Friday Talking Points -- Only One Scaramucci To Go!

[ Posted Friday, October 23rd, 2020 – 17:45 UTC ]

We are now only one Scaramucci away from Election Day. For those unfamiliar with the reference, a "Scaramucci" is a unit of time measurement equal to the time Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci spent as President Donald Trump's press secretary -- 11 days. And we're now only one Scaramucci away from the election.

Also of note, we are now exactly as far away from Election Day as we were four years ago when James Comey essentially threw the election by announcing there were more Hillary Clinton emails under investigation. Trump was saved by this revelation back then, but no matter how hard he's tried to equal this October surprise (by pressuring all those who work for him to create one out of thin air), it just hasn't materialized this time around.

Of course, being just one "Mooch" away from finally seeing the result of this year's long-anticipated election isn't a reason to pop the champagne quite yet. Even if Trump loses to Joe Biden, he'll still have a whopping seven Scaramuccis between then and Inauguration Day to cause all kinds of trouble. So our long national nightmare, sadly, still won't be over, for many Mooches to come.

Of course, time can be measured other ways as well. Yesterday, for instance, saw the fourth-highest number of new coronavirus cases in America since the pandemic began. As measured by, we had 74,301 reported new cases yesterday, which was only topped by three days this past July (the highest number of new cases was 78,976 on July 24). But unlike back then, the slope of the curve is still heading upwards, not peaking. And today is on track (as of this writing) to top both of those numbers. Or we could have our worst day ever within the next couple of days, or next week. Welcome to the third wave, folks.

It was also announced this week that the budget deficit tripled from the previous year, and now stands at $3.1 trillion -- the highest number ever seen. So there are all kinds of ways to mark where we as a country now are.

Last night, the second and final presidential debate was held. Donald Trump's doctors have apparently adjusted his medication better than they managed for the first debate, or as John Heilemann put it on Morning Joe: "I think Quaalude Trump is better than Crystal Meth Trump, you know, from the last debate. That was, like, an improvement, I think." Although the dosage still isn't perfect, as Heilemann pointed out: "He needed one extra 'Lude to get him through the whole thing, and he wasn't quite there. Quaalude Trump was still not that great."

Trump was indeed calmer, perhaps chastened by the fact that the debate commission had been forced to announce a new rule: microphones would be muted while the other candidate gave their first two-minute answer. This rule has never been necessary before, because nobody's ever needed it. Trump, from the first debate, obviously did. So Trump -- for the most part -- didn't interrupt and make such a horse's ass of himself in front of the country (as he did last time). However, as Salon pointed out, this meant Trump was still what might be called a calmer, more-restrained psychopath.

Trump had a strategy for the night, and amazingly enough, he kept returning to it. He tried to paint Joe Biden as a typical politician who had been around forever and never gotten anything actually done. But his efforts to do so came off pretty ham-fisted at times, as in the following exchange, when Biden shrugged off a Trump smear about his son Hunter to speak directly into the camera:

My response is, look, there's a reason why he's bringing up all this malarkey. There's a reason for it. He doesn't want to talk about the substantive issues. It's not about his family and my family. It's about your family, and your family's hurting badly. If you're a middle-class family, you're getting hurt badly right now. You're sitting at the kitchen table this morning deciding: "Well, we can't get new tires. They're bald, because we have to wait another month or so." Or: "Are we going to be able to pay the mortgage?" Or: "Who's going to tell her she can't go back to community college?" They're the decisions you're making, and the middle-class families like I grew up in Scranton and Claymont, they're in trouble. We should be talking about your families, but that's the last thing he wants to talk about.

Trump then -- astonishingly -- belittled Biden's empathy for American families. Sneered at it, in fact:

That's a typical political statement. "Let's get off this China thing" and then he looks, "The family around the table, everything." Just a typical politician when I see that. I'm not a typical politician. That's why I got elected. "Let's get off the subject of China." "Let's talk about sitting around the table." Come on, Joe. You could do better.

On the biggest subject of the night, the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump once again tried to gaslight America into believing that the crisis simply does not exist and that "we're rounding the turn, rounding the corner -- it's going to go away." This, on the same day we hit the fourth-highest number of new cases in a single day, is nothing short of a delusional statement. Trump tried to wish away the initial wave of infection. That didn't work. Then he tried to wish away the second wave of infection, over the summer, telling all the governors to throw their states wide open again. That didn't work out too well either. Now he's trying to wish away the third wave, which (as Biden warned) could lead us all to "a dark winter" indeed.

