Bad things happen when you debate a demagogue

Odd Man Out


Here’s the lord of Mar-a-Lago ranting Tuesday night during his so-called debate with Joe Biden:

As you know today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They are called poll watchers. They are very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.

Swamp Rabbit and I live in the Tinicum swamp near Philly, so we wondered what Donald Trump was talking about. Turns out he was referring to satellite election offices, where you can register to vote and pick up or drop off mail-in ballots.

“Trump ain’t got no certified poll watchers in Philly,” Swamp Rabbit noted. “Polling places ain’t even open yet. He’s just trying to make his MAGA wackos believe all them big-city Dems are gonna rig the election by stealing votes from him.”


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The spookiest Halloween ever

Swamp Rabbit’s parole office Victor Cortez dropped by yesterday at my shack in the Tinicum swamp while the rabbit and I were critiquing Donald Trump’s performance at his final debate with Joe Biden. “I’m the least racist person in this swamp,” Victor said, doing a dead-on Trump impression.

Swamp Rabbit handed him a beer. “That’s because you the only person in this swamp, ‘cept for Odd Man and me.”

“No president has done more for the Black community than I have, except maybe Abraham Lincoln,” Victor added, making weird, Trumpian hand gestures. “Ask my black friends. Any of them.”

“That shouldn’t take long,” I said. “The only Black friend you’ve got is Kanye West.”

Swamp Rabbit objected. “That ain’t fair. Just because Trump wanted to have the Central Park Five executed don’t mean he ain’t got no Black friends. Just because his real estate company screened out Black applicants and his casinos treated Black employees like they was in the deep South don’t mean Black peeps ain’t gonna vote for him.”

“White suburban women will vote for me, too,” Victor said. “They know I’ll keep my Black friends out of their neighborhoods.”

Victor was really getting into his Trump impression. He snapped open his valise and pulled out a strawberry-blonde fright wig and a jar of pumpkin-colored makeup and a red tie that was four yards long. A few minutes later he looked like the real deal. Like he was ready to go door to door for Halloween dressed as the worst president in U.S. history. “Trick or treat!” he said.

“Try not to be a complete whack job,” I told him. “There won’t be any trick-or-treating this year, not with the Covid-19 surging.”

“Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” Victor said, quoting Trump. “People are tired of all this Covid stuff.”

I reminded him that the country set a new single-day record on Friday with over 83,000 new Covid infections. Millions of people remain out of work because of the plague. There might be another 200,000 Covid deaths by January unless people wear masks and abide by all the other measures that help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Fake news!” he shouted. “I came down with the China virus and I beat it, no problem.”

“Yeah, no problem,” I said. “Thanks to those two drugs that other infected people don’t have access to. And steroids, of course.”

Swamp Rabbit congratulated Victor on his Trump outfit and asked what he planned to do with it after Halloween. Victor said he was tired of being a probation officer and would use the outfit to land another job after Trump gets kicked out of the White House.

“The guy who made the Borat movies said he’s always looking for people to play racist buffoons,” Victor explained. “If Trump doesn’t want the job, I’ll take it.”

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Mom, apple pie, voter suppression and poor healthcare


Swamp Rabbit basked in the autumn sunshine and snapped open a beer. “”What’s up, Odd Man, you look even more bummed out than usual.”

I told him last week’s Judiciary Committee hearings were still making me sick. Republican senators rushed through the four-day farce so they can confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whose lies and evasions can’t disguise the likelihood that she will side with Donald Trump if the outcome of the presidential election is disputed. Her confirmation will be another victory for corrupt government.

“You’re assumin’ too much,” Swamp Rabbit said, making himself at home on the front porch of my shack. “She didn’t make no deals with Trump before she got nominated. She never promised him nothing.”

“She didn’t have to promise, ” I replied. “Trump is too lazy and stupid to choose a nominee on his own, but he knew the Federalist Society and Mitch McConnell’s gang would groom and vet the judge most likely to protect his ass and advance the Republican agenda. Barrett was chosen for him.”

“Okay, but don’t diss that holy woman. She got seven kids and wants to save all the fetuses in the world. You make it sound like she’s worse than them other nominees who duck questions.”

She is worse, I told him. Most nominees for the federal courts duck questions because they don’t want to trigger the antagonism of senators who might not share their views on existing laws. But Barrett went way beyond the usual evasiveness. She refused to say whether Trump had the right to postpone the election, or whether she would recuse herself from any post-election cases involving Trump in order to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. She wouldn’t even take a stand on voter intimidation, or on whether climate change is real.

Instead, she behaved as if such relevant questions were beneath her dignity. She argued, vaguely, that judicial rulings should always be in line with the original meaning of the Constitution; that the text should never be reinterpreted to reflect societal changes. As if she’s certain her narrow interpretations reflect the intentions of the guys who wrote the text. She’s the worst sort of hypocrite — a zealot who pretends to be objective.

