May 16, 2024 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Biden can bait Trump into a debate, because Trump is weak

Trump can’t bait Biden into a debate, because Trump is weak.

Via screenshot.
Via screenshot.

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According to USA Today, the news didn’t seem all that strange. Joe Biden and Donald Trump agreed on Wednesday to debate each other, once in June (on CNN) and once in September (on ABC).  

The most unusual thing, if it can be considered unusual these days, was that the agreement came after “a rapid back-and-forth between their campaigns and a flurry of taunts and insults from the candidates.”

But in that “flurry of taunts and insults” was the real news, to wit:  Biden baited Trump into a debate on his own terms and Trump accepted. Trump tried baiting Biden into a third. Biden said no. 

Another news angle: Trump is bad at politics. Yet another: Biden is the most combative Democratic nominee of our lifetimes, and Democratic voters are just now starting to notice.

Biden can taunt Trump, because Trump is weak. Trump can’t taunt Biden, because Trump is weak. Another news angle: Trump is bad at politics. Yet another: Biden is the most combative Democratic nominee of our lifetimes, and Democratic voters are just now starting to notice.

It started early Wednesday when the president released this:

Two things about two lines. 

One is “make my day.” For those who don’t know, that was instantly recognizable to millions of Americans of a certain generation. It’s a reference to a line from one of the “Dirty Harry” movies, the vigilante cop made famous by Clint Eastwood in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Specifically, the line appeared in a scene in Sudden Impact (1983) in which Harry Callahan kills a bunch of robbers in a shootout. The last robber grabs a hostage, threatening to kill her. The presumption is that normal cops would back off. Harry is not normal, though. He sees the hostage-taking as an invitation to do what he already wants to do. 

“Go ahead, make my day,” Harry says.

By invoking that line, Biden suggests that he’s as strong as Harry and that Trump is as weak as the robber. Trump has been begging to get whacked (rhetorically) and Biden is glad, perhaps eager, to oblige him. 

“Make my day” is too dated to light up social media. That was achieved by “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays.” That’s a reference to the day of the week when Trump is not defending himself in a criminal case in Manhattan in which he’s accused of fraud in the process of defrauding the American people. (He paid a porn actress to keep quiet about their sexual relationship, then lied about it on official business documents.)

That taunt surprised some people, including hip-hop artist Plies. He posted a video in which he demanded even more. “America loves a fighter, Joe,” he said. “They just want to see you fight.” Plies went on to say, correctly, that taunting Trump is what’s needed to break through the press corps’ typical indifference to his reelection messaging. (Not only is Biden doing the fighting. His campaign is selling the t-shirts.)

In fact, Biden has been taunting Trump since January when he and his campaign began referring to him as a loser. Since then, they have made a habit of calling him a liar, even a coward. Recently, Biden said Trump was a bully “who looks down on us.” Biden noted the only thing to be done: “Think about the guys you grew up with that you’d like to get in the corner and just give him a straight left. I’m not suggesting you hit the president. But we all know those guys growing up” (my italics).

This is the most combative Democratic nominee of our lifetimes. It’s not combativeness for its own sake, however, as it is for Trump. There’s a purpose to it. There’s a goal. It’s thought through. And if Plies’ reaction is an indication, Democratic voters are going to increasingly notice, perhaps cheer it on. After all, “America loves a fighter, Joe.”

Trump doesn’t think through his combativeness and he suffered for it. He thought he was showing strength. He only exposed his weakness. 

After Biden challenged him, in that video, to “make my day,” Trump immediately accepted the offer of two debates, one in June and one in September. He added: “I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds. That’s only because he doesn’t get them. Just tell me when, I’ll be there. ‘Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!'”

To which, Biden said no.

Biden can taunt Trump, because Trump is weak. 

Trump can’t taunt Biden, because Trump is weak. 

It gets better. 

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That June date? It’s not normal. Debates happen in the fall. But Biden wanted June 27, because that’s when Trump’s fraud trial will be over. 

To put this in plain English, Biden baited Trump into debating him during a brief window in which the verdict will still be fresh in people’s minds. Just imagine a debate taking place after (and if) the jury decides Trump is the first presidential candidate ever to be a convicted felon. 

Trump didn’t think that through. He chose combativeness for the sake of combativeness. Meanwhile, Biden is using it for a reason. That’s why the other news is old news. Biden is good at politics. Trump is bad. 

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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