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I confess to those of you reading that I didn’t go into the festivities the other night expecting great moments in presidential debate history.
All the same, I had my notepad on my lap and a pen in my hand.
As the debate began, I resolved to take notes of those moments I deemed pivotal. I took lots of notes. But as the debate reached its apogee—somewhere around the point at which Chris Wallace looked like his head was going to pop off and streak heavenward—I stopped. It was pointless.
It was all hideously, abjectly pointless.
Some of the first words I wrote came out of Donald Trump’s mouth. He said, “Elections have consequences.” As I reflected on those words the other morning, I must say that they should be recorded into the historical record as the truest statement El Donald has ever made. Elections most certainly do have consequences, and what we witnessed the other night was the decadent, depraved receipt standing in sad-eyed witness.
It wasn’t long after this statement that the yelling started. Some of that yelling, much of which was indecipherable, included the name “Pocahontas.” Looking through my notes, this is where my writing starts looking angry, as though I was stabbing my notepad with my pen in vain retribution for what my ears were enduring.
Hot on the heels of the unhinged yelling, Biden, ever the calm, sweater-vest-sporting icon of the American Uncle, busted out of character and said, “Would you shut up, man?”
Joe Biden said many things at the debate that would normally shock the viewing public in the context of a presidential debate. He called Trump a liar, for one. He would tell him to “shush,” for another. He would say, “You’re the worst president America’s ever had,” straight to El Donald’s sweat-streaked face. These are shocking things to hear out of a presidential candidate’s mouth on a debate stage.
Just not this debate stage. Not on this decadent, depraved flaming dumpster fire of a debate stage.
As I watched Chris Wallace have a petite but undeniable nervous breakdown on live television, I almost felt sorry for the guy. No one agrees to moderate a presidential debate with what happened the other night in mind. No one expects to play the role of hall monitor, chiding, cajoling, and begging the incumbent to stop interrupting. I imagine Wallace is still processing the fact that he was compelled to instruct the President of the United States, “we just need three seconds of you not shouting.”
I expect Mr. Wallace regrets not cutting off El Donald’s mic or perhaps, throwing a bucket of cold water on him. But what I expect he regrets most of all is agreeing to “moderate” the primate pooh-flinging event he had been misled to believe was a presidential debate.
Because 2016 El Donald, even taking into account the debate stage stalking incident, in which he ominously loomed behind candidate Clinton, is not President El Donald. President El Donald will not be told anything by anyone. He will yell. He will interrupt with his yelling. He will yell mendacious statements from a parallel reality that only he is aware of—for it lives in his mind.
And what a mind it is. The mind of El Donald is one in which it’s perfectly appropriate to accuse the Democratic Party candidate’s son of taking a large sum of money from the Mayor of Moscow’s wife, specifically, 3.5 million dollars. Of course, like much of what was yelled on the decadent and depraved presidential debate stage the other night, this is a product of the parallel reality living in El Donald’s mind.
But that parallel reality has driven the GOP to probe Biden’s involvement with Barisma, the Ukrainian energy company his son worked for, with Senator Ron Johnson admitting that the report produced jointly by himself and Chuck Grassley is being leveraged to give the Trump campaign a little juice.
This old chestnut of a conspiracy theory has been rolling around Washington D.C. for a little too long it seems, and, like the emails Hillary Clinton was grilled for 11 long hours over, has calcified out of sheer desperation to be left the hell alone.
That did not stop El Donald from chomping on the Barisma bone for as long as humanly possible, prompting an exchange between Biden and El Donald about the relative ethical frameworks of their two families. The cherry on top of that exchange was Biden noting that “this is not about my family or his family. It’s about your family, the American people.”
A worthy and somewhat poignant statement to make during a presidential debate that might have been more properly conducted in a ring filled with mud or Jell-O.
But the going got deeply weird during the segment on “race.” This was probably the most soul-suckingly bizarre segment of the evening and featured a near tantrum, as El Donald was asked by Wallace if he’d like to switch seats.
This is the segment in which the incumbent POTUS would not denounce white supremacy (even though he’d signaled his willingness to do so when asked if he would).
He is the incumbent President of the United States of America. He would not denounce white supremacy. (This was when I threw my notepad across the room.)
When pressed by Wallace to “just say it,” El Donald doubled down, specifically addressing white supremacist group, the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he said. And today, as most reading will know, the Proud Boys are prouder than they’ve ever been, having been both acknowledged and explicitly told to “stand by.” What are they standing by for? Perhaps a small civil war with Antifa, who was immediately fingered by El Donald as the movement “somebody should do something about.”
Not Proud Boys. Not the KKK. Not the militias of Kenosha or any other militia—all of which are, under the law of every state and under federal law, illegal. Not the Boogaloos. Antifa.
Meanwhile, one social media account known to be associated with the Proud Boys has made “Stand back. Stand By.” part of its online logo. Far from denouncing white supremacy, it appears that the POTUS has both endorsed and activated the group. Perhaps the Proud Boys will be crouching in the bushes when the helicopter comes to take El Donald away next January.
This morning, as my mind continues to reel with disbelief, disgust, and horror, it’s increasingly clear to me that El Donald’s performance the other night will be continued through the next two scheduled debates. This is the strategy of the incumbent—to yell at his opponent, to insult and dissemble, to trade in mendacity, and to display the worst possible tendencies of some of our nation’s less noble citizens on live television.
But I’m with Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist and, since June 2020, former Republican. In a tweet the other night, he stated, “His presidency is over. We will vote him out.”
We all know who “he” is in this statement. And now, we all know that “he” is not only unfit to lead the United States of America for another four years, we know that “he” is a white supremacist, or at least favorable to them.
But even if “he” hadn’t made that abundantly clear in his remarks concerning the Proud Boys, El Donald would still be unfit—a snarling, hissing beast of a man, he has no place in any public office—much less that Oval one.
The first Presidential debate was decadent and depraved because El Donald is decadent and depraved. There is no denying it anymore, and no amount of magical thinking will salve that abjectly horrible truth.