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The Worst Debate Takes

We waded through the muck to bring you the very finest of the bad takes.
by Jim Swift
September 30, 2020
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

https://twitter.com/JackPosobiec/status/1311282137140801536

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.

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:

Was Chris Wallace trying to “punish” President Trump? That’s Hugh Hewitt’s take. (Hewitt, recall, has served in a moderating capacity before.)

Hewitt also did a podcast with Megyn Kelly (another former debate moderator) and she took it a step further:

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.

Tim Pool has this bizarre framing:

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.

The Vox Pop have thoughts. 

Don’t worry, there are only three more debates to go.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.