Sunday, June 30, 2024

Sturm und drang, presidential debate edition.

inueng | Deposit Photos

Let's just start off with the obvious, shall we? The debate Thursday night between President Joe Biden and former president and convicted felon Donald Trump was, for anyone with a grain of sensitivity, painful to watch. Biden was off his game, for whatever reason (I've seen several theories, ranging from "he's 81 and tired" to "he has a cold" to "maybe the Trump team slipped him a mickey" -- yes, I really did see that one, although not in exactly those words). Biden dropped the rhetorical ball a couple of times. His "I can't believe the bullshit coming out of this guy's mouth" expression -- I assume that's what he was going for -- came off as slack-jawed, but not in a good way. 

About an hour after it was over, when I finally shook off my shock and disbelief, all I could say to myself was: "That was bad."

Indeed, the performance handed all the pundits who have never liked Biden the ammunition they've been looking for. He's lost it, they said, some muttering amongst themselves and some aloud; he should step aside and let somebody else run, they said. The New York Times editorial board agreed, and went so far as to publish it.* 

Never mind how something like that would throw the electoral process into chaos. What about all the voters who have already cast their primary ballots for Biden? Wouldn't that disenfranchise us?

And never mind how things turned out when President Lyndon Johnson pulled out of his primary race for a second term in 1968. Chaos ensued. The Democratic Party ended up nominating Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey -- who lost to Richard Nixon.

Historian Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted the winner of nine out of the past ten presidential elections.** He has no time for the pundits who want to kick Biden to the curb right now; debates don't matter, he told CNN. Lichtman has developed 13 keys to determine which candidate will win, and even after Thursday's debate, his system is still leaning toward a Biden win in the fall.

Another historian, Heather Cox Richardson, who blogs at Substack, has pointed out that Trump used a technique called a Gish gallop during the debate: "It's a rhetorical technique in which someone throws out a fast string of lies, non-sequiturs, and specious arguments, so many that it is impossible to fact-check or rebut them in the amount of time it took to say them. Trying to figure out how to respond makes the opponent look confused, because they don't know where to start grappling with the flood that has just hit them. It is a form of gaslighting, and it is especially effective on someone with a stutter, as Biden has."

The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer saw through Trump's bullshit. In an editorial this weekend, the board said it was Trump who should drop out of the race. The editorial recapped Trump's greatest hits, among them his 31 felony convictions and three additional felony trials to come, and his bombastic rhetoric about how awful everything in America is: "Throughout the debate, Trump repeatedly said we are a 'failing' country. He called the United States a 'third world nation.' He said, 'we're living in hell' and 'very close to World War III.'

"'People are dying all over the place,' Trump said, later adding 'we're literally an uncivilized country now.'" Trump, the editorial goes on to note, told 30 lies during the 90-minute debate. There's more -- read it yourself at the link -- but it wraps up with, "There was only one person at the debate who does not deserve to be running for president. The sooner Trump exits the stage, the better off the country will be."

I could not agree more. 


*That editorial was the last straw for me. I've finally canceled my NYT subscription.

**The only election out of the past ten that Lichtman's system didn't get right is Bush vs. Gore in 2000. He said Gore would win. Given that the Supreme Court had to decide the winner, I think we can give him a pass on that one.


These moments of decisive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get out and vote!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Lynn!