Bob Franken




Don’t let his relatively sane performance in the debate fool you. Donald Trump is (a) clearly in full panic mode and (b) still bonkers.
His adrenaline or his steroids are pumping a mile a minute. Why? Because Trump is in a corner that he can’t fast-talk his way out of. He is deathly afraid that not only will he lose his re-election bid against Joe Biden, but he will get wiped out and be haunted by the ridicule for the rest of his life and throughout history. Ridicule is his biggest fear.
As for what makes me an expert, I’m not. But it’s so obvious that even a dullard like me can spot it, as he is totally consumed by a spiraling tizzy. What else could explain his intensified attacks on “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, for that matter, any Democratic politician and any grievance he can conjure up?
In this latest debate, the operative words are “relatively sane.” After the first one, where he embarrassed and soiled himself by trampling over any rules of decorum, he was comparatively subdued for this last one. But he was still lying like a rug and scattering unverified charges against Joe Biden along with his predecessor, Barack Obama, who pushes all his emotional buttons.
And he still relied on some of his old fantasies, including my personal favorite: the old saw that he was “the least racist person in this room.” He also compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and ignored the fact that the moderator, NBC’s Kristen Welker, is black, while glossing over the fact that he has based his campaign on nonstop bigoted demagoguery.
No wait: My real personal favorite is his relentless cruelty to those who wanted to escape the dangers of their home countries and settle in the United States. He basically ignored reporting that more than 500 children are still separated from their parents due to a particularly ghastly tactic of trying to discourage any aspiration of migrants to begin a new life in the United States.

Actually, my absolute personal favorites are the fantasies he’s woven since the beginning of the pandemic. After so many months of his lies and his administration’s incompetence, there are more than 8.5 million cases of Covid in the United States and nearly 230,000 deaths. Still, the president insisted “we are learning to live with” the coronavirus, providing an opening for an obviously pre-planned rejoinder from Biden that “people are learning to die with it.”
Other than that it was the usual labeling of Joe Biden as a socialist and the aforementioned unverified attacks on Biden and his family — most of those contrived by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in coordination with shadowy figures close to Vladimir Putin’s government.
Nevertheless, it was a civilized performance, certainly by Donald Trump’s standards. Now we can await his increasingly wild smear tactics as he and his campaign unveil their long anticipated October surprise. Or not.
Count on his increasingly desperate tactics between now and the final days of the campaign, voter intimidation at the polls, and efforts to steal the election in the days following. This is particularly true now that he has colluded with Mitch McConnell to install another ringer, Amy Coney Barrett, on the Supreme Court. In her new elevated role she can shamelessly support any dicey legal claims his lawyers come up with to thwart any defeat at the polls. And she’s also in a position to rule against the Affordable Care Act in a case before the Supremes a few days after the election, which would leave countless millions without health care, smack dab in the middle of the raging pandemic.
Only if the anti-Trumpers show up in massive numbers will the country survive his fight-or-flight torment and rescue our fundamental identity as a democracy.

© Bob Franken
King Features, Inc

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