Commentary: Trump Short-Sighted Name-Calling
By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – President Donald Trump says his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is all but senile.
“Biden can’t put two sentences together,” the president told Chris Wallace of Fox News. “They wheel him out…. He reads a teleprompter and then he goes back into his basement.”
Trump better be right about that, for at least two reasons.
The first reason is one to which the president isn’t likely to pay much attention. It involves basic morality – common decency.
If Biden isn’t in a state of cognitive decline – and all the empirical evidence says he isn’t – then Trump is lying. It’s not right to lie.
This is particularly true when one lies to inflict deliberate harm on another human being, not to mention those who care about that other human being.
But all reasonable people who were waiting for Donald Trump to start telling the truth and behaving like an honorable man gave up hope long, long ago. He treats the truth and any consideration of courtesy the way a jackhammer treats pavement.
A man who has told more than 20,000 documented untruths since he put his hand on the Bible, swore his oath of office and then said “so help me, God” won’t reform his ways now.
The other reason Trump should quit deriding Biden’s mental state, though, should give him some pause.
The president should quit doing it because it’s dumb politics. It makes Trump’s task of climbing back into contention in this year’s presidential race that much harder.
National polls now put the president eight to 15 points behind Biden. Most polls also show Trump trailing in every battleground state, including some he won comfortably in 2016.
Worse for the president and his fellow Republicans, his political problems have spread to the rest of the party. He’s dragged down candidates across the nation and managed to turn toss-up races into opportunities for Democrats and transformed some Senate seats thought safe into real dogfights.
There even have been reports that major Republican donors have decided to write off the presidential race and focus their efforts – and their giving – to trying to hold onto the Senate.
That makes a certain amount of sense. After watching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, disregard and rewrite on whim long-established rules regarding lifetime judicial appointments, conservatives have reason to worry about what Democrats might do if they gain power and choose to do the same.
Citing McConnell as precedent and justification, of course.
The president disputes this, of course. He claims he’s seen polls that show him far, far ahead of Biden and the Senate safely in GOP control.
Trump’s actions, though, belie his protestations.
He’s beseeched Biden to agree to hold 10 debates. Biden has said that the traditional three presidential debates will be enough, thank you.
Underdogs always want more debates and frontrunners fewer.
Debates can be gamechangers, particularly for the candidate who is leading. A serious mistake or a bad performance can take the wheels off the fastest-moving bandwagon.
This is even more true if the lead dog is considered an exceptional thinker or speaker.
Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign was on a glide path until he turned in a befuddled and wandering performance in his first debate against challenger Walter Mondale. Mondale and his team maximized the damage by emphasizing what a great communicator Reagan was and how poor little Walter just didn’t have that kind of easy fluency.
Reagan managed to right things in the second debate, but not before he’d thrown his own camp into a panic and given Mondale his first real shot.
Barack Obama had a similar experience in 2012. He showed up for his first debate with Republican Mitt Romney unprepared and had his head handed to him. Romney’s squad also had set Obama up for failure by touting the incumbent’s incredible oratory in contrast to the Republican’s more pedestrian rhetorical talents.
Obama, too, managed to steady the ship, but he had to fight Romney right until the end.
Trump, on the other hand, has set the bar so low for Biden that if the former vice president manages not to drool on himself during the debates, he’ll win the game of expectations.
The president has set himself, not Biden, up for failure.
But that’s Donald Trump.
That’s our president.
FOOTNOTE: John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students
The City-County Observer posted this article without opinion, bias, or editing.