of voting that five states have used with minimal fraud, for years.

He followed it by encouraging his supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very carefully,” which seemed to be code words for a campaign of voter intimidation, aimed at those who brave the coronavirus risks of voting in person.

And his declaration that the Supreme Court would have to “look at the ballots” and that “we might not know for months, because these ballots are going to be all over” seemed to suggest that he will try to place the election in the hands of a court where he has been rushing to cement a conservative majority with his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

And if he cannot win there, he has already raised the possibility of using the argument of a fraudulent election to throw the decision to the House of Representatives, where he believes he has an edge, since every state delegation gets one vote in resolving an election with no clear winner. At least for now, 26 of those delegations have a majority of Republican representatives.

Sanger also says that Tuesday’s debate may have been a signal to Russian to crank up the hacking.

Ryan Lizza at Politico has a pretty good analysis of why Trump behaved as he did: Bullying is all he’s got. He’s got no second term agenda, he has a terrible record to defend, and Joe Biden is harder to demonize than was Hillary Clinton.

We should remember also that bullying and abusive behavior are basically strategies of pro-active victimization. Bullies and abusers are compelled to dominate and terrorize because they think that’s what will happen to them if they don’t. Jonathan Allen, NBC News.:

In the end, what voters saw was a president who was deeply fearful of the result of a fair election determined on the actual positions and records of the two candidates. And yet, his desire to dominate the debate stage — to talk over both his opponent and the moderator, Chris Wallace — made it more likely that the race will be a referendum on him than a choice between him and Biden.

Charles Pierce:

If I am discovered in a state of advanced catatonia at any point in the next few days, please let it be placed on the permanent record that it was, “They’ll take out all the cows!” that did it. I hung in there as long as a human being could, but then, in the middle of another manic episode during his debate with Joe Biden, El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago started raving about the Green New Deal and the end of airplanes. He was overcome by the vision of AOC and Bernie Sanders out there on the Great Plains, cow-tipping. At this point, my higher faculties said, “Fck this noise. We’re out of here,” and got out of the business.

On a more sober note:

He wants his own private Belarus, with his own private militias at polling places, and in the streets if he loses, and he’s fixing things to get it, too.

That’s the only story from Tuesday night: the great, looming, consistent threat emerging from whatever the hell that event became. It was coming from the manic bully who is presently the President* of the United States. It was pure fascism, right down to the set of his chin that he stole from Mussolini, but it was fascism at the behest of a career failure who was sending out a call for anyone else with a sense of failure and a long gun.


More Debate Commentary, in No Particular Order

Josh Marshall, The Morning After

James Fallows, A Disgusting Night for Democracy

Dahlia Lithwick, The Most Important Thing Biden Did During Tuesday’s Debate (if you run into a subscription wall, use an incognito or private window)

David Weigel, The Trailer: What happened in Cleveland

There’s a lot more, but damn.

Andy Marlette

2 thoughts on “The Debate Crisis: What to Do About Donald

  1. Yeah, that "stand back and stay by" line knocked the wind out of me – and, as you all know after the many years I've been word-turding around here, as "windy" as I can be, definitely means that a hell of lot of CO2 was being released!  

    Today, these White supremacist groups were as happy as tRUMP at an all-you-can-eat (very well-done) burger and steak joint.

    They took what tRUMP said as a clarion call for violence.  

    i've been saying it for months: There will be blood.

    I expect these groups will focus on minority areas.  And I don't expect them to wait until Election Day.  I suspect they'll start mayhem – definitely involving violence, probably involving guns – during early voting.

    So, if you do go out to vote – which as we all know is preferable this year, but definitely not 100% achievable – be careful.  Watch out for young White guys, probably with tatts all over any visible skin.

    Stay safe.

    We'll need ALL of us liberals to be ready to do what we can to save democracy as we know it – aspiration, but badly flawed.

  2. Yeah, CUNDgulag,  that's almost exactly how I see it, my immediate neighbors are, for the most part, apolitical, so we might have a bit of a safe haven in the short term.   We had an escape plan, but, the plague got in the way.  No matter what happens, all things considered we lived in a pretty rich time, so, no complaints.   I don't want to sound too dramatic, so, I'll stop there.

    We've certainly had a long string of bad luck, the last pearl being RBG's passing, but, we might have a card or two to play.   The Brass, and the rank and file of the military seem to be taking note, if they, and some members of the intelligence community decide  that they will honor their pledge to preserved the Constitution, we might have a powerful ally.  But, that's a long shot, I admit. 

    As far as the various far right groups and militias go, so far, they've only demonstrated that they're good at LARPing and ganging up on vulnerable individuals.  You've probably seen the iconic image of a herd of well armed and armored thugs confronted by two African American teenage girls, who "would not be moved."  To anyone with any moral, or common sense, they just looked like fools, and the girls were the heroes.  I'm not advocating for a "Battle of Cable Street," but, I think one is inevitable.   Sadly, it would probably just be a rung in the escalation.

    I'm still trying to learn French, just in case.


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