The pandemic is the biggest issue on the minds of most voters. It is their biggest fear right now, to put it another way. And unlike just about every other subject Trump has gaslit the public on, the reality of the pandemic is undeniable to all sane voters. It is there. It exists. It is not a personal belief or a political position. It does not care about politics, it just is. And once again, it is on the news each and every night as hospitals in some very red states start to run out of beds. Infection rates are soaring. Death rates will follow, in the next week or so. And it's only going to get worse as the election gets closer. Donald Trump's insistence that we're "rounding the corner" is going to sound further and further away from the actual reality everyone can plainly see. And, as Team Biden just snarkily pointed out, Trump does not have a plan to deal with it. Why should he, when he thinks it's already going away?

That is why Joe Biden is leading this race, plain and simple. That, and Trump's utter lack of compassion or empathy for anyone affected and their grieving families.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has tried to gaslight America into thinking that Joe Biden is senile and simply cannot put two sentences together without reading them off a TelePrompTer or being fed the answers by an earpiece. This was always a fantasy, as anyone who had watched Biden in the Democratic primary debates could attest to. Team Trump refuses to let this fantasy go, even suggesting before the debate that Trump was going to brilliantly step back and let Joe talk, allowing Biden to embarrass himself by getting muddled and stumbling over his answers. But of the two men on stage, it was Trump who was the most muddled (or addled, maybe), as usual. In an exchange on race, Trump repeated quite possibly the funniest brag he's ever made -- that Trump had done more for African-Americans that any president of all time, with the only possible exception (although some people are saying -- many people are saying -- that Trump's actually better) of Abraham Lincoln. Whenever Trump makes this outrageous and outlandish claim, I keep expecting Lyndon Baines Johnson's ghost to arise from the stage and heartily kick Trump's ass around, Texas-style -- but (sadly) L.B.J. once again failed to materialize last night.

Instead, a few minutes after Trump bragged about his wonderfulness, Biden ridiculed him by saying: " 'Abraham Lincoln' here is one of the most racist presidents we've had." Trump exploded with umbrage, demanding to know why Biden was bringing up Abraham Lincoln. This was like two or three minutes after Trump had brought up Abraham Lincoln in the first place, mind you. And we're supposed to believe that Biden is the senile one?

Trump also accused Biden -- as he had done in the first debate -- of using a derisive term back in the 1990s ("superpredator") that was actually uttered by Hillary Clinton. At one point during the debate, Biden, out of sheer frustration, had to point out to Trump: "You're running against Joe Biden."

Trump seems monumentally unable to understand how he really appears to rational viewers. Earlier in the week he petulantly stormed out of an interview with Lesley Stahl from 60 Minutes, and then doubled down on the stupid by releasing his own copy of the tape before the show airs. His copy is unedited, which means there are quite likely even more embarrassing moments visible than will make it into the actual show. And all he's really doing is boosting the ratings for when the show does air. But Trump is now surrounded by yes-men and yes-women, without any sane adults in the room to tell him that maybe this isn't such a good idea.

Trump, at this point, is quite obviously flailing. It seems to have gotten through to him that he might not win this race, and he's just going to get more and more out of control as Election Day approaches.

Which, we can all take heart in, will appear in exactly one Scaramucci.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have a Honorable Mention to hand to Barack Obama, for hitting the campaign trail for his former running mate this week. Obama has so far not been as visible as he might have been out there on the hustings, but perhaps they just held him back for the final sprint to the finish. He certainly isn't mincing words about the awfulness of Donald Trump, that's for sure.

But the obvious choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Joe Biden, who turned in another strong debate performance this week. We only noticed one gaffe throughout the evening (Biden referred to "minimum mandatories" instead of the other way around), and Biden once again did an exemplary job of avoiding rolling around in the mud with Donald Trump. Biden truly does believe that his decency of character is his strongest asset as a politician, and he would have jeopardized that by directly engaging with Trump's bluster. For the most part, Biden brushed off Trump's attacks, while not failing to launch a few counterattacks on his own. The most effective of these was to point out the shocking revelation that Trump has a bank account in China that's never been revealed before, to which Trump flat-out lied by stating that the account was closed back in 2015 (it wasn't, it's still open) and that "everyone knows about it," when before this week the public most certainly did not know about it. As Obama put it, just imagine what the Republicans would have said if it had been revealed right before his own re-election that he had a Chinese bank account.

All around, Biden had a great night last night, and the debate was most definitely the political event of the week. Contrary to Trump's "fantasy Biden" (that he carries around in his head), the real-live Joe Biden didn't stumble in any major way last night, and was far more rational and coherent than Trump can manage even on his best behavior. Even with Trump being more subdued, the contrast between the two was stark and obvious.

Biden is maintaining his lead in the polls, which is the thing to watch over the upcoming Scaramucci's worth of time. Four years ago, the James Comey revelation absolutely tanked Hillary Clinton's numbers, which doomed her on Election Day. This time around, over 50 million people have already voted, and if Biden's numbers hold he could win in a landslide of historic proportions.

