By Michael Winship
Years ago, when I was a high school sophomore, at the beginning of the academic year one of our teachers gave us an assignment to come up with ideas to reform the American political system.
Dutiful wonk that I was even then, I came up with my list of serious, thoughtful changes not all that different from a lot of what we’re still debating today—abolishing the Electoral College, an end to gerrymandering, making voter registration automatic, etc.
A friend and classmate, more sharp-witted than I, chose the satirical route instead, and to the horror of our teacher came up with a spot-on takedown of modern government, a parody of contemporary politics.
As I recall, her report ended with the presidential election being determined by a mud wrestling match in Madison Square Garden. It made more sense and possessed more dignity and class than the horror show that unfurled before the world Tuesday night in what laughingly was billed as the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Just minutes in, Trump turned it into a travesty; bellowing, repeatedly interrupting and talking out of turn, lying, pigheadedly violating the agreements carefully worked out by the official Commission on Presidential Debates and both campaign staffs for a proper discussion of policy. At a time when we’re desperate for rational solutions, Trump was the proverbial bull in the china shop of democracy, and when he was done there was barely a piece of porcelain left intact. He acted as if this was one of his rallies, God help us, playing to our lowest animal instincts and insulting our intelligence.
Throughout his life and so-called career, Trump has always insisted that rules are for suckers and don’t apply to him—he can shoot a person on Fifth Avenue, grab a woman by her genitals, refuse to pay his millions of debt—and last night was no exception. By all accounts, what happened Tuesday is what he planned all along. Maybe it satisfied his bloodthirsty, delusional base, stewing in a toxic soup of Fox News and QAnon conspiracies, but for most of us it was one more manifestation of the tragedy imposed on the nation—and the world—by a megalomaniac with nary a scruple or a scintilla of human kindness.
Behind in the polls, perhaps it was an act of desperation on his part, as some have suggested, a ploy to make Biden seem weak. If so, it backfired miserably and was just a further demonstration of why he is the worst president in the history of the United States—and we’ve had some beauts. Unfit for office, corrupt, delusional: a real triple threat. He must not receive a second term.
As many have noted, the lowest moment—the Badwater Basin at the bottom of a Death Valley-like rhetorical debacle—was Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy and issuing what essentially was a call-to-arms to the Proud Boys, the right-wing racist thugs who are welcomed by many Republicans, and who frequently show up at peaceful protests to taunt, incite and bust some heads. Trump’s people deny it’s what he meant but the fringe group already has made his “Stand Back and Stand By” a new battle cry.
Further, when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would “urge your supporters to stay calm during this extended period [of ballot-counting], not to engage in any civil unrest,” Trump refused and said, “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it.” With that kind of encouragement, harassment on Election Day could make the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot look like a tea dance. Advice: Don’t watch that movie The Purge or any of its sequels between now and the resolution of this election; it’s a little too close to the bone right now.
Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump writes, “What Trump is obviously encouraging is to poll watching what armed militias are to police: self-appointed experts whose priority is less keeping order than confronting perceived enemies. It wasn’t the first time that Trump had similarly called on his supporters to serve in that capacity, but it was probably the call that had the largest audience.” Very scary stuff.
In the end, few, if any, minds were changed Tuesday night: as Republican analyst Mike Murphy succinctly said post-debate on MSNBC, “Men are split on Trump and women hate him.” Those against him may have been galvanized by the president’s rants to work even harder to get out the vote, an excellent thing, but others may have been so turned off by this Hindenburg explosion of an evening that they won’t cast a ballot at all. What does this one-man riot tell them about our political system? And as for the next Biden-Trump debates, who’s going to want to watch? I live in Manhattan; if I want that kind of twisted human turbulence, I can walk around my block a couple of times and get it out of my system.
For me, perhaps one of the defining moments came when Trump had launched into another incoherent harangue about Biden’s son Hunter and then falsely claimed that his own children had “lost a fortune… by coming down and helping us with governance.” Biden replied—addressing the camera in the way that was his safe haven several times during this melee—“This is not about my family or his family. It’s about your family, the American people… You, the American people, it’s about you. That’s what we’re talking about here.”
