President Donald Trump, who spends much of his time in the right-wing fever swamps of Twitter and TV, has come to speak the language — a reality on full display during the last presidential debate of 2020.
But for those of us who don’t live in those worlds, it can be impossible to figure out what he’s talking about.
In the first hour of the debate, Trump tossed out handfuls of buzzwords for various conspiracy theories, Greek to those who left their Fox News decoders at home.
“Joe got $3.5 million dollars from Russia and it came through Putin because he was friendly with the mayor of Moscow, and it was the mayor of Moscow’s wife,” he said.
Biden’s expression sums it up:
That particular accusation seems to be linked to the never-ending quest to nail down some dirt on Hunter Biden. He followed it up with another doozy on his Russian tangent.
“While he was selling pillows and sheets, I sold tank busters to Ukraine,” Trump declared.
Trump has lodged this attack before. The Obama administration did not send lethal aid to Ukraine, but it sent military equipment and more than $100 million in security assistance.
Ironically, Trump is ripping the attack off something his nemesis, the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said in 2015: “The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we’re sending blankets and meals. Blankets don’t do well against Russian tanks.”
Back to the debate, where things made considerably less sense: “There is nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” the aforementioned Trump continued.
“They were so bad,” he opined, “they took over the submarine port.”
Biden, accordingly, looked nonplussed (and I cannot fact check this because I have no idea what it means):
On and on it went. Biden didn’t even try to engage with Trump’s accusations. Instead, the former vice president brought up Trump’s foreign business entanglements.
This president, Biden said, “has a secret bank account in China, does business in China and is in fact talking about me taking money? I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever.”
Trump furthered his attempt to taint the Biden family with corruption later on, in another inscrutable attack.
“Your brother made money in Iraq — millions of dollars, your other brother made a fortune,” Trump said, perhaps referring to a construction contract Biden’s brother got to build houses in Iraq.
In another section — intended to be focused on race-related issues — Trump looped back to Hunter Biden again, including a reference to the fabled “laptop from hell.”
The president was in fact riffing on Rudy Giuliani’s more alliterative “hard drive from hell,” which, Giuliani claims, is the property of Hunter Biden and will become the source of many more information dumps. It’s not clear if the emails released from the hard drive so far are real, foreign disinformation, domestic ratfuckery, or even really what they purport to reveal. The situation is so replete with red flags that only the likes of the New York Post would touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Finally, Biden dismissed the vague, but sinister-sounding accusations.
“There’s a reason he’s bringing up all of this malarkey. There’s a reason for it,” Biden said, looking the camera dead on. “He does not want to talk about the substantive issues. It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family is hurting badly.”