The president has never been kind to his opponents of any political stripe, and his Democratic challenger in 2020 has not received a pass. In the past year or so, Trump has claimed Joe Biden was only good at his job “because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” called him the “weakest mentally,” and identified the former vice-president and his son Hunter with one of his favorite barbs.
But judging by two messages from the Trump camp over the weekend, the president and his allies are about to go a whole lot lower as they attempt to distract from the devastating economic circumstances that have tanked previous incumbents. The first comes from Donald Trump Jr., who posted an archaic meme on Instagram on Saturday, accusing the former vice-president of sexually abusing children — an unsubstantiated claim from the son of a president who was the friend of a notorious pedophile, and who faces around two dozen credible allegations of sexual misconduct.
While Biden is currently facing a credible allegation of sexual assault and has apologized for publicly touching women in unwanted ways, the trollish post from Trump Jr. is entirely without merit. Though the president’s son followed up on Twitter explaining “to anyone with a scintilla of common sense” that he was kidding, he also posted pictures of Biden out of context suggesting possible misconduct with children at public swearing-in ceremonies.
Since embracing his father’s tradition of insult politics, Trump Jr. has been willing to take his contentious behavior further than the president. Earlier this year, he told Axios that his father told him he was often jealous of his willingness to take the affronts to the next level: “He was mad I beat him to the punch.” But Trump Jr.’s doubling-down on his defamatory online behavior suggests that — as the coronavirus death count ticks toward six figures and the number of unemployed Americans soars above 36 million — the president’s allies will continue to break new lows in their attempts to turn the electorate’s attention away from the pandemic.
On Sunday, the president’s other adult son, Eric, employed a different distraction technique from the administration’s failed coronavirus response. Speaking with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Eric Trump said that Democrats were using shutdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 as an attempt to take away “Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time. You watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3. And guess what, after November 3 coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.” The message isn’t new: At a campaign rally in South Carolina in February, the president called the emerging pandemic the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
Two months later, it might be ill-advised for the president to repeat that claim with nearly 90,000 Americans dead — which may be why his current diversion is the hazy buzzword of Obamagate, a contrived scandal the president has defined as “very obvious to everybody.”