Let no American news consumers say they were bored yesterday. The U.S. House leadership took steps to send articles of presidential impeachment to the U.S. Senate. Extraordinary new revelations jolted our understanding of Team Trump's tactics in Ukraine. The president's former White House national security adviser, after having already confessed to felonies, announced plans to change his plea and head to trial. The Democratic presidential candidates met in Iowa for a crucial debate.
And it was against this backdrop that Donald Trump traveled to Wisconsin for a campaign rally, where, as Vox's Aaron Rupar noted, the Republican turned his focus away from developments that mattered and toward the issues on his mind.
"Somebody said, 'Oh, sir, don't mention the lightbulb,'" Trump said at one point, right around the same time that former Vice President Joe Biden was defending his vote for the Iraq War. "The new lightbulb costs five times as much, and it makes you look orange. And I was more interested in the orange than I was in the cost."Trump transitioned to hyping "new dishwashers that give you more water so you can actually watch and rinse your dishes without having to do it 10 times" -- comments that suggest he's not overly familiar with how dishwashers function.The president did show a bit of restraint, catching himself before he fully reprised the statements he first made last month about "flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times" because of federal water efficiency standards. He did, however, mimic flushing a toilet while alluding to how many times people flush ("10, 15 ..."). He went on to lament that new showers only provide a "drip, drip, drip" that doesn't get the job done washing "this beautiful head of hair."
At the same event, Trump claimed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was responsible for killing "hundreds of thousands of people" -- a figure the president appears to have made up -- while falsely boasting that the United States "kept" Syrian oil.
Oh, and the president suggested Lyndon Johnson might be in hell, presumably alongside the late Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
At this point, we could start going point by point, explaining why Trump's latest rhetoric about toilets is misguided, his claims about lightbulbs are wrong, he doesn't appear to have ever used a dishwasher, he didn't and couldn't "keep" Syrian oil, and so on.
But it was something Aaron Rupar added in his report on the president's rally that struck me as important: "Trump's counterprogramming to the Democratic debate ended up being a relatively uneventful rally by his standards. But the contrast between the two events couldn't have been more stark, and threw the stakes of the 2020 election into sharp relief."
Quite right. By most metrics, last night's Democratic presidential primary debate was a rather staid affair, which probably didn't alter the trajectory of the race in any significant way. It did, however, feature a stage full of serious people who were eager to explore the major issues of the day with a degree of maturity and gravity.
The Democratic competitors presented themselves as candidates eager and ready to lead. They conducted themselves, for lack of a better word, in a presidential way.
The man they hope to replace reminded everyone who saw him that it's a quality he can barely pretend to mimic.