We “honestly” did think Biden was going to forget his own name onstage, Carlson says at one point in the clip below. Which isn’t true.

The Fox audience may have honestly believed that after being fed months of completely self-sabotaging hype about Biden being a drooling imbecile. But Tucker didn’t think that. He’s had many opportunities to watch Biden’s virtual fundraisers and meager public events this summer. At some point he must have watched or rewatched the one-on-one debate between Biden and Bernie Sanders six months ago. Biden’s lost the proverbial step for sure, but no one who’s truly senile could get through months of events without betraying his condition. And however much he’s declined from his 2012 self, he’s miles away from being so far gone that he might forget his own name.

What Tucker’s doing here is patronizing his viewers. *They* took the bait about Biden being incapacitated despite a million people shouting at them that they were only helping the Democrat by doing so, lowering expectations for him to the point where basic coherence would allow him to claim a debate victory. Carlson went along with it because demonizing the opposition as unfit in every way to hold power is a basic task of partisan media. If you’re going to call Biden corrupt and radical, you can’t rightly draw the line at “senile.” When he claims he “honestly” thought Biden might forget his own name, he’s trying to reassure the audience that no, really, he wasn’t lying to them all along about Biden’s mental state. He’s as surprised as they are about Sleepy Joe’s performance! But he isn’t.

Speaking of believing nonsense about the debate, hoo boy:

I’ve seen four polls on who won. YouGov had it Biden 48/41, CNN had it Biden 60/28, CNBC had it Biden 53/29, and today Morning Consult has it Biden 50/34. There were informal social media polls that showed Trump winning, but anyone can participate in those. They’re not representative of the population. Whichever candidate’s supporters spend more time spamming the poll will ensure a “win” for their guy.

Does Trump “honestly” believe that polls show him winning the debate? I bet that he does, for the simple reason that his team knows to keep information away from him that might make him angry.

Even Mr. Trump’s political allies acknowledged on Wednesday that he had behaved in a brutish manner during the debate, transforming his first face-off with Mr. Biden — one of his few remaining chances to change the trajectory of the race — into an orgy of mudslinging and personal vitriol against the former vice president…

Mr. Trump himself was not displeased with his own performance, according to his advisers. On the contrary, he was elated about the debate and saw it as a successful outing for him, according to three people close to the campaign. Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers, who shy away from giving him bad news, made no attempt to disabuse the president of that assessment.

WaPo’s hearing the same thing. While Republican senators were calling the debate “awful” and a “sh*tshow” and GOP megadonors were complaining to the media about Trump’s performance, the president himself apparently thought he killed it:

Trump, however, remains confident that his bombastic approach is effective.

“There is no way that people want Joe Biden after watching that,” Trump told his aides after the debate, according to a Trump political adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president.

Who’s going to tell him? Why, no one’s going to tell him, certainly no one within his inner circle of aides and cronies. Trump doesn’t wield the powers of an autocrat but the extent to which he seems to cocoon himself in a bubble of happy talk and vicious smears of opponents *is* reminiscent of what autocrats do. And ultimately it’s to his detriment, as in the case of the Biden senility jabs. He probably really did convince himself that Biden is a falling-down imbecile, which made it easy for Biden to perform well enough that Carlson felt obliged to inch away from the “senility” jabs afterward. The president’s so deep in a bubble, in fact, that often he uses shorthand to describe stories and scandals that are well-known to people who consume lots of Fox News and righty media but must seem mystifying to the other 90 percent of the country. “He refers to events, like ballots found in a wastepaper basket, but doesn’t tell the story of where they happened, or why they matter,” noted Michael Brendan Dougherty after the debate. I think it’s because Trump simply assumes that the rest of the country is watching the same news channels and reading the same websites he is, and thus will instantly grasp what he’s describing without need for further elaboration. Which is wildly untrue.

But who’s going to tell him?

There’s another instance coming up soon where Trump would benefit from having advisors willing to get in his face and steer him away from a mistake. He’s planning two rallies in Wisconsin this Saturday at airport hangars despite the fact that that state is currently suffering the nastiest COVID outbreak in the country. Maybe no one who attends will get infected; maybe everyone there will be masked up and spread out, to minimize the risk, although none of us would bet on it. But as a political matter, that’s beside the point. The optics of insisting on holding rallies there at a moment when local pols are begging people to do everything possible to limit community spread underlines the perception that Trump has never taken the pandemic seriously enough. This is his biggest liability of the campaign (policy-wise) and yet he’s doing something that will deepen that liability in a state that’s essentially a must-win. The last thing he should want right now after six months of seeming callous about the threat from COVID is to seem callous about it in Wisconsinites’ backyard.

But he’s doing the rallies anyway, probably because he’s convinced himself that the public actually loves the idea of pretending like everything’s normal at a moment when local hospitals are filling up.

Who’s going to tell him otherwise?

Needless to say, his habit of embracing an alternate reality is why so many Trump critics are nervous about the days and weeks after the election. If he loses, there’s no margin of victory for Biden that will make Trump say, “Yeah, I guess I lost.” There are margins of victory that will make *the people around him* — some, at least — say, “Okay, yeah, he lost,” which will leave him with no option but to grudgingly stand down. But if it’s close, how many of them will decide that they have no choice but to go along with his version of reality once again? Who’s going to tell him otherwise?