Wednesday, September 16, 2020


I didn't watch the Trump town hall on ABC last night, but I've been watching clips and reading the transcript this morning. It's getting bad press. Deadline called it a "train wreck." CNN's Scott Jennings said it "didn't go well." Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post was unimpressed.

I'm glad the coverage was bad, because if we assume that there are still a few undecided voters who don't pay a lot of attention to the news, what I think they saw was a president trying to seem reasonable and Gish-galloping, with some success, through the questioning. You know what a Gish gallop is, right?
The Gish gallop is a technique used during debating that focuses on overwhelming an opponent with as many arguments as possible, without regard for accuracy or strength of the arguments. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott and named after the creationist Duane Gish, who used the technique frequently against proponents of evolution.
There certainly were a lot of lies.

DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: There was just so much lying, Don. I'm going to go quickly here. He said literally to stop me whenever you need to. He said again, Democrats won't protect people with pre- existing conditions. That is nonsense, as a voter told him, Democrats created those protections.

He insisted he didn't praise China on the virus. He did so repeatedly. We know that. He claimed that nobody knew at the time he was praising China that seniors were especially susceptible to the virus. That's one of the first things we learned out of China, and out of Italy, and the U.S.

He claimed Biden said in March that the pandemic was, quotes, totally over exaggerated. I can find no evidence that Biden ever said that. He said at Winston Churchill was kind of like him playing down stuff because he went on rooftops in London during the Nazi bombing and told people everything is going to be good. Churchill did not speak from the rooftops and did not say everything was going to be good. He warn of suffering and danger.

Trump said that he fired James Mattis, Mattis resigned. He said that protesters took over 20 percent of Seattle, it was a six block area. Nowhere close to 20 percent. He took credit again for sending in the National Guard in Minneapolis saying this happened after a week and a half of violence there.

It was not even close to a week and a half. It was days and the Democratic Governor is the one who activated the guard. He said he essentially repealed Obamacare by getting rid of individual mandate, not even close to true with the Medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions protections, other stuff remains.

He said the coverage were empty of ventilators. His administration admits he inherited about 16,000 from Obama. He did his usual false boast about so-called bans on travel from China and Europe. They were not complete bans. He said stocks are owned by, quote, everybody. Just about half of Americans own stocks. He repeated his nonsense about testing causing cases, testing merely reveals and helps fight cases. He said that Biden has agreed to a Bernie Sanders style of socialized health care.

He fought Sanders on that issue. He has very much not agreed to a Sanders-style plan. And, Don, this is a preliminary list. I have hours of fact checking tonight to do because there's even more than this. So this was just a firehose of lying, again, from the president.
Moderator George Stephanopoulos pushed back on a few -- but he couldn't push back on all of them. The questioners, who expressed a sense that there's a lot wrong in America but seemed ready to be told that there was a good reason for Trump's response to many of our problems, heard a man insisting that his responses really have been reasonable. That's my concern -- he sounded reasonable, or at least he did a decent imitation of a reasonable man.

Maybe he won't be like that in the debates with Joe Biden. Maybe he'll be the nasty attack dog of the MAGA rallies. I think it's possible that his testosterone will get the better of him (or Biden will goad him) and he'll go on the attack. If so, that will hurt him. What much of America dislikes about him more than anything is his tone.

But if he restrains himself, low-info voters might conclude that he's done what he's done the past four years out of a sense of good judgment. He'll lie and lie and lie, and Biden will be forced to pick his spots in rebutting those lies, which means most of them will get through unchallenged.

I'm not really worried. Polls suggest that there aren't very many undecided voters, and Biden appears to be comfortably ahead in enough states to win. And the press seems fed up with Trump's bullshitting.

But Trump just might sound this way in the last few presidential events most voters will pay attention to, and it might help him some, even if he's telling the same lies he always tells.

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