DNC 2020
Opinion
August 23, 2020

Fifty-four percent of Americans disapprove of Donald Trump’s handling of the presidency. He trails Democratic nominee Joe Biden in national polls by more than 7 percentage points. Biden leads in every swing state, often by substantial margins.

The only way for Trump to turn it around is for his campaign and its cheerleaders in the right-wing media to deploy a strategy based on the fallacy of composition — which is the act of claiming that something is true of a whole because it is true of a part (even a very tiny part). We see this all the time on the right when a muckraking website like Campus Reform highlights an extreme left-wing statement by a professor and uses it to describe American universities as a whole as uniformly Marxist, even though the overwhelming majority of the country’s thousands of faculty members are not Marxists.

This is exactly what Trump did in a Saturday tweet when he asserted that “the Democrats took the word GOD out of the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democrat National Convention.” In fact, every recitation of the Pledge during the primetime segments of the DNC included the “under God” line. This line was left out during just two individual caucus meetings out of more than a dozen at the DNC.

So beware, Democrats: Any politically unpopular, stupid, ill-advised, extreme, over-the-top statement or act by anyone who can be described as a member of the party will be attributed to all members of the party — very much including those at the top of the ticket. And this will be true even when Biden distances himself from the statement or act, as he has consistently done with the call of some activists to “Defund the Police.” If one Democrat says it, Trump will pretend all Democrats think it. If they deny it, the disavowal will be treated as evidence of deceit.

Because such flagrant dishonesty may be the only way for Trump to prevail on Nov. 3. Damon Linker

August 21, 2020

The emcee for the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, tried something the previous three hosts had not: comedy.

Not everybody loved her jokes, scattered throughout the two hours of virtual convening, or found them appropriate for such a serious occasion. But Now This News rounded most of them up in one place, and so you can watch Louis-Dreyfus roast President Trump without the solemn testimonials, professions of faith, stories of grief, and proposals for saving the soul of America getting in the way.

Most of Louis-Dreyfus' zingers were directed toward Trump, but her first one actually involved Vice President Mike Pence — or rather, using Pence as a canvas to critique all the Republicans and conservative TV personalities who can't find the time or interest to learn how to pronounce Kamala. Watch below. Peter Weber

August 21, 2020

One of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's proudest legislative accomplishments is the Violence Against Women Act — there was an entire segment dedicated to it on Wednesday's Democratic National Convention. But some of the best anecdotes at this year's DNC were about violence by women, threatened or real.

Jill Biden's story involved actual face-punching. "There was a bully in my school," one of Biden's four sisters recounted in her introductory video Wednesday night. "She marched up the street and knocked on his door." "And I punched him right in the face," Biden said, finishing the story, smiling.

Joe Biden's Irish Catholic mother merely threatened violence — against a nun, no less.

"When he entered school, there was a problem: Joe had a stutter," a narrator said in Biden's own introductory video Thursday night. "And it's mortifying," Biden continued. "It allows the child to become an object of ridicule." The narrator picked up the story again: "When his teacher mimicked him and Joe ran back home from school, his mother drove him back." And Biden finished it with a punch line: "'Did you say to my son, "Mr. B-B-Biden"'? The nun said, 'I was just trying to make a point.' My mother stood up, all 5-foot-2 of her, 'If you ever talk to my son like that again, I'll come back and rip that damn bonnet off your head, do you understand me? Joey, go back to class.'"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's punch line was more metaphorical. The video setting up her speech included a segment from Stephen Colbert's Late Show. "If you want to go into the arena, you have to be prepared to take a punch," she told Colbert last fall. "But you also be prepared to throw a punch — for the children. For the children." Colbert was tickled to have made the cut, he said Wednesday night.

The message is about as subtle as a punch in the face: Women are tough. Also, don't mess with Jill Biden's family. Peter Weber

August 21, 2020

Sen. Cory Booker held a live group video-chat with some of Joe Biden's vanquished rivals during the final night of the Democratic National Convention. Why? "You could think of this sort of like Survivor, on the out interviews of all the people that got voted off the island," Booker explained. His fellow Democrats laughed.

"Bernie, Bernie, don't you laugh, because I got questions for you, like: Why does my girlfriend like you more than she likes me?" Booker asked, referring to actress Rosario Dawson's political leanings. It was meant to be a rhetorical question, but Sanders answered anyway: "Because she's smarter than you, and that's the obvious answer, right?" Booker laughed the hardest, and that exchange set a light tone for what could have been a really awkward Zoom call between colleagues. The other former candidates went on to share nice stories about Biden.

This isn't the first time the two men have ribbed each other about Dawson.

