'Get rid of the ballots': Trump badly bungles a question on whether he'll accept a peaceful transfer of power

'Get rid of the ballots': Trump badly bungles a question on whether he'll accept a peaceful transfer of power
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Stephen Hahn, delivers his remarks during a press conference Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald Trump showed his ineptitude and disregard for democracy on Wednesday during a press briefing when he was asked about the peaceful transfer of power after the election.


A reporter asked: "Will you commit to making sure there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?"

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," Trump said.

Some interpreted that remark as saying that Trump isn't committed to a peaceful transition of power. But the question itself was slightly odd. A transition of power would only happen if Trump loses the election to Joe Biden, and the result has not yet been determined. So it's reasonable for the president not to commit to transferring power when he might still legitimately retain it.

But that technicality aside, any responsible president would want to reassure a nervous country that of course, should any need to transfer power occur, he will ensure that it happens peacefully. He should state outright that he believes in the peaceful transfer of power and that even if his supporters are unhappy with his potential loss, they should accept it and not resort to violence.

He has made it clear, though, that he's not interested in doing anything to deescalate tensions in the United States. He thinks they play to his advantage. He has even been encouraging violence. So it was no surprise he didn't utter more reassuring words at the briefing and made comments easily interpreted as ambivalent toward the peaceful transition of power.

He also continued to push his bogus theory that there are millions of fraudulent ballots being cast in the election, again using awkward phrasing that a careful or thoughtful president would avoid.

"I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster," he said. "Get rid of the ballots, and you'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control."

To someone who has followed his recent rhetoric, the implication is clear that he's talking about mail-in ballots that he claims are fraudulent. But quite literally, he simply said "ballots are a disaster and "get rid of the ballots," which is essentially a rejection of the very idea of an election.

It's a preposterous thing for a president to say and to decline to immediately clear up. And even worse, it reflects a sloppiness in his thinking, suggesting he is so disconnected from reality and the actual facts of the election. He can't even clearly articulate the conspiracy theory he's using to undermine the results of the vote. It's beyond doubt that he has no business commenting on the campaign publicly, let along to be running the federal government or running for president.

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