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The lingering focus on Biden’s shaky debate obscures Trump’s major verbal miscues | Editorial

The president must now convince voters he has the mental acuity to do the toughest job in the world. The same bar does not exist for Trump, who loses no points for incoherence or incompetence.

Concerns about President Joe Biden's fitness to serve persist after his performance in the presidential debate, while Donald Trump's shambolic showing was largely shrugged off, the Editorial Board writes.
Concerns about President Joe Biden's fitness to serve persist after his performance in the presidential debate, while Donald Trump's shambolic showing was largely shrugged off, the Editorial Board writes.Read moreManuel Balce Ceneta / AP

President Joe Biden dug himself a hole and now he is trying to climb out. But many fellow Democrats and some in the media keep shoveling dirt on him.

One 20-minute TV interview was never going to swing the race back in Biden’s favor after his halting debate performance against Donald Trump — whose own shambolic showing was largely shrugged off. Legitimate questions remain as to whether Biden, 81, or Trump, 78, are up for the grueling campaign and four more years of a relentless job that has aged past Oval Office occupants.

Biden insists he is staying in the race. He must now convince voters he has the mental strength and stamina to do the toughest job in the world. The same bar does not apparently exist for Trump, who loses no points for incoherence or incompetence.

The country is not electing the next debate champion. Biden is a decent and honorable man with a substantive record of accomplishment. But to make his case, Biden should hold more unscripted events, including town halls, news conferences, and interviews.

At each stop, there will be no margin for error. The media is tracking Biden’s every move with an obsession greater than the 2016 focus on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The rules have always been different for Trump. Recall when seven members of Trump’s team used private email accounts, including his daughter and son-in-law, it barely caused a ripple.

A similar imbalance has taken hold in the coverage of Biden’s debate performance. For example, in less than a week, the New York Times published 70 news stories, 20 opinion columns, four podcasts, and one editorial about Biden’s shaky debate. Cable TV and social media piled on, as well, according to Heartland Signal, a digital news site in Chicago.

But little attention has been paid to Trump’s incoherent debate performance because he is often incoherent. Trump told more than 30 lies in 90 minutes during the debate like it was another day at the office.

In discussing abortion, he falsely claimed Democrats want to execute babies in the ninth month of pregnancy. Trump also claimed migrants were taking “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs” — whatever that means.

During a discussion about the environment, Trump — who rolled back more than 100 regulations and withdrew from the Paris climate agreement — said, “We had H2O, we had the best numbers ever.” Huh?

Then Trump added to the lie: “I had the best environmental numbers ever, and my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually.”

Apparently, it’s OK for Trump to spew nonstop nonsense, but Biden can’t ever lose his train of thought.

Anyone looking for cognitive decline should tune into a Trump rally.

During a recent riff about electric batteries, Trump said: “What would happen if the boat sank from its weight and you’re in the boat and you have this tremendously powerful battery and the battery’s underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there? By the way, a lot of shark attacks lately. Do you notice that? A lot of shark … I watched some guys justifying it today: ‘Well, they weren’t really that angry. They bit off the young lady’s leg because of the fact that they were not hungry, but they misunderstood who she was.’ These people are crazy.”

Apparently, it’s OK for Trump to spew nonstop nonsense, but Biden can’t ever lose his train of thought.

At the same rally, he referenced the time Clinton called Trump supporters deplorable. “Remember deplorable, when Hillary said deplorable? She said deplorable. And that was not good. That was not a good word to use. This word seems to be catching on a little bit but in a much more positive way than deplorable. That was not good. She actually said deplorable and irredeemable. Do you remember? And I heard it, and I said, ‘Wow, that irredeemable is really a bad word,’ and it didn’t catch on. What caught on was deplorable. So what the hell do I know about politics, right?”

During a recent rally in Wisconsin, Trump said, “If you have illegal aliens invading your home, we will deport you.” Thanks for the heads up, covfefe.

He has mixed up former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Trump confused the leaders of Hungary and Turkey during a speech in New Hampshire last fall. A month later, he confused the leaders of China and North Korea.

In April, Trump called Fox News to weigh in on the college campus protests over the war in Gaza and offered this deep thought: “You go back 10 years, Israel was protected by Congress. Now, Congress is just doing numbers that are unbelievable with I think a very, very small group of people within Congress and it’s gotta stop.”

» READ MORE: The Trump Threat | An occasional series by The Inquirer Editorial Board about the risk posed by a second Donald Trump presidency.

In May, Trump slurred his words at a rally in Wisconsin as he referred to Biden’s “fake infrastrucker, ershure para,” before landing on “a package of infrastructure.” He then went on an incoherent rant about Master Lock.

Trump’s list of flubs is long and more frequent. To be sure, anyone on the public stage will have occasional gaffes. But stringing words together is not what should worry voters the most.

Some pundits have suggested that it’s time to take away Biden’s keys, but any fair-minded American should know by now that Trump is unsafe to serve at any speed. Four criminal indictments, two impeachments, one guilty verdict, a sexual abuse judgment, and a civil fraud finding should have sent Trump to the ash heap of history.

While his return plans are even worse, some voters appear unfazed by the prospect of casting a ballot for an unhinged and vindictive leader who dodged taxes, cozied up to dictators, shared classified information with enemies, attacked allies, mismanaged a deadly pandemic, befriended white supremacists, locked kids in cages, launched an insurrection, worked to overturn an election, called to terminate the Constitution, and violated his oath of office.

There is no debate.