But it may be a good sign for the party that these formal rivals can bridge their ideological differences with good-natured jokes. Peter Weber

Opinion
August 21, 2020

In accepting the Democratic Party's presidential nomination on Thursday night, former Vice President Joe Biden offered the country something that has been missing from our politics lately: optimism.

Yes, Biden referred to the present era as a "season of darkness," and made a pointed, even angry critique of how President Donald Trump has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. But he also made the case that — in this deeply polarized moment — Americans can and will work together for the common good, and that great possibilities are still attainable.

"The defining feature of America, everything is possible," he said, later adding: "This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme."

Now, optimistic talk about America's possibilities has often been a staple of American political talk. Barack Obama famously rode to the White House on a wave of "hope and change." But even Obama seems to have lost some of his hope — on Wednesday night, he warned the nation of President Trump's threat to American democracy, and concluded his speech with a plaintive "Stay safe." Obama's dark mood seemed to match that of the electorate: Three quarters of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, including 63 percent of Republicans.

Much of that negativity has surely been earned. But the dark outlook has probably been helped along by President Trump's divide-and-conquer approach to politics. To the extent that Trump offers optimism to America, it almost always centers on himself: "I alone can fix it." And that optimism, such as it is, is often misplaced. Think of all the times Trump has suggested the coronavirus will simply "disappear."

Biden, meanwhile, seemed more realistic about the challenges facing the country. And he centered his optimism on Americans and their ability — even now — to unite with each other. "America isn't just a collection of clashing interests of Red States or Blue States," he said. "We're so much bigger than that. We're so much better than that."

Optimism, once a familiar force in our politics, now feels strange. We're about to find out if Americans still buy a hopeful message. Joel Mathis

August 21, 2020

One of the biggest bits of drama in the otherwise tightly scripted Democratic National Convention was whether the new nominee, Joe Biden, would fumble his big acceptance speech with an embarrassing gaffe or a "senior moment." And why would people think that? Well, President Trump and his campaign have been predicting as much for weeks. They even spent a lot of money on an online ad this week claiming Biden is in "cognitive decline."

The DNC appeared unsure, too, prefacing his speech with repeated mentions of Biden's history of stuttering — including a story about his mother threatening to assault a teacher-nun who mocked her son's stutter in class and this moving video from a young Brayden Harrington.

But Biden rose to the occasion. And his speech looked even better, it was widely noted, because Trump and his allies had set such a low bar for him to clear.

Some people were still not impressed that Biden could read a speech without stumping, but that isn't all he did, of course.

Maybe the Trump team will learn the art of expectations-setting before the debates. But for now, Biden can finally say: Thanks, Trump. Peter Weber

Opinion
August 21, 2020

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden presented the most obvious and convincing case against President Trump — the undeniable fact that if Trump wins re-election, America will remain in the coronavirus sandpit. "Just judge this president on the facts. Five million Americans infected by COVID-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died," said Biden. "This president, if he's re-elected, you know what will happen: cases and deaths will remain far too high. More mom-and-pop businesses will close their doors, and this time for good." Yup.

For the first time at the DNC, Biden emphasized that there will be no economic recovery until the pandemic is controlled, and America is an international laughingstock. "We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back in schools, we will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus," he said, correctly. "The tragedy of where we are today is that it didn't have to be this bad. Just look around — it's not this bad in Canada, or Europe, or Japan, or almost anywhere else in the world." Biden then outlined a sketch of a plan to contain the virus: a rapid build-out of containment systems, putting scientists back at the forefront of federal messaging, a national mandate for mask-wearing in public, and so forth.

It remains to be seen whether a President Biden would effectively follow through on these promises. But it is simply inarguable that he is correct about Trump. Our current president is a miserable failure, and if he wins re-election Americans are going to continue to suffer horribly. Ryan Cooper

August 21, 2020

President Trump responded to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's acceptance speech with a surprisingly subdued and succinct tweet.

"In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks," Trump wrote. "He will never change, just words!" This is a sharp contrast to the flurry of all-caps tweets he unleashed as former President Barack Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, spoke on Wednesday night. Repeating a false conspiracy theory, Trump tweeted about Obama, "HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!" He also falsely accused Harris of calling Biden "A RACIST" and "INCOMPETENT."

It's possible that Trump ran out of steam after going off on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spoke before Biden. Trump said that Bloomberg, a former Democratic presidential candidate, gave "the worst debate performance in the history of politics," is "commonly known as Mini Mike," and was treated "like a dog" by Democrats. Perhaps after a few Diet Cokes Trump will be back with a "Sleepy Joe" or two. Catherine Garcia

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