The Phony Campaign

2020-08-09 Update

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The implied subtitle on our Amazon Product du Jour: "Or, On Second Thought, Probably Not".

Hey, The Trump/Biden probability gap narrowed by 3.0 percentage points over the week! Good news for Trump, unless… well, maybe make that until … he says something to remind people that he's a narcisstic boor.

Trump also shed a lot more phony hits than did Biden over the week, but still has a three-to-one advantage there:

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 38.8% +1.5% 1,560,000 -1,080,000
Joe Biden 57.8% -1.5% 505,000 -184,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, the editorialists wonder: Will Joe Biden Duck the Debates?. ("He'd have to be crazy not to!" "Yeah, so … you're saying he won't?")

    Televised presidential debates have been forcing future leaders of the free world to sweat since Richard Nixon in 1960. Six times President Obama went mano a mano with Republican opponents in 2008 and 2012. But Joe Biden is leading President Trump in the polls and has been known to fumble his words, so now TV debates are apparently passé.

    The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three of them for Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, beginning Sept. 29. But it’s becoming a theme in certain quarters—namely, the New York Times —that Mr. Biden should skip out, or that the face-offs should be canceled. The latest entry is an op-ed by the liberal journalist Elizabeth Drew, who was a panelist during a 1976 debate. “The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership,” she writes, because points are awarded for “snappy comebacks and one-liners.”

    She isn't wrong about that. Still, 2020 is a mighty convenient time to notice it's a problem. Biden't snappy comebacks seem to be limited to … well, you know what.

  • The esteemed Dune fan Jack Butler writes at the NR Corner: On Presidential Debates.

    Jim Geraghty is right to question the sincerity of the chorus of left-leaning voices suddenly advocating or rationalizing the cancellation of this fall’s presidential debates. Some of the arguments he cites depend, whether explicitly or implicitly, on the contention that the format of a televised presidential debate will somehow significantly advantage Donald Trump over Joe Biden. Others exude a general cynicism about the enterprise — a cynicism whose timing seems rather convenient.

    [Didn't I just say that myself?]

    My own cynicism, however, predates this moment, and will obtain regardless of whether these debates are held and which candidate benefits the most from them. There is something somewhat ridiculous to me to the assumption on which presidential debates in their modern incarnation, both in primaries and in the general election, depend: namely, that how a given individual performs on television for an extended period of time is in some way a meaningful and revelatory test of presidential fitness. In his anti-television tirade Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, media critic Neil Postman gets at the core of the absurdity:

    The point is that television does not reveal who the best man is. In fact, television makes impossible the determination of who is better than whom, if we mean by “better” such things as more capable in negotiation, more imaginative in executive skill, more knowledgeable about international affairs, more understanding of economic systems, and so on. The reason has, almost entirely, to do with “image.” But not because politicians are preoccupied with presenting themselves in the best possible light. After all, who isn’t? It is a rare and deeply disturbed person who does not wish to project a favorable image. But television gives image a bad name. For on television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of himself, as offer himself as an image of the audience.

    The modern presidential debate is mostly a test of how well a candidate can perform in the environment it presents. This seems like a tautology, but if it is, it is an important one. A nation with short attention spans, served by a media enamored of soundbites and isolated moments of high drama, cannot help but to create a stage in which the performers are just that — performers. To the extent that there is utility in certain aspects of what the presidential debate has become —giving opposing candidates an opportunity to interact with one another directly and almost unfiltered, allowing an assessment of records and performance, and, perhaps uniquely in this election, testing a possible president’s stamina — it is mostly incidental. Perhaps even accidental.

    I remain committed to my alternate duel: a battery of tests, double-blind administered, on civics, current events, basic math and science, and general intelligence. Perhaps an essay question or two.

