Four takeaways from the second presidential debate

I’m awfully glad there won’t be any more debates this year. If nothing else, they’re exhausting to watch. Four takeaways from the one tonight:

  1. DT showed self-control.
    Although he may be an emotionally immature narcissist with sociopathic tendencies, the president demonstrated tonight that some degree of self-control isn’t completely beyond him. He was belligerent and rude and several times insisted on talking over the moderator, but he knew that with his microphone muted he’d look supremely foolish for trying to interrupt Joe Biden during the former vice president’s initial answers. So he didn’t. In a way, this makes him look even worse because if he is capable of controlling himself, it means he chose not to do so at the earlier debate. In other words, he was intentionally making an asshat of himself before.
  2. DT has no shame.
    Okay, so everybody knew that already, but calling himself the “least racist person in the room” reinforced the fact that he doesn’t hesitate to make any claim about his own character or abilities, no matter how demonstrably false or patently offensive, if he thinks it will suit his purposes. He looks in the mirror and sees perfection. Yet behind that…façade, shall we say, is a deeply ignorant, narrow-minded man of extraordinary privilege who wouldn’t know racism if it stared him in the face. Which it does—when he looks in the mirror and when he meets with the various white supremacists with whom he associates.
  3. DT is really, really dense.
    Comparing one’s record to that of Abraham Lincoln is a risky thing for any president to do. Though not beyond criticism by a long shot, our 16th president was probably the best one we’ve had, to date. By all accounts, he was bright, compassionate, and humble—three adjectives one would be hard-pressed to apply to our 45th president unless one were making some kind of sick joke. It was interesting what happened when Joe Biden jokingly referred to his opponent as Lincoln. Anyone else with a modicum of mental sharpness would have laughed or at least smiled, maybe cracked a joke in return. Instead, DT expressed surprise, indicating he thought Joe had misunderstood him, and took pains to explain that he hadn’t called himself Lincoln. It was a missed opportunity for DT to come across as a little more human, and he blew it.
  4. Joe has the power.
    Speaking of bright, compassionate, and humble, Joe Biden gives every appearance of sharing those attributes of Lincoln’s. Like Lincoln, he will (God willing) to take over the reins during an especially dark and trying time in American history. (We’ll hope there won’t be any sort of civil war again.) Having watched his performance now in a whole lot of debates, including those during the primaries, I am confident that he has what it takes to return the nation to a normal state. I also believe he is willing to take bold action on the interrelated issues of pandemic, climate crisis, and jobs. In doing so, he could well end up being the most transformative president since FDR. Transformation for the better, I mean.

Sick, spaced out, or just shameless?

21. He’s been getting weirder

Since contracting the coronavirus, DT has shifted his grandstanding into overdrive. Not content to kick back and focus on recovery, while basking in the bipartisan well wishes that only an ill president can amass, he has made a spectacle of himself both outside the hospital and back at the White House, endangering many other people in the process. Now he’s on the campaign trail again, putting countless others at risk.

He claims to be cured. Possibly he is, but there is no way he can know for sure; many Covid-19 patients relapse after seeming to recover, and others develop symptoms that linger. These symptoms frequently include what has come to be known as “brain fog,” a neuropsychiatric malady featuring difficulty concentrating and deficits in memory and cognition. This brain fog can last for months. Actually, it’s too early to know if it will ever go away completely. If he winds up showing signs of such a problem, will he be prepared to step aside? It seems unlikely. Will his Cabinet members be prepared to declare him unfit for office? That seems unlikely, too. For 45 months, amid a dizzying array of bad policy decisions, he has managed to refrain from launching a nuclear strike. If he decides to do something impulsive in that regard one day while suffering from brain fog, will anyone be able to stop him? He’s got three months to go in this term. We can cross our fingers for three months. Add another four years? No one can cross their fingers for that long.

While actively under treatment for the virus, he received several medications including a powerful steroid that is known to cause mania and delusional thinking. The potential side effects from such a drug could well explain the grandstanding that even by his standards has been over the top. Suppose he has a relapse and needs more of this drug? Again, we’re talking about someone with access to the nuclear codes. He also has a vast military and federal police officers at his disposal. If he wants to do something so vile that even his fellow Republicans wouldn’t approve of it, would they stand in his way? The nation has the right not to be pondering such questions for the next four years.

It hardly needs to be said that his thinking was already noticeably disordered and his behavior often borderline manic before he caught the coronavirus or took any drugs for it. It may be that he has been making a particular spectacle of himself lately simply because he is moved to do so, either from some hidden inner need or from a belief that doing so will gain him votes. News flash: the chances are vanishingly small that he will become calm and measured and sensible when he no longer has to worry about votes. He is someone who is accustomed to being the center of attention. His proclivity for outrageousness has served him well, and he will not abandon it after the election. If he gets another four years in the brightest spotlight on the planet, he is likely to up the ante. Never mind nuclear missiles and troops; we’re talking about somebody who can spark utter havoc with one tweet, and he’s got a large collection of delusional followers, many of them angry and well armed.

So what’s the deal—is DT sick, spaced out, or merely shameless? Perhaps he is all of the above. In the end, it does’t matter. Whatever the problem is, we cannot risk its manifesting itself until January 2025.

Immunity

In addition to claiming to be cured, DT also claims to be immune. This is bullshit. While the jury is still out on the frequency of contracting Covid-19 multiple times, enough patients have been reinfected to date that we know it is possible. Sometimes the second infection is much worse than the first. Anyone undecided voter who dislikes the idea of President Pence would do well to keep that in mind.

Speaking of becoming immune…as much as I’d like to see DT prosecuted when he leaves office this winter, I’d happily see him granted total immunity—even including civil cases—if he’d just resign, retire, and withdraw from public life entirely. His presence has a toxic effect on the nation, and what we need foremost is to heal.