Having had a night to sleep on it – and sleep very soundly – I’m much closer to what I said was the downside possibility for the President: not just a missed opportunity but a self-immolation. This was truly the worst of Trump: racist, belligerent, angry, unstable. I’ll give the man his due. Trump can be if not funny then jocular, entertaining in a predatory, roguish way. Last night had none of that. It was pure id and an id under threat.
Beyond all the individual offenses one of the underrated sub-themes of anti-Trumpism is exhaustion. One of the deepest traumas of living in the home of an abuser stems not from the outbursts of physical violence, verbal abuse or manipulation but the accumulated stress of ambient tension, uncertainty, the reflexive, unshakeable hyper-vigilance. It is exhausting in a profound way. Trump is exhausting – I suspect even for some who share his dark values. This was 90 minutes jam-packed with everything that makes Trump exhausting. Living with an abuser means being trapped in close quarters with the abuse, being unable to run. In a month voters get the chance to walk away.
I worried what this momentous night would bring. In the event I think it was somewhere between bad and disastrous for President Trump.
The most important fact about this debate is that going into it President Trump was clearly behind. He needed to shift the dynamic of the race, force some major error, introduce some new factor. That didn’t happen. I saw nothing tonight that seems at all likely to improve things for President Trump. Nothing.
Biden did fine. Not great. But fine. I’d say he had a B performance with some B+ or even A- minus moments. But for him that’s fine. He’s ahead. He’s not running as best debater. He’s not running as most dynamic figure. He’s not competing for most unstable affect. He’s running as the guy who will end the nightmare. If that’s the goal he turned in just the right performance.
We’re recording a quick podcast of reactions. I’ll share my thoughts on the debate momentarily.
9:47 PM: One critical thing to remember here is that President Trump is behind. He needs to shift the dynamic. Even at its best for Trump this is not changing any dynamic.
9:32 PM: That part from a few moments with Biden saying can you believe him after all his lies, how he hasn’t leveled with you about how he blew it at the beginning. That was the clearest part of the whole debate.
9:25 PM: I’m seeing a lot of people complaining about Chris Wallace, saying Trump is dominating the debate. That’s not what I’m seeing. Trump is taking up more time. But I don’t think he’s helping himself.
9:05 PM: And here we go … Trump hard mad mugging from the start.
9:03 PM: He’s been decent in debates. But can’t forget that this first off debate is hosted by the top host from Fox News.
Our whole team will be bringing you full coverage of tonight’s debate. And I will too. I confess though I find it a funny thing to cover. Biden is a policy-knowledgable, well-meaning guy who’s been in elected office most of his adult life. Trump is a compulsive liar with little interest in or knowledge about any policy question currently working to delegitimize the election itself.
Both will play to form because neither are capable of doing otherwise.
This means that what we are watching, what we are all collectively evaluating are the possibilities of unpredictable events and the general optics and how those impact the very small number of voters who are not strongly committed to either candidate. It’s almost impossible that any of these ‘events’ will have any substantive bearing on how either man would serve as President.
And yet, as we know they can have a big impact.
Last week we were joined on the podcast by a rising star of the New York Democratic party, incoming Congressman Ritchie Torres. Torres is 32 years old, currently serving on the City Council and recently won a very hard fought primary race for the Democratic nomination in the 15th district, which is in the Bronx. This is one of or perhaps the most Democratic district in the country. So he will certainly be a member of the House next year. We talked about the “FDR moment” incoming Democrats may confront in 2021.
Deposed Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized on a psychiatric hold after barricading himself in his Ft. Lauderdale home and threatening to harm himself with a firearm. According to a local press report, “Fort Lauderdale Police responded to a home in reference to an armed male attempting suicide Sunday afternoon. When officers arrived on the scene, they made contact with the wife of the man who told them her husband was armed, had access to multiple firearms inside the house and was threatening to harm himself.”
I don’t know a lot about Amy Coney Barrett. But I know she’s accepting nomination from a President actively trying to subvert a national election and threatening to hold on to power by force, an attack on the constitution unparalleled in American history. Do I need to know more?
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 27, 2020
President Trump has now, unsurprisingly, chosen to nominate the far right Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. The only sensible approach is for Senate Democrats neither to meet with Barrett nor participate in the confirmation process. Even to do so in a critical posture is to add legitimacy to a process that is illegitimate.
As bad as she may be as a judge or for the future of equal justice in the United States she can never be as bad as the corruption of the process itself. It is that corruption – the court-packing scheme Republicans pushed into overdrive starting in early 2016 – that justifies, indeed requires Democrats to add seats to the Court in 2021. Distracting from that reality with a gauzy-lensed look at Barrett’s personal story and judicial merits is madness. Pure madness.
Since we live in a period of misdirection and high volume propaganda it is important to restate the things we may sort of know but which are pushed to the edges of our awareness. High, high on that list is this: virtually every argument President Trump has used to stymie lawsuits, congressional probes and criminal investigations is tied to his being the **current** President of the United States. As Josh Kovensky reports here, he’s sticking to these maximal claims of immunity even after being rejected on this front by his packed Supreme Court.