The Debate Debate

His falsehoods ranged from "oh, bullshit," to "this is the kinda crap that produces violent fury." Which is his M.O.

The Debate Debate

*Note to readers: As always, thanks for tuning in, subscribing, and supporting the Outlaws! This upcoming week, we may all be on vacation, or at least, our schedules are disrupted. I will be on vacation, Roger had a family emergency come up, and we may get a piece put up by Jim if he can figure out the format process! Thanks for your understanding...
You guys stay out of the heat. And let's hope and pray we can avoid these tropical storms headed our way.

The Debate Hoopla

Who said debates don't matter? Why, the same people who say that the recent presidential debate may have ended Joe Biden's campaign. You've seen the news coverage by now... Old Sleepy Joe... can he handle a second term? Is Biden the strongest candidate to run against the Orange Baby Jesus? Is there something medically wrong with the President? Is Biden in a steep decline? Could Old Joe handle things if an asteroid was hurtling toward the earth? HE'S UNFIT!

Think about something for a minute: What did you hear from the right-wing media before the debate? (and this message spilled over to the mainstream media as well.) Hint: it had to do with Biden's excellent State of the Union Address back in March. The address was powerful and well-received.)

For weeks leading up to the debate, the right-wing noise machine was gearing up for another strong performance by Biden, leaving unsaid their fear of Trump soiling himself as he doesn't almost nightly at his Unite the White rallies. So they preemptively began to accuse Biden of juicing... or taking mind-enhancement drugs... or something. "Jacked Up Joe" became their constant cry, convinced that Joe would shame them with, uh, a direct and intelligent performance?

House Speaker Mike Johnson has suggested Biden is downing “a whole gallon of energy drinks” to prepare for Thursday night’s debate, while other GOP members have accused the president of taking “mind-altering stimulants” or getting his aides to “jack him up on Mountain Dew.”
“How much Adderall are they going to give him?” South Carolina Republican Representative Nancy Mace said on right-wing media network Newsmax on Thursday. “How many vitamins is he gonna be on?”

This was every day, hour after hour. Joe was jacked up with those brain pills. When he looked smart, strong, and competent, you could rest assured he was on the super secret smart dope. Like his State of the Union address, they reasoned, what else could it be other than some Top Secret Rx?

To the Biden team's credit, they ran with it. He even released a photo of him with his own can of "secret sauce."

But as you know now, the story took a dark-Biden turn for the worse. Juicin' Joe didn't live up to the hype. The President stuttered, lost his train of thought. made poor decisions in terms of playing to the cameras, and looked befuddled and bewildered for much of the debate. Worse, (for Democrats,) Trump (physically) remained in control, and his usual insults and barbs hit their mark. On a televised, national stage, one where Biden's team had written all the rules, Trump didn't miss an opening when given one. Biden was on the ropes for most of the fight.

It was no surprise to anyone that Trump was his usual firehose of lies. Not exaggerations or political puffery... just his rage-inducing crock of ca-ca:

"The only jobs (Biden) created are for illegal immigrants and bounce-back jobs, bounce-back from the COVID."
• "Social Security, he's destroying it, because millions of people are pouring into our country, and they're putting them onto Social Security. They're putting them onto Medicare, Medicaid."
• "We had no terror (attacks) under my administration."

(and his greatest hits...)
• Regarding the 2020 election, "the fraud and everything else was ridiculous."
"Pelosi said "I take full responsibility for Jan. 6."
(and his big finale..."
• "The problem (Democrats) have is they're radical, because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth."

These falsehoods range from "oh, bullshit," to "this is the kinda crap that produces violent fury." Which is his M.O.

Trump knew he could get away with it. The rules made the "moderators" non-judgemental hosts. June Cleaver invites Eddie Haskell over for cookies and lets him burn the house down. There was no live fact-checking, or even a hint that it might be needed. If you're wondering about Trump's statements from above, here's Politifact's post-debate analysis. And if we're being honest, (aren't we always?) Biden produced some exaggerations, some slip-ups, and yes, a couple of falsehoods that did not serve him well. He claimed that Trump wants to cut Social Security. (Pre 2024 election, he'd talked about making cuts. This campaign, he promises to save it. Other Republicans, however, consistently talking about reform or major cuts.) Biden said that he cut the price of an insulin shot to "$15, as opposed to $400." It's actually $35, which he would later correct during the debate. You can read the full report here, again via Politifact.