Would that it was so. Right now at least, our American family is dysfunctional, led by a power mad liar. And almost half our relations have lost their ever-loving collective minds.
Bring on my high school pal’s mud wrestling idea; it’s nowhere near as filthy or frightening as this national meltdown.
Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship
Where were you when Biden lied last night during the debate and refused to answer questions that are relevant to the Constitution and our rights? That’s an insult.
David S. says
All I have to say about this debate is Trump is one useless human being period……
Rick G says
Well thought out and intelligent analysis about last night’s crap show. 45 is a bully and that is all he knows how to do.
Maria Torres says
Beautifully written… Trump is a bully!
paul parker says
Pure and simple BullSh*t. Douche bag reporting once again!
Should we feel sorry for Jared and Ivanka as they report $36 Million in Income in 2019? Somebody give them an application of Food Stamps.
Deborah Coffey says
We used to live near Maro Lago over 40 years ago. Trump was always in the papers…not paying his workers, whoring around with young beauties on his arm (while he was married). He was never much of a decent human being…never had any character, all talk, all con, nothing behind the words. Watching last night was so painful. The country would never survive 4 more years of his corruption and lies.
CB from PC says
Trump only bought Mar a Lago in 1985. So based on your time recollection, the person who owned it “over 40 years ago” is not Trump.
Based on that time frame, plenty of successful rich guys were “whoring around with young beauties”.
Bill Clinton is the King of that bunch. Unfortunately, he also thinks he still is. Oh wait, can’t ask Jeffrey Epstein about it.
Jeffrey epstein was trump’s friend too
Sad Times says
I have never been interested in any of my friends’ political leanings ….over more than 50 years of my adult life.
However, after the debacle of the first presidential debate…I have reluctantly, but definitely…changed my mind. I no longer trust any Republican who believes that Trump is good for our country. If you back him up…I will know that you care about no one …but yourself. You have no empathy or compassion for your fellow man/woman. You believe that violence is the answer to solving a problem.
Your morals and ethics are nonexistent. You are glad that Russia interferes with our elections. You believe Trump should take over the USA as its permanent dictator. You are willing to let the country and the planet to continue to revel in climate change. You don’t care how many people die from the COVID-19. You don’t believe in science….although I don’t know how you trust flying in an airplane!
I’m so sorry for your inability to be a humane human being. I shall warn you, though….Trump ONLY cares about himself. He looks down on the 99% of our country….thinking and saying that we are losers.
Mind yourself says
Spot on. What, do you think trump is expecting his followers to be “watching for” at the polls? Perhaps there will be human beings there exercising their constitutional right to vote? Maybe said humans standing in a line? Waiting patiently for their turn like normal people? What exactly is trump Urging his cult to do? If anyone even says one out of the way word to me or even looks funny or intimidating at me or anyone else, I’ll report it instantly. I’m crazy as hell so, watch Yourself. Not anyone else.
And this surprises you ? Where have you been the last 4 (actually more) years?
Dennis C Rathsam says
When someone lies on national tv, U must stand up for yourself. OBIDEN, attacked Trump & the gloves were off. Obiden, is a socialist, read the democrat plateform.He is in bed with the people that want to destroy the USA! What have the democrats done in 4 years? NOTHING!!!!! They are so obsest with bringing down Trump, they let rioters ruin democrat cities. Burning, looting, robbing& murder! Is this your America? Is this what U were taught in school? Democrats have NO respect, for our founders. If U put OBIDEN in the white house… Its like crap in the toilet, AOC, Omar, Pelosi& Schumer, will pull the handle and flush are great country into communism!
