CSotD: Play the hand or fold?

As suspected, waiting 24 hours brought in more cartoons about the debate than can possibly be used here, which, by-the-by, is a good indicator of how little cartoonists are really constrained by schedules, deadlines and rules.

A more critical factor is evident in Nick Anderson (Tribune)’s piece: The immediate reaction for Democrats was, indeed, a combination of despair and panic. The question is whether that response will become the election’s defining moment or a powerful motivator.

To put it one way, Abraham Lincoln was challenged in his second run for the White House, and said

I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.

But neither should we forget the wisdom of Mike Tyson, who observed

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Then, like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze.””

Biden got punched in the mouth, but he rallied the next day and gave a solid speech in North Carolina. Here’s the video, with a h/t to Mark Evanier, who asks, “Where the **** was this guy last night?

Excellent question. Is his recovery too little, too late? I guess we’ll see.

For the record, Lincoln won a second term and Mike Tyson lost on a TKO.

Clay Bennett (CTFP) is the master of the stunned take, and he gets this one right, as Democrats throughout the country froze in fear. The question is, “and now what?”

As Walt Handelsman put it, the panicked reaction was to look for another horse they could swap to.

He offers a reasonable selection of possible choices, with the largest sign being to keep going on the road that got you this far.

Clay Jones is not the only cartoonist who depicts the donkey as suggesting Gavin Newsom, and it’s important to distinguish between promoting your own choice and showing what Democrats are thinking.

After all, Mike Lester (AMS) shows the donkey making choices and, based on his previous work, we can be reasonably certain that Lester’s own choice would be “none of the above.”

Chris Britt (Creators) frames the question in simpler, more Biden-centric terms, to which I would add that retiring would be a certainty while saving democracy might be a stretch, at which point we might cite Robert Browning:

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?

But to quote history instead, some have looked to 1968, when Lyndon Johnson dropped out of the race and his replacement, Hubert Humphrey, lost to Nixon. It’s a terrible, irrelevant parallel.

LBJ quit two months before the Convention, in the face of a challenge from Bobby Kennedy, who was on a surge when he was assassinated June 5 and might well have had both the nomination and a victory.

As it was, Humphrey was soundly defeated in the Electoral College but the race was close in actual votes, while the third-party candidacy of George Wallace plus Nixon’s secret undermining of LBJ’s peace initiative … well, suffice it to say that 1968 is hardly comparable.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Mike Luckovich

Jack Ohman

Lalo Alcaraz — AMS

Matt Wuerker — Politico

Four views of the same factor: Trump failed to answer most of the questions he was asked, instead choosing to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about and to spin a flood of braggadocio, exaggeration and blatant lies which left Biden overwhelmed and frozen, as Mike Tyson might have predicted and Alcaraz portrayed.

Scott Stantis seems to credit Jake Tapper with Trump’s win. I haven’t reviewed the recording enough to make a count, but it seemed Dana Bash more often noted how much time Trump had left and repeated the question he had originally ducked.

If that’s true, then Tapper could get more credit for allowing Trump to hijack the conversation, but the bottom line is that CNN’s format opened the door to outrageous claims and Biden failed to point them out.

It’s rare that a game’s outcome is determined by an incompetent ref, and blaming the officials is never a good response to defeat.

To put it in futbol terms, you should know within the opening minutes of a game how the assistant refs are calling off-sides and adjust your play accordingly.

Jeff Danziger (Counterpoint) may have a point in suggesting that the press has been more dogged in reporting Biden’s failure than in reporting on Trump’s flood of lies.

Others have suggested that Trump is so well-known for false statements that his lies are no longer newsworthy. However, though journalists are taught that while “dog bites man” is not news and “man bites dog” would be, we haven’t stopped reporting on murders or airplane accidents because they are frequent.

Besides, by that measure, if “Trump lied” is no longer news, “Biden is old” wouldn’t be, either.

However, it still comes down to blaming the refs.

As it happens, Lee Judge — who doubles as a sportswriter — cuts to the bottom line and makes the relevant call on the final loser.

He also offers this scant bit of dark optimism:

And then he wisely adds this disclaimer:

(And if you’re one of those people who say the first one to bring up Hitler loses an argument, in my experience the people who say that just lost an argument and regret not bringing up Hitler sooner.)

While, speaking as we were of people who aren’t reluctant to punch you in the face, Ann Telnaes does some of her best work in cold fury and she doesn’t hold back on her analysis this time around.

For those who prefer to see it in text, Will Bunch had a good piece on the topic, which lays out all the hard truths but includes this optimistic but practical wrap-up:

And Garth German, having recovered from Thursday night’s shock, laid out the choices for those who didn’t quite understand how it works in the real world, where you dance with the one that brung you, play the hand you were dealt and try not to fall off whatever horse you rode into that river.

It’s okay to put it all down for a while, but just until November.

17 thoughts on “CSotD: Play the hand or fold?

    1. You’re right — and they’ve become fairly standard. We saw what happened when Trump’s gave out on him a few weeks ago. Good reason to hold more news conferences and get used to working without one!

    2. Trump goes off script at the drop of a hat. I am more frightened that too many Americans seem to like what he says when he does, because generally it comes down to some variation on the theme of wanting me dead. I am therefore not above comparing people like you, who use your access to an audience to amplify the lies, to Leni Riefenstahl.

    3. Tr*mp would never have even contemplated having Biden’s inspiring speech on HIS teleprompter. He would have sent it back to his speechwriter for revision – “Delete the optimism! More lies! More fear! More bile! More despair! More hate!”

  1. Trump has more studio experience than Biden, so I think that helped him with the debate performance.

    Also, I don’t think Biden ever got past his disgust at sharing the stage with a man whose name he wouldn’t even utter in the first two years of his term. He lost the debate when he legitimized Trump’s candidacy by agreeing to it in the first place.