“Now I get it,” Swamp Rabbit said. “You hate her because she’s one of them originalists.”

“I do,” I admitted. “Originalism makes no sense. Any judge who insists on upholding the original public meaning of the Constitution would necessarily have to reject the legislation that outlawed slavery, discrimination against women and other foul practices that were acceptable to the so-called founders.”

“That ain’t fair,” my mangy friend shouted. “Amy is a self-satisfied fundamentalist just like her mentor, Antonin Scalia, but that don’t mean she won’t make a good Supreme Court justice. She says she ain’t a racist and she likes puppies. And don’t forget the kids.”

“Yes, the kids,” I said. “She wants to kill the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic, but the kids are alright — especially if they’re unborn.”

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The drama queen on the balcony, on steroids


So what happens when the would-be dictator not only denies the Covid-19 but turns the White House into a virus hot spot?

“Beats the hell out of me,” Swamp Rabbit said. “I’m still wondering why them so-called doctors would let an infected guy leave the hospital to go on a joyride.”

I tried to imagine how it went down. “Trump probably said something like ‘Yo Doc, give me a double dose of that dexamethasone or you’re fired. I’ve got to ride around and wave to my fans.”

Swamp Rabbit nodded. “They let him stand on that White House balcony and tear off his mask and pose like a dictator with a breathing problem.”

Benito Trumpolini,” I said, quoting some wag who weighed in after the photo op.

My swamp neighbor disagreed. “He looked more like Evita. Mussolini didn’t wear all that makeup.”

“The orange makeup means he’s not sick anymore,” I explained. “He said ‘Maybe I’m immune.'”

We agreed that Donald Trump is immune — immune to honesty, irony, conscience, compassion, logic, good advice, good taste, common sense and common decency. That he’s a loathsome old shit with no redeeming qualities who just happens to have the most powerful job in the country.

“Them mainstream mediums knew he was a shit the first time he ran for president,” Swamp Rabbit said. “How come they made like he was a normal candidate instead of saying he wasn’t fit to run? How come they’re still pretending this is a normal election?”

That’s easy, I told him. A freak like Trump comes along once in a lifetime. All eyes are drawn to him. He’s great for cable news ratings and even newspaper sales. The talking heads will milk his freakishness all the way to the election, and they’re hoping he refuses to concede so they can milk it into the winter and beyond.

“He’s hopped up on them steroids now,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They might get their wish.'”

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Bad things happen when you debate a demagogue


Here’s the lord of Mar-a-Lago ranting Tuesday night during his so-called debate with Joe Biden:

As you know today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They are called poll watchers. They are very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.

Swamp Rabbit and I live in the Tinicum swamp near Philly, so we wondered what Donald Trump was talking about. Turns out he was referring to satellite election offices, where you can register to vote and pick up or drop off mail-in ballots.

“Trump ain’t got no certified poll watchers in Philly,” Swamp Rabbit noted. “Polling places ain’t even open yet. He’s just trying to make his MAGA wackos believe all them big-city Dems are gonna rig the election by stealing votes from him.”

I had to agree with my mangy friend for a change. But why does Trump keep casting doubt on the legitimacy of the voting process? Isn’t he afraid his boorish behavior at the debates will backfire and chase away the undecided voters he would need to win the election?

“There ain’t no undecided voters,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Trump knows he’s gonna lose. He just wants to hold on to the wackos so they will back him when he tries to use the courts to overturn the election results.”

“I can’t believe that’ll actually happen,” I replied. “Trump is a fraud and a sociopath and a cancer on the body politic and all that, but even he wouldn’t try to pull off a coup in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”

Swamp Rabbit listed bad things some people thought Trump wouldn’t do: deliberate mishandling of a major health crisis, resulting in tens of thousands of avoidable deaths; withdrawal from the Paris Agreement; caging of immigrant children; deliberate alienation of democratic allies while cultivating good relations with tyrants; attempted extortion of a foreign power; condoning of criminal behavior by rogue cops and white supremacists.

I stopped him before he could go on and he said, “The point is he ain’t leaving the White House if he can help it. He is what he is. There ain’t no need for more debates. “

“There’s got to be a better way,” I replied. “Maybe the people who run the debates can modify the rules so Trump can’t bully the moderator or interrupt his opponent or talk way past the two-minute limit or tell lies. Maybe they can make him behave like a decent human instead of a rabid hog monster.”

Swamp Rabbit looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “It’s a little late for that, doncha think?”

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Calling Dr. Freud! Was my bad dream about the election?