Bill C says
What have the democrats done? When “OBIDEN” took office the stock market (Dow) was at 8,000. When “OBIDEN” left office the Dow was at 20,000, (+ 12,000 points gained). So far, under Trump the Dow is 27,500 (+7,500 points gained). So, under “OBIDEN” the Dow gained 150% vs. 35% for Trump. So the idea that Trump did better than “OBIDEN” on the economy is false- just like Trump’s claim to be a great businessman- let’s see his taxes! Trump and his white supremacist backers are the cause of the civil unrest. Now Trump is even threatening our democracy itself by refusing to accept the results of the election if he doesn’t win, threatening violence in the form of heavily armed gangs of domestic terrorists to keep himself in power. That is dictatorship. Is that what U were taught in school? When you look around you today, remember, you are looking at Trump’s America- over run with disease, violence, division and economic disaster.
Stephen Ward says
WELL IMO DrumPutin is nothing more than a childish bully who has never not had his way.He hides behind the alleged wealth and position in Society. A spoiled little nancy boy who runs and hides in his bunker and dodges serving his Country. A failed Tycoon Billionair wannabe leveraged to the max.and refuses to hand over his Taxes. A President that refuses to follow the Constitution and requires of his Party to do the same under the false guise of loyalty. A serial womanizer who pays PornStars and molests/fondles women and brags about it on video. A self proclaimed stable genius who wont release his grades. A Bankrupt shallow man so obcessed with not exposing himself to litigation he will do or say anything to be Reelected.Who exposed the American people to an air borne Pandemic virus so the Economy wouldnt tank and ruin his chances. Personnally responsible for a vast majority of 200000 deaths Nationwide.It is what it is. He has NO Plan he wings it. A buffoon who put Profit over lives. A Chritian who cant recite one verse and gasses protesters in a park to engage in a photo OP and holds a Bible upside down. An Elitist, Racist, lying White Supremist plastic fool from his stupid 70000$ hair to his toes. A Conman extrordinaire I will give him that. Further nothing worse in this World than a pathelogical Liar. I could go on but sounds to me like you might need some hearing aids and glasses. Next time I will say how I really feel. The winds of change are a blowin God Bless
Jerome Chitty says
Trump has been flushing this country down the toilet since day one, such as begin ignorant of the Russian bounties on American soldiers, alienating our nation’s allies,
and allowing Covid-19 virus running amok that claim over 215,000 Americans.
I wonder tomorrow if you still a Trumpster when you get infected by Covid-19.
Please check out both stories before you decide who was the bully. Check out Biden’s family prior to deciding whether or not Trump’s is as bad as you would like to print. Many issues that were discussed by Biden were incorrect – where is the justice. Print the whole truth and not your opinion of how things were done and said. I’m very tired of the media printing “opinions” instead of “facts” as a print media is supposed to be fair to both sides. Get yourself a computer and do some fact checking before you print your opinion
Carmel Hairass says
Forget it, this website is “bought and payed for by George Soros by way of Lebanon .
Pierre Tristam says
Mike Cocchiola says
America… we have a problem! Trump displayed for the world to see the crude, incoherent, and chaotic behavior that controls the world’s most lethal military, the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and the world’s largest economy. This uncontrollable and unstoppable raging bull blamed anybody and everybody for his wildly mismanaged response to the most deadly pandemic since the 1918 flu and our stumbling economic recovery, yet bragged about how great he’s performed through it all.
Trump persistently bullied and blustered, interrupted Joe Biden an estimated 128 times, fought continually with the usually unflappable Chris Wallace, openly lied about his accomplishments and his finances, raked up old debunked accusations against his perceived enemies, and as much as commanded the right-wing domestic terrorist group Proud Boys to stand armed and ready to keep him in power. All of Trump’s madness was so tragically displayed before our horrified country and the world at Case Western Reserve University in what has been properly described as a shitshow.
This is the monstrous trainwreck that threatens America with a lifetime of deranged authoritarian rule on November 3. If this nation does not clearly see and overwhelmingly reject this threat, we are lost. Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.
WILLIAM J NELSON says
Our lives probably do depend on it. So now what ? Biden ? Are you kidding me? The hope you have is for Biden to crash and burn and then what? Kamela?? WOW, talk about being in trouble.