  2. (Acknowledgments to Lawrence O’Donnell, whose knowledge of the facts seems to have escaped all the idiots on the NYT editorial board) Even if they all want a new alternative to Joe (and there’s no consensus choice anyway), the only choice they would have, IF he decided to withdraw (and he won’t) would be Kamala. Why? Because all of the Democratic party campaign war chest belongs to the Joe Biden campaign, who can only assign it to his running mate, BY LAW. Anyone else nominated at an open convention would start at zero and would need to raise his own money beginning in mid-August! Humphrey, who had Johnson’s campaign funds, is said to have narrowly lost to Nixon because he ran out of money at the end. And the convention would have to discard all the nomination rules it created in 1972 when they got rid of the open convention just to do that much. So replacing Joe now is a pipe dream that won’t happen unless he dies in the interim.
    And, judging by the focus groups of actual voters (and not the Democratic insiders or the all-knowing editorialists), nobody (of the fraction of voters–no more than a third) who actually viewed the debate is abandoning Biden for Trump. (They all recognize that Trump is insane and that RFK Jr. isn’t much better.) They already knew he was old. They’re cutting him the slack he deserves for being over-prepped and not having a staff who should have protected his voice and his health and just having a bad night. Rules requiring HIM to choose which of the torrent of lies to waste his responses on were also not helpful, but agreeing to them was, naively or not, produced something nobody expected to be the result. Tapper and Bash’s nearly robotic questioning seemed to be more concerned with meeting time constraints than getting a response, and poor Joe was simply trying to talk way too fast to keep up with their speed instead of going at his normal words-per-minute pace.

    And to paraphrase Lawrence: What does any of this have to do with how anyone in the White House makes decisions? No president decides anything by himself, he’s got an office full of experts and aides who advise him on everything. And he never has a two-minute time limit. So, really, he could be physically weak, wheelchair-bound and unable to address the American public, and still do as good a job as he did in his first term, or more to the point, he’d still be a better president than that moron dancing to YMCA. Or does no one remember FDR? Or JFK? Or Reagan?

    So, to the pundits and Democrats who are panicking: keep your pants on. No need to leave puddles all over the your offices. Trust your voters. (My favorite voter quote: “Biden would still be a better choice even if he were dead!”)

    P.S. DJT is now worried about “electric airplanes” falling out of the sky on cloudy days, something I’m sure would be first on his list of national problems he believes would require congressional hearings and the impeachment of the sun.

    1. Kamela (unfortunately and wrongly) has two problems with being the candidate in America of 2024: Her race, and her sex. With the current national attitude, to appeal to enough middle road voters, and the conservative anybody-but-Trump crowd, the candidate has to be white and male.

      The party would have better luck running Hillary again rather than Kamala.

  3. Regarding Donald Trump, my friends around the globe look on in astonishment, mouths agape, thinking, “How did this country get to that point so suddenly?” It wasn’t as sudden as it seems, and lots of other countries are following us pretty rapidly, but climate change happens the same way and plenty of people in this country can’t seem to admit that the icecaps are melting. I never thought I’d be alive to see the end of the world, but now I feel like the white robed guy with the sign in the New Yorker cartoon.

    1. The comparison to climate change is more than apt. American politics has been on a downhill slide ever since Reagan took office in the 80s (and possibly even before that), and now it’s become impossible to ignore.
      This can be largely blamed on the elections having been turned into a media circus, rather than being treated as deadly serious as they are. As a result Americans will vote for whoever is the most “entertaining” and not whoever is the most qualified for office. This is how we ended with truly awful presidents such as Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and ultimately Trump. Obama and Biden have been rather fortunate outliers.

      And that’s not even getting into the clowns we elected to Congress and other offices…

      1. I credit the start to Newt Gingrich. He’s the originator of, “They’re not the respected opposition, they’re the enemy who must be defeated by any means, fair or foul.”

  4. I need a copy of these rules cartoonists aren’t following. I must have lost mine.

    1. There are some cartoonists who do X-number of cartoons a week, I think mostly those associated with particular papers. As a result, if something happens on a particular day, they don’t comment until the next time they’re up to bat, regardless of its importance. And virtually nobody works Sunday to appear Monday.

  5. It really is disheartening how the media flatly ignores Trump’s cavalcade of lies in favor of focusing on “old man is old” Biden.

    And you’re 100% correct: if Trump’s lies are commonplace to point where they aren’t worth commenting on, then neither is Biden’s age.

    1. I’m of the opinion that voting NOTA will result in a Trump victory. That is hardly “absolution.”

  6. If you’re going to waste your vote, don’t go NOTA. Write in someone you respect. I’m going for the Lone Ranger with Tonto as veep. The candidates are both corporate snugglers with no real proposals to actually help the working class on a daily basis. I think it started when many wealthy people decided altruism was for suckers and losers.

  7. I don’t share your political viewpoints, but I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who decides to stick with the guy even after a bad performance. If you want to go down with the sinking ship, by all means. At this point, Dem’s are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they pull a new guy in, that doesn’t have a great track record of success as you pointed out. If they stick with the guy they have, they risk all kinds of bad things happening in the interim that could make them wish they had switched candidates when they had the chance. It’s true that anyone who walks outside could get hit by a car, young old healthy or unhealthy – but let’s not pretend Biden is a spring chicken and/or not accident prone. And Republicans are ecstatic about Biden staying in the race, so who do you want to be happy and who do you want to be miserable? Sometimes I wonder how much of elections are about choosing who’s best for the country or choosing “anyone but that guy because I can’t stand those people.”

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