During the third presidential debate in 2016, Hillary Clinton said Russia’s leader favored her opponent because “he would rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” “No puppet! No puppet!” Donald Trump indignantly replied. “You’re the puppet.”

This was a riposte worthy of a playground: “I know you are, but what am I?” And yet the basic idea proved so successful that President Trump and his supporters are recycling it. They are accusing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden of four sins of which Trump himself stands accused with far better cause: racism, sexual assault, corruption and mental unfitness.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry as I watch Trump & Co. work themselves into a lather accusing Biden of racism because he said on Friday — clearly in jest — that African Americans “ain’t black” if they are considering voting for Trump. Biden immediately apologized, but it didn’t matter. Within hours, #JoeBidenIsRacist was trending on Twitter, the Trump campaign was selling a #YouAintBlack T-shirt, and Trump adviser Katrina Pierson was accusing Biden of “dehumanizing” African Americans.

Pretty rich, coming from supporters of the most openly racist president in modern history — a president who has praised white supremacists and demonized Latino immigrants. The day before Biden’s “ain’t black” comment, Trump praised the Ford Motor Company for “good bloodlines,” words that would have warmed the heart of Henry Ford, a notorious racist and anti-Semite.

Yes, Biden’s remark was presumptuous. But so was Trump’s remark last year: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Back then, Republican outrage was nonexistent.

As ridiculous as Trump supporters attacking Biden for racism is their attacking him for sexual transgressions. Yet the Trump campaign went “all in,” in the words of Politico, on the lone allegation of sexual assault that Biden has faced. That charge is falling apart as Biden accuser Tara Reade herself faces accusations of having lied under oath about her background and of having changed her story multiple times. It was always preposterous for Trumpkins to adopt the mantra of “believe all women” when Trump faces far more credible allegations of sexual misconduct from 25 women, including a rape accusation from E. Jean Carroll. Indeed, Trump confessed on tape to groping women.

Now Trump is — get this — accusing Biden of corruption. Trump insists that, as vice president, Biden improperly benefited his son’s business interests in Ukraine and China and that he was guilty of some heinous if unspecified offense in “Obamagate,” a slogan in search of a scandal. “These people were corrupt — the whole thing was corrupt — and we caught them,” Trump said. “People should be going to jail for this stuff.”

If anyone should face legal consequences, it is Trump. He was plainly guilty of obstructing the investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia and evading campaign finance laws. More recently, he was impeached for trying to use military aid to blackmail Ukraine into besmirching Biden. Meanwhile, Trump is fighting to conceal his finances, refuses to divest his ownership of the Trump Organization and faces lawsuits accusing him of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. And Biden is the one who’s corrupt?

Trump’s mirror-image accusations reach a zenith of absurdity when he and his backers accuse the 77-year-old Biden of mental unfitness. “I think he’s senile, and I don’t think there can be much doubt about it,” Fox “News” analyst Brit Hume said of Biden. Trump himself tweeted: “WOW! Sleepy Joe doesn’t know where he is, or what he’s doing.” Many of these accusations — such as a dishonest tweet from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — rely on unfair editing of Biden’s remarks.

It is true that Biden is prone to malapropisms and has struggled with a stutter his whole life. But he has never suggested that injecting bleach could be a good idea, that an unproven and potentially dangerous antimalarial drug can treat the coronavirus or that windmills cause cancer. Nor has he suggested that Belgium is a “beautiful city,” said he was building a border wall in Colorado or confused “Baltic” and “Balkan.”

Whenever Trump opens his mouth, what comes out is a barely comprehensible word salad. On Thursday, for example, he said, “I tested very positively in another sense, this morning. I tested positively toward negative, right. I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning I tested negative. ... That’s a way of saying it: positively toward the negative.” And yet Trump has the gall to accuse Biden of senility?

Shamelessness is, as I’ve noted before, Trump’s superpower. No other candidate could have the chutzpah to accuse his opponent of so many offenses for which there is far more copious evidence of his own guilt. Yet it worked for Trump once and could work for him again. If there’s one thing he has learned from a lifelong career as a huckster, it is to never underestimate the gullibility of his supporters.

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