Justin Case says
The word incoherent would be better suited to describing Biden. Maybe he couldn’t focus due to the voices in his ear piece? Either way, if my life depends on it, Biden is NOT a solution. 4 years of dems screaming “we must get rid of Trump.” No viable solutions have been offered by the party yet. Remember the riots when Trump was elected? The looting? I bet you do, and I bet you don’t remember hearing about conservatives rioting, and looting in 2008/2012. So, I ask how can you say “Trump bad, liberals good?” Until we eliminate parties, and labels nothing will change. Please don’t call me nasty names just because you don’t agree with my views. It doesn’t make me bad or wrong, just different.
You are right about a few things. As a Democrat, I’m applauded by the party for not doing anything when they have control of the house, its “get Trumpo” that’s it and it cost America money and for what, NOTHING. They knew that starting out that they couldn’t win a vote in the senate. And now we have a puppet running for office. What should be on the BALLOT is TERM LIMITS. GET these career congressional bozos out of office. All we have with any party in the presidential seat, is a lose lose situation and its just keeps going over and over and over.
David S. says
Rathsam what planet were you born on MARS…..
Here is an opposing view for all of you Trump Haters!
Jeff Sica says
The GatewayPundit is fact checked by Q Anon, lol. If they were any farther right, they’d fall off the edge of the flat earth!
The Gateway Pundit is a Far Right “news and opinion site” that has been widely panned for its error ridden “reporting”–including the misidentification of terrorists. Just warning people before they waste their time on such blatantly misleading propaganda.
There is a reason why trump ran as a republican. He had been a long time democrat, but decided to run as a republican. trump knew most democrats would not fall for his con man bull.
So here we are after all the lies, the botched handling of the covid virus, his love for dictators, a racist, a tax cheater, a man with no morals. I could go on and on, and still his supporters are with him. It’s fascinating and disturbing, how a person could be so evil and his supporters are ok with it.
Like I said, there’s a reason why he ran as a republican!!!!!
Justin Case says
So you prefer honest moral democrats? Bill Clinton? Hillary Clinton? Umm, how about no. How about the socialists? Bernie? Maybe AOC is ready to be president? Liberals are the biggest liars of all. They yell about tolerance, but refuse to accept differing opinions. Either agree with us, or get cancelled. That doesn’t seem to be a better idea.
In case you missed it, we Democrats nominated Joe Biden, not Bernie or AOC. On the other hand, the Republicans are staunchly standing by Donald Trump as his Administration and the Republican Party endorse policies and promote propaganda that literally endangers human life during a raging Pandemic. Continuing in that vein certainly doesn’t seem to be “a good idea” to anyone with a sense of self-preservation and civic responsibility.
. International embarrassment. . Go virtual…or eliminate future shame show…
Thanks so much, Mike! Right on, as usual!
Sad Times. . . I feel much the same way. I simply cannot comprehend how any reasonable, thinking human being can continue to support such a despicable, lying bully who does not possess a shread of moral character.
@ Resident. . . please post a link to the “CREDIBLE” information about Vice President Biden’s family that is so horribly egregious that we should all just forgive trump’s horrific, bullying, lying behavior during the debate. Thanks!
Do not be intimidated! Do not let this madness continue! VOTE . . . like your live depends on it. . . . It Does!
CB from PC says
Joe Biden has been a 47 year insult to integrity and honesty in American Politics.
During the debate Joe evaded, lied about his positions and refused to answer questions while he gave that sneering grin.
And Chris Wallace needs to be fired for his biased pandering during the debate.
If slime were a marketable commodity, Joe would not have to use his political influence to enrich himself and the members of his family.
Stephen Ward says
The Debate I saw the present POTUS didnt shut up long enough for anyone to respond or ask a question for that matter
Stephen Ward says
News Flash the DON has practiced extreme Nepotism and disregard for the EMOILLIENTS Clause
Jeff Sica says
If slime were a marketable commodity, president Moron would have already tried to copyright or trademark it. With his name on it, it would only become slimier….and easily mistaken for his brains. If I recall correctly, you could get a BS degree in slime at the revered Trump University.
OMG! LOL! Desperate in trying to dig up dirt! What? FOX is not misleading enough for you?