Is there equivalence here? Slaying babies as opposed to a $20 math error? Seriously?

And in the time it took to run the last commercial break, the national conversation switched. No mention of the sharp and articulate President Biden at the State of the Union Address. It never happened. There had never been any fear of him winning the debate, it seems... the message came out instantly, universally: Biden was unfit for higher office.

If Trump is a firehose of crap, the media is Niagra Falls. One constant, 24/7 blather about poor old Joe. Time for Joe to Go! No mentions of the big lies like "post-birth abortions." No calling out Putin's protégé on his assertion that Biden "indicted me because I was his opponent."... that kind of stuff is just normal, now. The headlines focussed on how Biden was finished. And stories about Trump's attacks, "<Biden> allowed millions of people to come in here from prisons, jails and mental institutions." No one cried foul on that one, either, but it makes a great soundbite for Hannity and Tucker and Shapiro to play over and over and over. And over and over.

In a great example of what should have been the national headline, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran the story correctly.

The outlier headline should have been the national talking point..

Worse than the debate and the media's near-verbatim reporting, is the Democrats rush to call for his head. No surprise that the Republicans are tut-tutting about his performance and their continued non-mention of his two impeachments, 34 felonies, and his role in the insurrection... but for Dems to clutch their pearls and call for Biden to drop out seems, as usual, short-sighted.

I'll repeat, there is cause for concern. Perhaps he needs to step down. And I'm not pretending that the "optics" (and reality) of this isn't serious. Nor that the public's concern isn't justified.

But look at the difference. False equivalence, much? The narcissist, serial liar, impeached felon vs. the president who has done more for progressive causes since... since FDR? Hmmmmm. what should we do? What should we do?

Let's go to the memes...

And yet the Dems, with no real succession plan in place, are calling for Biden to be put out to pasture. For every Democratic office-holder/candidate/consultant to jump in front of a camera and bury old Joe, they each have a wildly different plan for what should happen.

Remember Senator Al Franken? He got in some minor trouble after an old photo surfaced where he was goofing around in a bawdy fashion on a USO tour... when he was still working as a comedian. (It was found that his accuser had taken a very similar photo.) A couple of other accusers claimed he had gotten a little handsy with them while in a meet-n-greet photo queue. (The accusers had partisan leanings.) Franken denied the allegations, but insisted that they all be heard, and immediately volunteered to cooperate with any ethics investigation over the matter. He not only wanted to clear his name, but felt that it would be a good learning/teaching moment. But you know the Dems. Always ready to signal virtue. They insisted that he resign. Lots of noble posturing about their commitment to justice (while, er, ignoring justice.) The result? The loss of one of the strongest, most brilliant senators in the Dem's court. Franken had been a force in committee hearings. He was well respected, even by some on the other side of the aisle. The Dems were able to hold the seat, but can you name his replacement? Me neither.

The Republicans were ready to blame Jacked Up Joe's debate win on Juicing and drugging. They had all but pronounced him a cheating winner. When he appeared to lose, they switched gears in a nanosecond. The entire Republican political and communication machine made the pivot to Sleepy Joe Unfit for Office in unison. And the mainstream media went along. And then the Dem bobbleheads nodded up and down.

And on social media this week, it's all I've seen - all the hand-wringing, doom-posting, angst-ridden wailing and gnashing of teeth. I've wondered for years when the Dems would get it together. The Republicans took the long view - it took them fifty years to get here. They've built a formidable empire. But they're no more invincible than the once powerful Democrats were. (Who would have thought that the New Deal would be dismantled like it has?) But progressives need to fight like hell. Maybe get organized? Put together, you know, a plan? Perhaps quit squabbling in public?