Ifreud was telling Swamp Rabbit about a dream in which I’d been hired as a helicopter pilot. The copter was a small, square-shaped thing with rotors laying next to it that I would have to attach to get it airborne. Would-be passengers were lined up for blocks, waiting for me to get them off the ground and away from some disaster that was about to happen.

The problem was that I had bluffed my way into the job and knew nothing about copters. The would-be passengers cursed me as it became clear I was clueless, so I dashed off and came back with two large bags of ice that I hoped would appease them. They were chasing me and vowing to tear me apart. Then I woke up.

“OK, let me guess how I’m supposed to inter-pit that,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The election is in less than six weeks. Trump is saying he might not accept the results if he ain’t the winner. He nominated an ultra-rightwing religious kook to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she was even in her grave to make sure he’ll win if the Supreme Court gets to decide the election. His Senate flunkies are chompin’ at the bit to confirm the kook.”

He continued: “This is one of them constitutional crises, the biggest in the history of electing presidents. I’m guessin’ your dream is about how you’re scared Trump might get to be dictator, like he’s been pushing for since he moved into the White House.”

“Sound about right,” I said. “I’m worried it might be too late for the peeps to escape disaster. It was three years before the media would call Trump a liar, and they still won’t call him a would-be dictator. And almost half the country seems to be cool with the idea of him taking over.”

“But what about the ice in your dream?” Swamp Rabbit asked. “And how come it was your fault that the peeps couldn’t get away?”

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I was never a Trump fan, and I didn’t vote for Jill Stein in 2016, so there’s no reason for me to feel guilty. Maybe I should call in professional help.”

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Trump: The ‘herd mentality’ will save us

Trump said ‘herd mentality’ instead of ‘herd immunity.’ A Freudian slip?

Swamp Rabbit had a hunch. “I bet lots of peeps think Donald Trump is some kind of test for the country. If we pass, he gets kicked out of office and melts into a pool of pig grease and slides down the drain. If we fail, him and his kin folk shred the Constitution and move into the White House for life.”

“Some people in the media don’t see it that way,” I said. “They pretend this is a normal election. That Trump is a normal candidate. That it’s business as usual, no matter what he says or does, no matter how vile or ridiculous he is.”

I showed Swamp Rabbit a piece by a Washington Post columnist who congratulated Trump for taking questions from attendees at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Karen Tumulty wrote:

It was actually a healthy development for Trump to face skeptical voters on live television. He should do it more often… Trump, to his credit, stepped outside his comfort zone and put himself in a situation where he had to refrain from insulting or belittling those who challenged him. 

A healthy development! On the same day, another Post staffer wrote that Trump, as usual, lied to his questioners. And Tumulty herself noted that he not only lied, but also demonstrated his inability to use the English language. This was Trump explaining why covid-19 will go away without a vaccine:

You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

He was reaching for herd immunity, of course. His malapropism was a reminder that he’s dangerous not only because he’s dishonest and heartless but also because he’s incoherent and probably addled. But Tumulty would rather laud Trump for the courageous act of taking questions. God forbid she should express honest contempt for a candidate who is clearly unqualified to hold office — witness his handling of the coronavirus crisis — and not interested in abiding by the results of the election if it doesn’t go his way.

“Okay, so what?” Swamp Rabbit said. “What are them reporters supposed to do? Pretend Trump ain’t out there campaigning?”

“They’re supposed to present his policy plans and fact-check everything he says, and report his lies,” I replied. “They shouldn’t give him credit for stepping outside his so-called comfort zone for a half-hour. And they shouldn’t use false equivalencies, like those reporters in USA Today.”

He shook his head. “If they did all that, them Republican spin doctors would say the media is working for antifa-loving liberals who are using Joe Biden as a front for a socialist takeover.”

“They’re going to say that anyway,” I said. “Or else they would have to concede that the stories about Trump are true, which would be the same as admitting they’re backing a monster. The herd might stampede if they said that.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “I doubt it,” he said.

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Not to belabor the obvious, but…

I called up Elizabeth Warren’s Labor Day message and said, “Check it out, Swamp Rabbit. Woody Guthrie could have written it.”

Warren’s words are like Woody Guthrie’s

Today’s a federal holiday because on the eve of the 20th century, machinists, carpenters, and people who worked in mills, mines, factories, and more joined together to fight for better wages, better conditions, and a day to honor the power of working people.

Labor unions are still fighting for an America that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. They were on the front lines then, and they are on the front lines now.

This year, many essential workers have been working in high-risk conditions without appropriate protective equipment, adequate safety standards, or basic job protections. So I’m going to keep pushing in Congress for an Essential Workers’ Bill of Rights to ensure safe working conditions, fair pay, paid leave, health care security, support for child care, and more…

“OK, so what?” Swamp Rabbit said. “I’m guessing Joe Biden sent out pretty much the same Labor Day message. Kamala Harris, too. All the Dems say the same thing on Labor Day. Hail to the workers.”

