President Donald Trump seems to be running so utterly against himself now that it’s almost unnecessary for Joe Biden to do much, which partly explains his many (helpful) months in his bunker.
It’s not as though Americans need to get to know Biden, who has been in public office since he had baby teeth. Nor, for that matter, do we need any more exposure to Trump. Still, the upcoming debates (scheduled for Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22) may reveal qualities or defects that only face-to-face combat can expose. Then again, voting starts in some states next week and those showdowns are nearly a month away.
Both Trump and Biden have lately offered glimpses into their pregame psyches during (for Trump) an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, and (for Biden) a short speech about the police killings and subsequent destruction of private property in some cities. While Biden said all the right things at the right time, Trump said all the wrong things, as is his instinct and custom. Biden has a thick tongue most days, but Trump’s is made of tin.
The president undoubtedly expected to play softball with Ingraham, who has been a quasi-adviser to the White House for the past few years, among other things brokering the appointment of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, whom Ingraham describes as her spiritual mentor and godfather. Trump and Ingraham are close, in other words.
But Ingraham is no one’s best friend when the camera rolls. She pushed back when Trump began speaking in white code about bad people who live in the shadows and pull Biden’s strings.
Ingraham: “What does that mean? That sounds like conspiracy theory, dark shadows. What is that?”
Trump: “People that you haven’t heard of. They’re people that are on the streets. They’re people that are controlling the streets. We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that. They are on a plane.”
That made me wonder: What? Who’s on what plane? And black uniforms? Were they ninjas? Art gallery owners? Publishing executives? Sounds like everyday New Yorkers in their native garb.
Things got interesting when the subject turned to female voters, who are now, by and large, so lopsidedly against Trump that he is trying to scare them into voting against Biden. “They talk about the suburban woman,” Trump said, though he did not say who the “they” were who had been talking to him about them. “They want security. They want safety. They have to have safety.” So Trump blamed the protests and the riots on Biden even though, wait for it, Biden isn’t the president and has been living in his basement most of the year.
Biden won’t stop the riots if elected, Trump said, he’s “really weak” and “he’s not controlling anything.”
Who is in control? “People you’ve never heard of,” Trump told Ingraham.
Trump insisted that he has helped suburban women by nixing an Obama-era regulation that required some suburbs to add low-income housing to their housing mix. He was likely referring to mixed-income communities, which social engineers decided a decade ago would benefit all by allowing poor people to expand their job-search networks beyond “the urban core.” The engineers also hoped that exposing people who are less privileged to those who are more privileged would lead to higher levels of accountability to established norms and rules, followed by increased order and safety.
Anyway, many of the more privileged people apparently weren’t consulted on this idea. Trump, the former developer who likes gold interiors whenever he can get them, rolled back the engineers’ plans. “If Biden gets in,” he added, “ ... the stock markets will crash. As sure as you’re sitting there, your 401(k)s will go down.”
Trump even likened the problem of disproportionate police violence against Black and Brown citizens to — and I’d like to give everyone a moment to sit down here — getting the yips in golf. Trump said that cops sometimes “choke — shooting the guy in the back many times,” likening it to a good golfer choking and missing a 3-foot putt. Simple as that.
Where the incumbent president can’t get through a relatively friendly interview without dropping ridiculous, racist, conspiracy bombs or adding fuel to the flames of racial unrest, Biden can afford to tickle his own funny bone and muse to his audience: “Hey, do I look like a radical socialist who has a soft spot for riots? Really?”
Actually, ol’ Joe from Scranton looks more like a socialite, who ought to be yachting somewhere off Newport, sipping a Monte Carlo and keeping an eye out for the reigning starlet of his day, Ann-Margret.
I suppose it could be amusing were Trump to say, “Come on, do I look like a racist authoritarian with a soft spot for fascists?”
Why, come to think of it, Mr. President, yes you do.