If Donald Trump wanted to expand his support among voters, his fanatical antics at the first presidential debate Tuesday night not only turned undecided independents into Biden support, it also brought more questioning his fitness to remain in office.
Even the steadfast support of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell seemed shaky with a statement that it was “unacceptable not to condemn white supremacists and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has begged for campaign contribution in appearances on news shows, said Trump must “make it clear Proud Boys is a racist organization antithetical to American ideals.”
Republicans not only joined Democrats in condemning Trump’s refusal to cut off any and all support to the violent Proud Boys, they began looking for was to distance themselves from the president was dragging them down with him.
“All he has to say is, ‘There’s no place for racial intolerance in this country,’ and be very forceful about it,” said. Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a longtime GOP lawmaker and a Native American.
Sen. Tom Scott of South Carolina, one of only two Black Republicans in Congress, first wondered if Trump “misspoke,” but then added, “If he doesn’t correct, I guess he didn’t misspeak. ”
Trump’s response: “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
Trump didn’t tell the violent white supremacist group to just “stand down.” He told them to “stand by.” The group accepted that as an endorsement of their racism and violence and quickly added the statement to “stand by” to their logo.
Many considered Trump’s actions “more of the same” from someone who never should have even been considered worthy of the presidency,
“Most Donald Trump utterances resemble turbid creeks that are silty at their sources and trickle away into mud,” says legendary conservative pundit George Will. “He might finish his presidential term without ever speaking a complete sentence — subject, object, predicate. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who characterized Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose movement as one of “strenuous vagueness,” survived Antietam but might have expired straining to decipher Tuesday’s cascade of falsehoods, rudeness and syntactical tangles.”
Will joins a growing list of those who feel the debates should not continue:
The putrescence of America’s public life was pitilessly displayed Tuesday when, for 98 minutes, whatever remains of the nation’s domestic confidence and international stature shriveled like a brittle autumn leaf. The national interest — actually, national security — demands that the other two scheduled mortifications, fraudulently advertised as presidential debates, should be canceled: When a nation makes itself pathetic, the response of enemy nations is not sympathy. And an additional 180 or so minutes of ignorant assertions mitigated only by the inarticulateness of the purveyors of them will swell the electorate’s already abundant crop of cynics, well defined as people prematurely disappointed about the future.
“This should not be allowed to happen again,” says columnist Donna F. Edwards. “The Commission on Presidential Debates’ plan to add “structure” to the debate rules to encourage “more orderly discussion” is not enough. Trump has already broken the rules. Sadly, and predictably, he will break them again.”
Tuesday night we heard from a flailing president who warned us: “This is not going to end well.” Yes, it’s time to worry, but more presidential debates are only going to make the destabilizing chaos worse. We do not need a repeat of giving Trump a prime-time opportunity to enable him to stir a pot that is simmering to a boil. His pot.
“President Trump has been out of control for his entire presidency,” writes columnist Max Boot. “So no one should have been all that surprised that he was out of control on the debate stage Tuesday night. But, even after all these years, the degree of his derangement was still unexpected.
“Trump made no attempt to moderate or modulate his “unpresidented” behavior. He raved and ranted from the beginning of the debate until the end. He showed no respect for time limits, human decency or the truth. The only conclusion one can take away from the debate is that’s terrifying to imagine Trump being in office four more months, much less four more years.”
“Trump’s job was to win over voters, notes Jennifer Rubin. “It’s hard to believe anyone not already part of his cult would be persuaded to support a rude, blustering know-nothing.”
Polls conducted after the debate shows most who watched felt Biden emerged as the only capable presidential contender. A focus group composed of undecided voters from swing states brought in more support for Biden. One woman in the group said Trump acted like “a crackhead.”
“Trump’s theatrical, scorched-earth nihilism pulled down the curtain on his own chances of winning,” says E.J. Dionne Jr., columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University and a visiting professor at Harvard. “The smoldering debris left behind by a political arsonist created one of the low moments of American electoral history and left all but the most fanatical Trump supporters more dispirited than ever about the state of our public life.”
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