The entire campaign has been a long and winding road we've all travelled down for the past two years. It had twists and turns galore. Biden was seen as dead in the water for the nomination until he strongly took South Carolina. The coronavirus didn't even exist until the primaries started being held. Trump could have used the crisis to raise his stature with the public and be seen as a real leader conquering a crisis. If he had done so, he might now be on the brink of being re-elected. Since he was patently unable to do so, he is now on the brink of defeat.

We'll all have plenty of complaints and disappointments if Joe Biden is our next president, to be sure. He's not going to make all Democrats happy with all of his decisions. But we will all be able to relax and know that a sane adult is in charge of the nuclear codes once again. All other differences will pale in comparison to the four years we've just experienced as a nation.

So for this week and hopefully many to come, Joe Biden is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Joe Biden is still technically a private citizen, and as a rule we do not link to campaign websites, so you'll have to seek his contact information out yourself if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Once again we are happy to report that no Democrat disappointed us at all this week. Or not to the level of winning the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, at any rate. Oh, sure, we could quibble with this answer or that from Biden's debate performance, but it's pretty small potatoes at this point.

As usual in such circumstances, feel free to nominate your own Democrat for the MDDOTW award, down in the comments, if you feel I've overlooked somebody obvious.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 594 (10/23/20)

Before we begin, we have a program note. Next week's column may in fact be our annual Hallowe'en column. We have not completely committed to the idea of doing one of these this year, however -- we could fit the whole thing on a tweet, really: "Dem nightmare: Trump wins. GOP nightmare: Biden wins, Dems take Senate." So we're not entirely convinced that it's even worth the effort this year. But if we do, we won't have another FTP column until after the dust has (hopefully) settled on the election, just to warn everyone in advance.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's move on to the talking points. All of our talking points echo the same theme this week: "Please, make it stop!" Which should be self-explanatory, by this point.


   Steele endorses Biden

Point out how shocking this truly is.

"The former head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, just endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president. Just stop and think about that for a minute. When have you ever heard of a party's former leader endorsing the opposition party's candidate? To the best of my knowledge, it has never happened before. In his endorsement, he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Junior: 'A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.' Steele also wrote: 'Character matters. Our vote matters. The leader we choose matters. I cannot be silent, and I hope neither can you because we know a vote for Joe Biden is what is best for our country -- because America matters.' Please remember, this is from the former national party chair of the Republican Party. This is absolutely unprecedented, folks."


   Another four more years of this?

We've written about this one since last July (a fact we pointed out earlier this week at more length).

"The best argument for voting for Joe Biden is to simply ask yourself if you want another four more years of this. The lies, the narcissism, the pettiness, the tantrums, the slavish devotion to the least common denominator, the rejection of science, the absolute lack of leadership -- do you really want four more years of all that? Because I don't."


   Somebody grab a fire extinguisher

A variation on the same theme.

"Please, America, a vote for Joe Biden is a vote to put out the biggest Dumpster fire in American politics, ever. We can never return to normal with this flaming pile of garbage in the White House. Everybody grab a hose -- or a ballot -- and help Joe Biden put this Dumpster fire out for good."


   Almost over... counting the Scaramuccis

Or you can go with a historical reference instead.

"Get out there and vote, so our long national nightmare can finally come to an end on January twentieth. After all, if Nixon was a bad dream, then Trump is an apocalyptic raging dream-infesting demon from the depths of Hell."


   Please, Joe, bore us all

Look for the word "normalcy" to spike in usage if Biden wins.

"You know what I want? I want to wake up in the morning and not cringe when I read the news. I want precisely zero tweets from the president in the middle of the night. I want to be able to ignore politics for long stretches of time once again. I want to be bored by politics. I don't want a hyperactive Tasmanian devil hopped up on diet soda sitting in the Oval Office anymore. Please, America, can we go back to that idyllic reality once again? Pretty please?"


   Beating the buzzer

Of course, the final tally won't be known for years to come, most likely.

"One of Donald Trump's biggest donors -- a man the Republican Party hired as their national deputy finance chair, no less -- just pleaded guilty to being an unregistered foreign agent trying to influence Trump for Malaysia and China. I don't know about you, but I've actually lost count of how many Trump minions and henchmen have now gone to jail, been found guilty of federal crimes, and/or had to be pardoned. Whatever the number is, I bet it'll keep climbing after the election, that's for sure."


   Just when you thought things couldn't get any sleazier...

...Along comes Borat.

"If anyone still has any shred of respect for Rudy Giuliani -- or, conversely, if anyone thought that he just couldn't get any sleazier -- they should check out the clip of him lying on a bed sticking his hand down his pants in a hotel room with a young woman, from the new Borat movie. Just like Trump himself, just when you thought Rudy had sunk as low as he could possibly go, he surprises you once again."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant