The Worst Debate Takes
Last night’s debate was intensely unpleasant, and if you were lucky enough to have avoided it, you should count your blessings. But not everyone could avoid it—some of us have to watch these things for work, and here at The Bulwark, it’s what we have to do.
That’s why our thousands of Bulwark+ members pay to help us keep the lights on. And last night a couple thousand of them joined us for a post-debate recap.
Meanwhile, during the debate and ever since it ended, the internet has been aflame with takes—some smart, some not so much. Beyond a left-right consensus that the whole thing was pretty awful—the word “shitshow” has been thrown around a lot—many of the takes about last night’s debate are pretty grim for Republicans, because, well, it was not a good night for Donald Trump.
In an homage to our friends over at Twitchy, here are some of the dumbest, goofiest, question-begging debate takes from the right.
Mark “The Great One!” Levin apparently watched an entirely different debate from the rest of us—one where Donald Trump apparently couldn’t get a word in.
1. Biden got away with endless lies and cheap shots. The questions were mostly asked from a left perspective ("the science of climate change," what's wrong with "critical race theory" training," etc.) and Biden went unchallenged by the moderator far too often.
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) September 30, 2020
Charlie Kirk also suggested Trump didn’t get enough time to talk. Fortunately, our Bulwark contributor Robert Tracinski was around to pour a bucket of cold water on Charlie.
How to tell who won or lost a debate: If your people spend the next day fighting against the moderator, you lost. https://t.co/5OxYIl26h0
— Robert Tracinski (@Tracinski) September 30, 2020
Former Senator Rick Santorum seemed to be tuckered out by the barrage of the debate. This clip is kind of amazing: Santorum agrees with his CNN copanelists that Trump doesn’t want to criticize his supporters. . . . Or in the case of the Proud Boys, white nationalists.
Just an incredible, oblivious own of Trump here from Rick Santorum pic.twitter.com/V59xPa43Xr
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 30, 2020
That moment from the debate was a big focus for Trump defenders, as it basically sounded like—and reads like, if you look at the transcript—Charlottesville 2.0.
And that’s because it was. Unless you’re National Review‘s Alexandra DeSanctis.
He did tell the Proud Boys to "stand back and standby" — which was not exactly a condemnation.
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) September 30, 2020
And others on the right have taken different tacks in defending Trump for those remarks about the Proud Boys. The Daily Wire‘s Matt Walsh, for example, claims that Trump has done so well in the past on this topic (?!?) that he does not owe the bad-faith media an answer.
Trump has explicitly condemned white supremacist groups several times. He doesn't need to do it anymore. It's a bad faith question anyway, like asking him to deny that he's a pedophile. The media is playing a game here and Trump is under no obligation to play along.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 30, 2020
One America News conspiracy gadfly Jack Posobiec came back with some weapons-grade whataboutism, suggesting that President Trump executed a white supremacist.
Two points here: Daniel Lewis Lee was apprehended when Posobiec was about 12 years old. He was convicted during the Clinton administration. Eric Holder had more to do with the execution of Lee than Trump did. Unless Posobiec is seriously arguing—and there is a non-zero chance of this, given his history—that Trump isn’t a racist because he let a death penalty sentence from the late 1990s be carried out.
Former Bush 43 press secretary Ari Fleischer tried his best Tim Russert impression with a whiteboard. It wasn’t as memorable as Russert’s classic “FLORIDA, FLORIDA, FLORIDA,” and it wasn’t all that great advice, either: If Fleischer thinks Trump can just cease being himself, well, Fox News is probably overpaying him.
Fox & Friends is trying out a new and remedial approach to preparing Trump for the next election: pic.twitter.com/46kUK5Gwae
— Colby Hall (@colbyhall) September 30, 2020
National Review‘s David Harsanyi took the Fleischer line and ran with it, too, but testosterone and adrenaline expert and constitutional eligibility birther expert Steve Deace from The Blaze took it a step further:
Exactly right. It also subsided Biden‘s dementia, because when a man is confronted testosterone and adrenaline kick in. That helped Biden to stay alert. Biden’s dementia shows up when he has to talk specifics that he can’t recall, and issues he no longer understands. https://t.co/dDrdaueAfk
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) September 30, 2020
Was Chris Wallace trying to “punish” President Trump? That’s Hugh Hewitt’s take. (Hewitt, recall, has served in a moderating capacity before.)
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) September 30, 2020
Hewitt also did a podcast with Megyn Kelly (another former debate moderator) and she took it a step further:
Now @megynkelly was more diplomatic about this than I was, but she played the last “J’accuse” Wallace exchange with @realDonaldTrump. “Will you condemn white supremacy.” “Sure” said @POTUS. Wallace wanted more than an answer. He wanted a sound byte to distort. Not a neutral. https://t.co/GTQuX1q5Fq
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) September 30, 2020
I miss the old Hugh Hewitt, the one who was willing to ask blunt questions of Donald Trump that would reveal his scanty knowledge. Sadly, Hewitt is far from neutral these days.
The Federalist‘s Mark Hemingway, a former colleague of ours back in the Weekly Standard days, got busted on some bad math about COVID-19 deaths. To his credit, he deleted his erroneous tweet.
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) September 30, 2020
Tim Pool has this bizarre framing:
Trump won the debate for one reason
The conversation is almost entirely about what Trump did or did not say
Browsing social media and you might be wondering if Biden was even there
Its either Orange Man Bad or MAGA
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) September 30, 2020
Watch out, Scott Adams, Tim might take over Dilbert if you’re not careful!
To close us out, Brigitte Gabriel has this theory that Biden was wearing a wire.
Possibly heparin lock for immediate med infusion.
Wire under suit might be a telemetry unit monitoring
heart rate, BP.amd 02 levels.
— John Tierney (@tierneybook) September 30, 2020
The Vox Pop have thoughts.
Don’t worry, there are only three more debates to go.