On Friday, Donald Trump was in Washington, D.C., to appear at something called the “Pray Vote Stand Summit.” In a relatively brief speech, Trump repeatedly fumbled basic facts, made mistakes about his own elections, and devolved into what some observers accurately called a “word salad.”
In the middle of this, Trump attacked President Joe Biden, using the same hot button the media can’t stop pressing: Biden’s age. “We have a man who is totally corrupt and the worst president in the history of our country, who is cognitively impaired, in no condition to lead, and is now in charge of dealing with Russia and possible nuclear war,” said Trump.
He added, “Just think of it. We would be in World War Two very quickly if we’re going to be relying on this man, and far more devastating than any war.”
Here’s a snippet of that speech that shows both gaffes as well as others, including one in which Trump claims he’s leading Obama in the polls and that he won an election over Obama (before racking his memory and coming up with the name Hillary Clinton).
It’s worth reflecting on an older video that shows the second presidential debate between then-candidates Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford. It’s notable for a number of reasons, but it’s largely remembered for a moment in that debate in which Ford declared, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”
Whatever Ford meant to say, that statement was seized on by the media as a major mistake. Even decades later, there’s still debate about what role Ford’s gaffe played in the outcome of the election, with some feeling that it dinged the prevailing narrative of Ford as the knowledgeable, familiar Washington insider and Carter as the naive, inexperienced outsider.
Rightly or wrongly, gaffes can steer a media narrative around a candidate. They serve as a measure of how much someone understands a situation when not reading from a prompter, and whether a candidate can handle themselves when asked something unexpected.
Everything that Biden says appears to be run through a fine sieve, designed to catch even the slightest misstep, so the media can maintain its he’s-too-old narrative. In the past week, both Fox News and The New York Post have directed attention to Biden saying, in respect to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that he was “standing there the next day” looking at the destruction, when Biden actually visited over a week after the attack, on Sept. 20. For Biden, this is the kind of thing that merits days of tsk-tsking concern about the clarity of his thinking.
Neither of these sources bothered to mention that Trump claimed to be at ground zero alongside firefighters and police. “I was down there also,” said Trump, “but I’m not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.” All of this was a lie. What Trump was really doing that day was going on the radio to brag that his building was now the tallest in Manhattan. Which was also a lie.
But Trump can seemingly say anything without raising more than a yawn from the media. Or he can not say anything for 40 seconds in the middle of a speech, and that’s also just fine.
This is far from the first time Trump has delivered a gaffe-laden speech. In fact, that’s pretty much the definition of any Trump speech. There was the time he claimed that the American army took over the airports in the Revolutionary War. The time he couldn’t recall the names of his own foreign policy advisers. The debate where Trump thought the “nuclear triad” was bombs, power, and who knows what. The statement where Trump said the solution to nuclear proliferation was more nukes. The speech where Trump declared his admiration for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
On each of these events, Trump fills the spaces between gaffes with outright lies.
The media is still out there, hovering above Biden each time he appears in front of the cameras, looking for the first sign that he might have lost a step after 52 years in public office. But Trump … Trump gets a pass. He gets a pass on his age. He gets a pass on his health. He gets a pass on his lies. And Trump gets a pass on the one thing that was most obvious in both his time in office and his every public appearance—his staggering incompetence. That’s not due to his age. That’s just due to how his ego, narcissism, and hate leave no room for rational thought.
Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.