  • There's been a lot of speculation about Biden from Trump fans, but anyone who's had the nerve to actually listen to Orange Man lately has noticed what Ann Althouse noticed: Trump speaks as if he's lost the ability to think and is just reading from a note card. She quotes from a transcript:

    Joe Biden’s policies put China first and America last, and that’s what he’ll continue to do, if he ever got this shot. And you will have a disruption in the market, the likes of which our country has never seen. You will have a crash in the markets, because he’s going double and triple your taxes. He’s going to do things that nobody ever would ever think even possible. Because he’s following the radical left agenda. Take away your guns. Destroy your second amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.

    C'mon man.

  • I'm catching up with the Mercatus Center Bridge, but Charles Lipson's article about both candidates' Unforced Errors is timeless.

    In Biden’s case, the fumble came when he promised to “transform” America. “We’re going to beat Donald Trump,” he tweeted on July 5. “And when we do, we won’t just rebuild this nation—we’ll transform it.” Now he will be forced to say what that means.

    Whatever he says will hurt him, first, because his proposals will break the bank and require a bigger federal government; second, because they require him to explain himself in detail, which is not exactly his strong suit. Making a major policy speech or answering tough questions is often a bridge too far, and he has made every effort to avoid crossing it.

    Those problems are serious, but there is an even bigger issue with his statement. Biden’s transformational promise undercuts his most appealing message: that Trump has taken America off the rails and that he, Biden, will restore the country to normalcy. After the tumultuous Trump years, Biden’s best argument is to say, “I will return the nation to the calm, steady progress that characterized the Obama-Biden administration and led America forward. I worked hand-in-hand with President Obama, so I know how to do that.”

    I have an even simpler strategy. Biden should just say "I'm not Trump." Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  • As I type, Wheezy Joe has not announced his Veep pick. But one of the candidates, Karen Bass, took to a Sunday show to say: I Know 'an Awful More Now' About Castro's Brutality.

    California representative and potential vice presidential pick Karen Bass (D.) said Sunday that she "absolutely" should not have made a statement mourning the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 2016 because she knows "an awful lot more now" about Castro's brutality.

    "I absolutely would have not put that statement out and I will tell you that after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida, raised those concerns with me, lesson learned, would not do that again for sure," Bass said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

    Gosh. In how many ways does this make KongressKritter Karen look bad?

    1. Was she really that ignorant about the brutality of the 60-year Cuban dictatorship until some Florida colleagues clued her in?
    2. She seems awfully apologetic about what she said. Shouldn't she be even more apologetic about what (the hell) she was thinking?
    3. Did her statement really reflect her ignorance, or was it more about her underlying leftist values?

    You might excuse Bass's response if she'd been specifically asked whether she regretted saying what she did. But the Fox News transcript shows Chris Wallace's question:

    WALLACE: You put out that message about Cuba -- about Castro's death six years -- or four years ago in 2016. Shouldn't you have known by then that Castro's death was not a great loss to the Cuban people?

    BASS: I absolutely would have not put that statement out and I will tell you that after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida, raised those concerns with me, lesson learned, would not do that again for sure.

    Not responsive to the question, Karen.

  • Ann Althouse further noted an oddity about KongressKritter Karen's Komments on Meet the Press (theoretically a friendler venue):

    The Cubans also have two medicines, one for diabetes, of which my mother died for, lung cancer, which my father died for, and I would like to have those drugs tested in the United States.

    Ann notes that saying her parents died for their respective ailments is a marker: "that's the kind of thing that gets out when you're thinking something different from what you are saying." True!

    I also note the fantasy that Socialist Cuban Medicine has managed to find cures for diabetes and lung cancer, something which has eluded Evil Capitalist Amerikkka for decades.

  • So Senator Kamala is also in the Veepstakes, and Rich Lowry thinks she'd be a perfect choice. Because: Kamala Harris typifies the Democrats’ love for dictatorial control.

    Last year, Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do.

    When Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she scoffed and deployed one of her canned one-liners: “I would just say, ‘Hey, Joe, instead of saying, ‘No, we can’t,’ let’s say, ‘yes we can!’  ”

    Yes, we can — flippantly blow by the constitutional requirement that new laws be passed by Congress.

    But guess what folks? Pretty much the last person who can make that debating point against Kamala is President Donald Trump.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 5:01 AM EDT