As I expected, Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy in last night’s disgraceful apology for a debate has been the main topic of conversation today. You have to really see that exchange to appreciate it. Watch Trump get that hunted look in his eyes when he is asked if he will condemn white supremacists, as he tries desperately to think of a way to wriggle out of doing so. Notice that moderator Chris Wallace asks him “”Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down…” But Trump responds with the infamous line to the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by“, that they are now gleefully taking as an endorsement of them.
Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down…"
Trump: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left." pic.twitter.com/4vrPocKzcu
— Axios (@axios) September 30, 2020
Even some Republican supporters of Trump reacted with dismay to his performance latt night even as they tried to make excuses for him.
As for Trump, even his supporters recognized that his behavior had likely done himself significant harm, suggesting he may have been too hot, too intemperate. When New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, an unfailing Trump apologist, calls Trump’s strategy “A very bad plan … that made him look boorish,” you know it was not a good night for the sitting president. Instant polls by NBC and CNN found Trump’s performance a failure. It is possible (barely) that even Trump himself will not buy the judgment of campaign manager Bill Stepien that “President Trump just turned in the greatest debate performance in presidential history,” and that he will decide to tone things down and bring a measure of civility to Miami. (Suggestion: if you’re looking to lower the temperature, maybe do not use Rudy Giuliani as one of your debate advisers.)
They expected him to aggressively attack Joe Biden in an effort to get him flustered and make some sort of gaffe. But Trump was so over the top that even they were aghast. Furthermore, for that strategy to work you have to let other person speak. Trump simply trampled over Biden’s remarks so that even if he were to occasionally stumble, and stumble he did, it got lost in the noise. Instead, his non-stop overheated rhetoric simply provided support for Biden’s jabs at Trump when he called him a liar, a clown, the worst president in history. At one point when Biden asked “Will you shut up, man?”, he was speaking for a vast swathe of viewers.
While Republican members of congress are scurrying for cover to avoid having to comment on the debacle, Tim Scott the lone black Republican senator, was willing to respond. When asked about Trump’s remarks on white supremacy, watch how tries to cling to the belief that Trump ‘misspoke’.
Reporter: “Do you find that concerning, the president's refusal last night during the debate to condemn white supremacist groups?"
Sen. Tim Scott: “I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it. If he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn't misspeak." pic.twitter.com/qxDTrg7ulT
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 30, 2020
How deluded can you get? Trump is never going to correct it. To do so is to acknowledge error, something he never does. He simply doubles down. Trump has been coddling white supremacists throughout his term of office and was a racist even before that, so the idea that he misspoke is ridiculous. It has long been clear where Trump’s sympathies lie.
I would like to say that it is inconceivable that any person of color could support someone like Trump. But I know Sri Lankans who do and even some who actually believe that white people are superior to people of color.