“Biden can hail the workers all he wants,” I replied, “but his first loyalty is to Wall Street, not Main Street. To the billionaires and corporations. And that goes for Harris and the other neolibs.”

Swamp Rabbit threw an empty beer can at me. “There you go dissing the neolibs again. Where would the Dems be without the big-money guys? Just because Biden sucks up to the .01 percent don’t mean he ain’t for working peeps.”

I showed him this, from the WP: “While Biden publicly calls out Wall Street excesses and promises to rein them in, Biden staffers privately are reassuring industry leaders that he won’t focus on the issue in office.”

“Big deal,” Swamp Rabbit said. “He’s gotta tell ’em that or they might jump to Trump.”

Here’s the thing, I told him. Biden and most other high-profile Democrats speak up for working people when it’s convenient. Warren walks the walk. Read up on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. How many elected politicians other than Warren and Bernie Sanders and a few others actually make working people’s interests their first priority?

“Trump would have called Warren a socialist every day,” he said. “She woulda sunk like a stone sinks in the Tinicum swamp. Who you gonna vote for, one of them Jill Stein-type losers?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. I’m voting to chase the hog monster out of the White House. Biden’s not the best, but he’ll do for now.”

Footnote: As a writer in Esquire bluntly noted, “If Democrats do not address the economic cataclysm currently in progress during their first two years in (theoretical) control, they are signing their own death warrants in the midterms, and possibly the presidential two years later.”  

Another: Guthrie and “Old Man Trump.”

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The odds look good, but don’t bet your house yet


“It ain’t just because them rats are still on Trump’s ship,” Swamp Rabbit said. “It’s because they look so comfortable there. They ain’t scared the ship’s gonna sink. They’re reserving deckchairs.”

The neofascist spectacle of the Republican National Convention had rattled the rabbit, and my contention that Trump’s presidency is a sinking ship was looking more and more flawed to him. He’s afraid Trump might win the election by stoking the fear and anger of white people who are nervous about street protests by Black Lives Matter and other “far left” groups.

“It’s not going to happen,” I said. “Trump will never lose his hardcore base, the racists and xenophobes, the morons who equate liberty with not wearing facemasks. But there aren’t enough of them at this point.”

I told him most people know that Trump allowed the coronavirus to keep spreading here while other developed countries took effective steps to contain it. That the United States has been burdened with almost a quarter of confirmed covid-19 deaths despite having only four percent of the world’s population.

They realize the economic disruption caused by the virus should have been temporary but instead has turned into a long-term disaster, largely because Trump initially lied about the severity of the problem and never pursued a coherent strategy for fighting it.

They’re aware that Trump will do anything he can get away with to hold on to the presidency, even try to start a race war. His office is what stands between him and a raft of criminal charges.

“How do you know what most peeps are aware of?” Swamp Rabbit said. “How do you know they care? Sounds like wishful thinking to me.”

I glared at him. “I know because millions of jobs have been lost and thousands of businesses have closed. I’d bet my house on Trump losing.”

We were standing near my shack in Tinicum Swamp. A big storm had left a hole in the roof and the front door hanging by a hinge.

“You’re gonna have to put up a lot more than that,” he said.

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Too late for rats to flee Trump’s ship


Swamp Rabbit was reading about the House panel that was grilling Louis DeJoy (nickname Joy Boy?), the megadonor appointed by Trump to wreck the U.S. Postal Service.

“How come you ain’t watching it on TV?” he said. “It’s got a lot of them Washington D.C. uglies you love to hate.”

“Waste of time,” I replied. “Do you expect that flunky to confess his sins to a bunch of Congress critters? That would never happen, not even in a Frank Capra movie.”

I went back to reading the book by Mary Trump that traces the psychopathology of her infamous uncle. Not much to learn there either. Fred Trump was a jerk and Donald is a chip off the old block. Trump’s supporters don’t care that he’s a jerk; that’s why they voted for him.

But Swamp Rabbit wasn’t finished tweaking me for mouthing off about national politics. “What about the Republican National Convention? Looks like most of them rats are still on Trump’s ship. I thought you said it was sinking.”

I told him the rats made their bed during the impeachment proceedings. Now they have nowhere else to go. They’re just like Trump in that they have no ideas for dealing with the virus, unemployment, income inequality, healthcare costs, climate change and all the other problems dragging down millions of Americans. They’re hoping Trump can steal the election with help from loathsome characters like DeJoy.

“Same old gang of thieves and bigots,” I said. “Worst of all, they’re boring.”

Swamp Rabbit smiled. “Does this mean you finally gonna stop all them anti-Trump rants I gotta hear every time I run into you?”

“Not yet,” I said. “You’ll have to wait until after the election for that.”

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