Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate tonight -- which is odd, because half of my Twitter feed has been telling me for months that Trump is an Adderall addict in an advanced state of dementia who intended to find some excuse not to debate. Of course, Republicans have been saying for months that Biden is in an advanced state of dementia and won't debate. The difference is that this talk is being spread by the highest-profile Republicans, frequently on America's highest-rated cable news channel, as The American Independent's Emily Singer noted in August.
In an appearance Tuesday on Fox Business, [Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney] McDaniel claimed Biden "doesn't want to debate," adding that Biden's supporters are "afraid to put him on a debate stage."

[Donald] Trump Jr. falsely said in a Tuesday interview on an Iowa talk radio station that "there's an active push to get Joe Biden not to debate my father because, honestly, no one can look at Joe Biden and say this guy's all there."

Trump himself has accused Biden of supposedly refusing to debate him, claiming back in April, "We have a sleepy guy in a basement of a house that the press is giving a free pass to who doesn't want to do debates because of COVID."
In my Twitter feed, it's commonly argued that Trump's drug use was definitively proven when something apparently flew out of his nose during a Labor Day press conference -- something that must have been a chunk of Adderall. When Biden is accused of using drugs -- or, today, of being coached in public appearances via an earpiece -- that also comes from high-profile Republicans and gets massive amounts of attention on Fox. A week ago, Tucker Carlson and Dr. Marc Siegel batted around the idea that Biden is on drugs, after the president repeatedly made the insinuation; today, Fox News and the New York Post have gone wall to wall with the notion that Biden uses an earpiece. This despite the fact that it would be a bad idea even if Biden thought he could get away with it: So I have two thoughts going into tonight's debate:

1. While I'm not a "both sides" sort of guy, partisans on each side have greatly exaggerated the effects of age on the other side's candidate. They were never going to withdraw from the debates.

2. Republicans -- as usual -- have an advantage in spreading the notion that there's something not right about the other guy's mental state. Their message machine is much more robust, and they have no fear of going low.

Trump supporters' readymade explanation for a strong Biden performance has gone mainstream in a way Biden supporters' Adderall talk hasn't. I suspect it won't matter -- most voters have made up their minds, and the debates will speak for themselves. But if there's value in putting out messages like this, it's clear that Republicans do it much more effectively.

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