The Gateway Pundit is an American far-right news and opinion website. The website is known for publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes. The Gateway Pundit expanded from a one-person enterprise into a multi-employee operation that is supported primarily by advertising revenue. Wikipedia
Do move your head and brain to the sunshine and read the “factual” AP News (associated press), or Reuters, or ANY media outlet that is just a little more “credible”. . . that is “if” any of the “cult” cares about facts at all.
Please enlighten us all with actual “credible facts” (not FOX talking points) . . . with links please. . . on why any of you think Vice President Biden would not be a better choice. And, Kamala Harris, what is your problem with her specifically. . . credible FACTS only, please. Or, is it merely becase she is a woman, or black, or both? Are you racist or chauvenistic, or both? Just the “credible” FACTS, please.
Stay safe and healthy. . . wear your mask and social distance please, so we can all lower the danger together.
First of all, I agree it was a shit show, and Trump did nothing to help himself as as far as swinging undecideds his way. He also deflected attention away from some very serious issues in the process. For example, Biden would not deny he, along with a potential Democratic congress will add justices to the Supreme Court to create a super majority of left wing, activist judges who will create laws from the bench that would not otherwise be enacted through the normal legislative process. He will also likely go along with adding Puerto Rico and D.C. as states, giving the Dems an instant majority in the Senate. They claim they are doing this to counter Trump’s push for confirmation of Judge Barrett, which Biden claimed was “unconstitutional.” Really? The president has a four year term, which ends on the inauguration of a new president, which is not even a certainty with an incumbent. Until then, he has the duty and obligation to appoint a new juror. Besides, we all know RBG was clinging to life in the hope of making it to election day and possibly a Democratic president. New flash: she didn’t make it, and in fact should have resigned previously as she was in no condition to conduct her duties. Again, no disrespect, but a dying person’s last wish is no substitute for the Constitution. Another tidbit lost in the back and forth was that Joe Biden DID, in fact violate the law by allowing his son, Hunter, to profit from his father’s position as vice-president. Hunter walked off Air Force 2 with his father, returning from China, with a 1.5 billion dollar deal with the Chinese government in his pocket, worth millions in management fees for Hunter’s firm. The law clearly prohibits children of officials from profiting, or creating the appearance of profiting as a result of another family member’s office. Hunter also made 80,000 a month working for the Ukrainian firm Burisma, WHILE Joe Biden was in charge of U.S. policy in Ukraine. When Burisma was being investigated by the Ukrainian government, Biden threatened to withhold 1.5 billion in aid from Ukraine; Ukraine promptly ended the investigation and Hunter kept is 80,000 a month job. If you ever notice, whenever Joe is asked about this, he always responds, “Hunter did nothing wrong.” Well, that may or not be true, but Joe Biden certainly DID do something wrong: he allowed his son to profit as a direct result of his father’s vice-presidency. Finally, although I could go on all night, I would like to point out the lie in this piece claiming Donald Trump “refused” to condemn racism. Trump has been condemning it for years, as the video below clearly illustrates, and he did it immediately. It is also interesting that Biden was opposed to integrating black students via busing, and Biden opposed it, saying he didn’t want his children to attend school in a “racial jungle.” That’s a fact. He also referred to the late Senator Robert Byrd as his “mentor.” Never mind that Byrd was a former wizard of sorts in the Klu Klux Klan. Nice mentoring there, Joe. It is also a fact that the Democrats in the Senate never had a problem with Byrd’s wizarding history when he was caucusing with them in the Senate; nope, they kept him on right up until he died. So yes, Trump could have pointed all this out during the debate, but it didn’t happen, because, well, you know…..
David S. says
Trump has been a racist his whole life . Do some research……
Gary R says
@David – Joe Biden was an advocate for outsourcing critical U.S. industry to China. Joe Biden’s Draft Record Looks a Lot Like Donald Trump’s. Joe Biden has a racist history. Joe Biden Was Found Guilty of Massive Corruption. Joe Biden lies too. Joe Biden’s first presidential run in 1988 cratered amid multiple instances of plagiarism. All you have to do is google it. Research is over.
