Froma Harrop: Stop the Insanity. Stop the Debates.
Summary: As for the presidential debate, it wasn't a debate. Trump just kept interrupting Biden and steamrolling Wallace. His cascade of lies amid nonstop barking defeated the best efforts to check him on facts. Wallace couldn't control the pandemonium, though he tried.
In their instant analyses of Donald Trump's performance in the presidential debate, the TV pundits summoned their stock phrases for disaster. It was a "s---show," Dana Bash said on CNN. Over at NBC, Chuck Todd called it a "train wreck of the making of one person." And CNN's Jake Tapper strung a bunch together, calling the debate "a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck."
But the very best observation came from an undecided voter in a focus group led by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Ruthie from Pennsylvania said that debating Trump was like trying to "win an argument with a crackhead."
Go to YouTube and search for videos of arguments with crackheads. You'll see the same unhinged and chaotic aggression, the constant interruptions, that Trump unleashed on both Joe Biden and the debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News. Go look at those videos.
Cocaine users are known for increased irritability, restlessness and paranoia, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They often become talkative, lack empathy and exhibit a false sense of confidence and power.
We have no evidence that Trump is hooked on crack cocaine or any other controlled substance. But Ruthie's analogy was on to something.
A Harvard Medical School research team led by Hans Breiter found similarities in the brain between coke addiction and a euphoria that leads investors to extreme risk-taking and bad decisions. The newly revealed tax documents show a Trump real estate empire facing collapse.
The headline was that alleged billionaire Trump managed to pay federal tax bills of only $750 in 2016 and 2017 — and he paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years before that. Trump did make a ton of money off "The Apprentice" but offset those earnings with his real estate losses, hence no taxes to pay.
The more shocking discovery was the disastrous management of his property portfolio. It was on this that he weaved the illusion of being a wildly successful businessman.
People in and around Atlantic City are less surprised. Starting in 1991, a string of his casinos went under. In a 2009 bankruptcy filing, Trump claimed more than $700 million in business losses. That may lie behind the IRS audit of a $72.9 million tax refund he received but may not have been entitled to.
Manic borrowing and lousy real estate investments resulted in Trump businesses filing six bankruptcies in all. Contractors, creditors and investors got stiffed. "I do play with the bankruptcy laws," he said. "They're very good for me."
This is quite an impressive failure for a man who inherited $413 million (in today's dollars) from his father. Where did that go?
The biggest worry right now is that Trump is personally on the hook for more than $400 million in debt that's coming due soon. To whom does he owe this money? We know he's done much business with Russians and will not criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin. He wouldn't even pursue U.S. intelligence reports that Russia was paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops.
As for the presidential debate, it wasn't a debate. Trump just kept interrupting Biden and steamrolling Wallace. His cascade of lies amid nonstop barking defeated the best efforts to check him on facts. Wallace couldn't control the pandemonium, though he tried.
There's no point in having more debates like that. Perhaps the moderator could be able to turn off the mic of unruly participants. Still, what is to be gained from another crackhead-style Trump spectacle?
Ruthie says she's now going to vote for Biden. She doesn't need any more debates, or whatever that sad display was. And most of us feel the same.
Froma Harrop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FromaHarrop.