Maybe it is time for Joe to step down. But does anyone in the party apparatus think that a new candidate will quell the verbal firehose of insults, attacks, and lies by the Mango Mussolini? Or more specifically the waterfall of disinformation put out by the right-wing media landscape? The second that Kamala or Mayor Pete or Newsome or Whitmer replace Biden, the long knives are ready to go. The oppo research has been done, the talking points are written, the narrative is ready to distribute on a moment's notice. "Her emails!" "Can/should a gay man handle the presidency?" "S/he's the most liberal socialist in America ready to take the country down with his/her woke agenda!" Who knows what other screeching, raging media assaults await a last-minute candidate.

Houston celebrated "Pride" month this last month. Had a big parade. Two parades in fact. One would have been enough, but there are two groups squabbling over who gets to manage the parade. The original group got caught misappropriating donated funds for the parade, so another group took over. The original group refused to step down, so they planned their own. Putting on a parade in a city the size of Houston is serious business, and not inexpensive. Having two competing parades split sponsors, participants, and city resources. Meanwhile, the public was confused over which parade was the "real" one... which one was worth standing out in 100° heat. The mayor insisted that the groups find a way to work together, but they refused. So two parades it was.

A couple months previous to that, there was a parade in honor of MLK day. (C'mon, guess what comes next!) Yup, two groups each want to have their own parade, one is a splinter group. One claims to have MLK's estate's blessing. The other claims to be the original parade. Or something. The former and current mayor have asked these groups to find common ground and make better use of everyone's resources. No go. So in the spirit of Martin Luther King, ("We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools,") there were two parades. Same song, two more verses.

What a perfect metaphor for the Democratic Party, eh? Fussing, fighting, and farting along, splitting focus, unable to work together, and willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

"It's all so terrible." "What can be done?" "Why does this keep happening?" "We're doomed!"

Remember in "The Godfather," (you can always find an answer in The Godfather,) when Johnny Fontane whines to Don Corleone that he's not getting a part in the big Hollywood movie that he thinks that he should have, that he thinks he's perfect for? "I don't know what to do, Godfather... I don't know what to dooooo?" he whines.

With apologies for the gender stereotype and patriarchal tone. But isn't it time for the Democratic Party to grow a ... spine?

For more on this topic, you should read an interview with Rachel Bitecofer, an excellent Dem strategist and communicator. Her message is similar: "take the gloves off." Her new book is "Hit 'Em Where It Hurts: How to Save Democracy by Beating Republicans at Their Own Game."

What I'm watching: Season 3 of The Bear dropped last week (Hulu, Disney+.) If you've never given The Bear a chance, you need to get started. It's as good as Breaking Bad; there, I said it. Not the same genre or even a similar storyline... but production values, acting, writing, cinematography, editing... It's the complete package. And each season has gotten better.

Try Hit Man on Netflix. A mild-mannered teacher gets pressed into service for the local DA's office... they need someone to impersonate a hitman in order to prosecute someone looking to facilitate a murder, would he help them out? Richard Linklater grabbed this story, loosely based on Gary Johnson, a real-life faux hitman here in Harris County. It's based on Skip Hollandsworth's 2001 Texas Monthly Story of the same name. Linklater also tapped another of Skip's articles as an inspiration for his film, "Bernie."

Gary Johnson passed away a couple of years ago, but his legacy lives on. I had the pleasure of being on the tech crew for an interview with the real life "hitman" back in the day. He had some pretty funny stories about his life of "crime." Someone would call someone for a "hit," and that someone would get a little nervous about the whole affair, and somehow they'd get Gary's special phone number. And let me warn you, to say the film is "loosely" based is an understatement. Linklater just took the idea of Gary's vocation, and ran with. Ran all over the place. He even set it in New Orleans, and not Houston. (Might have something to do with tax breaks for filmmakers!) But it's cute and an easy watch. (Netflix.)

Chris Newlin worked around Tee-Vee stations before he went out on his own and continued to work in the world of video and multi-media production. Then came iPhones and YouTube accounts, so now he sits around full of self-pity and too many Keystone Lights. He still enjoys sunsets, long walks on the beach, and a good bowel movement, at least every now and then.