He said she said, blah blah bottom line sometime after Nov. 3rd POTUS will have lost it all on his own, maybe his life. I live in the here and now Good luck
Please post links to “CREDIBLE FACTS” regarding claims about Vice President Biden and his family. . . . otherwise your “opinion” has ZERO credibility in itself.
trump reading a statement from a teleprompter in 2017 does not wipe out the FACT that he refused to disavow “White Supremist” groups and violence in a debate in 2020. We all heard him say “The Proud Boys” should “stand down AND stand by”. Just what do you think “stand by” means? The horrific “Proud Boys” have taken it literally, as trump approving of them and supporting them.
The Proud Boys are a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only organization affiliated with white supremacists that promotes and engages in political violence. It is based in the United States and also has a presence in Canada. Wikipedia
Gary R says
@Sherry – I did post the links earlier but FlaglerLive did not post them. In fact FlaglerLive about 6 months ago told me I didn’t need to always post links. But, you are an adult and I’m sure you know how to use google. There are many articles about Joe Biden on the subjects I posted just pick one which you feel is credible.
Are you willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and say they need to stand down and not to add to the violence in these cities as we saw in Kenosha and in Portland?” Wallace asked.
“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump first replied. Chris Wallace asked the same question in 2016 BTW.
Also, Trump denounces ‘all white supremacists’ including Proud Boys and all hate groups. He has said it many times over the years.
You just hate it when it doesn’t fit your narrative.
And is led by Enrique Tarrio, a black man.
TRUMP SUPPORTER’S GLOSSARY
Fillibuster: A specialized nut cracker for Trump’s filberts/hazelnuts only.
(Can be used to torture Mike Pence in certain situations.)
President’s Cabinet: Tremendous wooden storage unit to store fantastic spices.
Oval Office: Office that used to be shaped like a circle.
Authoritarian Regime: A recurrent Trump dream he can describe but not spell.
Balanced Budget: Equal piles of cash under each arm.
Bill: You pay it–not me.
Border Fence: YUGE scrap-metal source.
Caucus: Noisy birds tweeting at dawn.
Clear-and-Present Danger: Anthony Fauci…
Constitution: Where crazy people go.
Corona Virus: Hoax that killed over 200,000 Americans.
Covfefe: Mutterings of a puffy and deranged orange person.
Dictatorship: Where they sell new cars.
Diplomacy: If you graduate from high school.
Emergency Powers: Tremendous steroids.
Executive Branch: A tree limb touching the White House.
Federal Budget: Melania’s shopping cash.
Food Stamps: Postage for mailing Happy Meals.
Fox News: Tragic Comedy Central.
Gag Order: Manufacture of Chinese-made MAGA hats for giggles.
Gross Domestic Product: Donald Trump…
Impeachment: Pitted peaches.
Inflation: Eating McDonald’s and Diet Cokes every single day.
P.O.W.: Trump’s term for “losers.”
Putin: Chief Trump consultant.
Roe v. Wade: Boating term.
Sexual Harassment: Executive Privilege.
Stimulus Package: Viagra.
Supreme Court: Diana Ross and Mary Wells as judges.
Taxes: Multiple tacks.
This is where we are now as a country. . . VOTE!!!!!
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Agents foiled a stunning plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorities said Thursday in announcing charges in an alleged scheme that involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch her from her vacation home.
Six men were charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power,” according to a federal complaint. Separately, seven others were charged in state court under Michigan’s anti-terrorism laws for allegedly targeting police and seeking a “civil war.”
A few hours later, Whitmer pinned some blame on President Donald Trump, noting that he did not condemn white supremacists in last week’s debate with Joe Biden and instead told a far-right group to “stand back and stand by.”
“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said. “When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.”
The six men charged in federal court plotted for months, consulting and training with members of a group that federal authorities described as a militia, and undertaking rehearsals in August and September, according to an FBI affidavit. They were arrested Wednesday night and face up to life in prison if convicted.