Alan Zendell, October 26, 2020
Eight days to go, and if we didn’t have to worry about legal challenges, voter suppression, and ballot box sabotage, this election would seem open and shut. But this is 2020. In the America we knew before 2015, a president as unpopular as Donald Trump, who had shown such an unprecedented combination of incompetence and disregard for his own people wouldn’t have a chance of re-election.
The past few days showed us contrasts that couldn’t be clearer. First was Thursday night’s debate, during which Joe Biden stuck to his positive message of unity and rebuilding better after the pandemic, while Trump blustered and spouted conspiracy theories. Biden put forth policies in detail rarely seen in presidential debates, while Trump spoke from his own reality in which he has been the best president since Lincoln, promising to deliver an even better four years, with no policy specifics. In other words, nothing new except that Trump didn’t behave like a wild boar.
Then there were the already infamous Sixty Minutes interviews. Trump, angry, belligerent, and whiny, was visibly upset that he couldn’t deflect Leslie Stahl’s determination to ask pointed questions and refute his obvious lies, albeit gently, with a smile. Like a child who never learned how to deal with not getting his way, he abruptly stomped out of his last national television appearance, throwing a silent tantrum. Ms. Stahl would not accept his latest mantra, that we’re turning the corner with the pandemic, pointing out that COVID cases in the United States are rising at the fastest rate since the virus reached our shores.
The correlation between current outbreaks and the locations of Trump’s maskless rallies, combined with the Trump supported motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD is obvious. Stahl re-stated that every time Trump tried to change the subject, and Trump couldn’t deal with it. After he took his marbles and went home, I almost felt sorry for the way Vice President Pence pathetically tried to clean up the mess he left in front of fifty million Americans watching on TV.
By contrast, Norah O’Donnell’s interviews with Biden and Kamala Harris were polite and to the point. Despite Trump’s constant whining about how he only gets tough questions while Biden gets softballs, Ms. O’Donnell pressed Biden on every hot button issue: fracking, the oil industry in general, the price tag for his environmental proposals, tax increases, the Supreme Court, race relations, and how he would go about safely re-opening the country’s economy and school systems. That’s quite a list, but there was no anger, no accusation of foul play, just calm, reasoned responses.
If that wasn’t enough of a contrast, Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows told Jake Tapper on CNN that the Trump administration wasn’t even trying to control the spread of COVID. “It’s a very contagious virus,” he said, as if that were sufficient justification to go on with life as usual, ignoring CDC guidelines, and refusing to require masks or social distancing. I honestly can’t figure Meadows out. He seems like the perfect Trump loyalist, yet this wasn’t the first time he dropped a blockbuster, speaking out in the public media and infuriating the president. Is Meadows just a gaffe machine or does he have an active conscience that makes him tell the truth when American lives are at stake? Today, he was back to being Trump’s choir boy, defending White House Policy after the people closest to Mike Pence all tested positive for the virus.
What struck me most was the final contrast. Trump was running madly through the battleground states, holding rallies in front of a few thousand supporters at each stop. No, they’re not the largest rallies Trump ever had, as he claims. In 2016 he was drawing 20,000 at every stop. Now it’s more like a tenth of that. But two thousand unmasked supporters in tight spaces cheering his hate-filled rhetoric and unfounded attacks on both his current (Biden) and previous (Clinton) opponents must sound equally sweet to his loved-starved ears. It’s too bad the microparticles of COVID flying from mouth to mouth in the crowd don’t have a sound track he can hear. Would it matter if they did?
And while Trump stood by knowingly watching his supporters risk their lives and those of everyone they would later come in contact with, the video dropped by filmmaker Arun Chaudry of Joe Biden attending the memorial for the Parkland, FL school shooting was watched by millions of Americans. I’ve watched it ten times. The compassion and love that flows from Biden to young Corey Hixon, who took him by surprise with an emotional bearhug, makes my eyes water each time.
You can’t fake that stuff. It’s why Trump won’t stand a chance against Biden if there’s no foul play next Tuesday.