Lord of the Fly

It says something about last night’s debate that today there is more discussion of the fly on Mike Pence’s head than about whatever it was they discussed.

Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com

I confess I wasn’t totally knocked out by Harris’s performance, but she won (IMO) mostly because Pence — who lied his ass off — assumed he was entitled to talk over the women, Harris and moderator Susan Page. And because hardly anything about the debate was memorable except for the fly.

Right-wing media today are hooting that Pence “destroyed” Harris. Everybody else says Harris did what she needed to do. It was a debate that won’t move any needles; if you support Trump you still support Trump; if you support Biden you still support Biden. But since Trump is way behind right now, Pence’s efforts on his behalf were a waste of time.

And I don’t believe Republican men grasp how bad it makes them look when they disrespect women by talking over them. Maybe someday they’ll figure it out.

The big news this morning is that the mostly worthless debate commission declared the next debate will be virtual, and Trump promptly declared he wouldn’t do it.

“It’s not acceptable,” Trump said on Fox Business in his first interview since he announced one week ago on Twitter that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I’m not gonna waste my time in a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about — you sit behind the computer and do a debate, ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want,” Trump said.

Trump assumes a “debate” is something like a WWF cage match and all about physical dominance. If he can’t be allowed to talk nonstop for 90 minutes,  he’s not interested.

Biden, of course, accepted immediately and suggested Trump would change his mind.

“We don’t know what the president is going to do. He changes his mind every second, so for me to comment on that now would be irresponsible,” Biden said. “I’m going to follow the commission’s recommendations. If he goes off and he has a rally, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Yes, children, the Disgusting Orange Blob wants to resume in-person rallies because, according to him, he’s not contagious any more. And yesterday his Twitter account was full of ALL CAPS SCREAMING like this:

And did I mention that Trump’s declared his covid infection a gift from God? They’d better yank him off that steroid before he climbs on the White House roof and tries to fly.

And for that matter, Mike Pence shouldn’t have been in Utah last night. He should be in Washington, quarantined. Nancy Pelosi is talking 25th Amendment. About time.

I should mention a lot of people noted that Pence lacked energy last night. I couldn’t tell; Pence never struck me as Mr. Dynamo. He seemed fairly standard Pence to me. There was also talk that one of his eyes appeared red, which I couldn’t see on the screen I was watching. Note that conjunctivitis sometimes turns up in covid patients. Pence really ought to be quarantined.

David Frum:

We saw a vice president with a pale face, his mouth cankered by a cold sore, his eyes pink. He looked unwell, which evoked the pandemic that has gripped America—a pandemic through which the Trump White House has modeled the most irresponsible and unsafe behavior. That irresponsible and unsafe behavior has sickened the president and the first lady, forced the Joint Chiefs of Staff into quarantine, and spread infection though the West Wing. This White House is notorious for non-transparency and untruthfulness. The president evaded a COVID-19 test before the September 29 debate in Cleveland—a date by which he very probably knew he was infected and infectious. Everybody watching tonight’s debate had to wonder: What’s going on with the vice president? At one point, Pence was at least the titular head of the White House COVID-19 response. He defied safety protocols too. He notably refused to wear a mask on a visit to the Mayo Clinic in April, despite the hospital’s clear rule that he must.

We saw a vice president who had internalized the Trump White House’s culture of disrespect, and especially disrespect to women. He talked over Kamala Harris and the moderator, Susan Page; he ignored the rules of the debate to which he agreed. At the core of the Trump political project is the reassertion of dominance over the historically dominated by the historically dominant. That reassertion of dominance was Pence’s supreme project at this debate too. Pence did not imitate his boss’s manic and undisciplined—and ultimately catastrophically unsuccessful—style of dominance. Instead, he brought to this debate the more measured and controlled disdain of a man who had considered the matter carefully—and decided that the woman in front of him had no right to control him and that the woman to his right did not deserve to be onstage with him. With the sound on, you heard Page trying and failing to summon Pence to order with a repeated, “Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President.” With the sound off, you saw Harris—a vice-presidential nominee, a U.S. senator, a former attorney general of the largest state in the nation—obliged to smile and smile in an effort to assert herself without seeming … well, you know, without seeming something that might offend somebody. Pence never worried about offending anybody. And he did not feel the need to smile when asserting himself.

Pretty much sums it up. See also James Fallows, Where Harris Succeeded and Pence Failed.

And now the debate has moved off the headlines, because six right-wing yahoos have been arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The court filing also alleges the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer’s vacation home and discussed kidnapping her to a remote location in Wisconsin to stand “trial” for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”

Here’s the court filing, if you’re interested.