News & Politics

Let’s Take Note of the Moment When the Election Became About Pee

I'm sorry it came to this.

Image via iStock.

I hope you were lucky enough to spend the weekend unaware of this tweet by the President of the United States.

Let’s put aside for the second the question of which drugs might actually make you better at synthesizing information and speaking eloquently (none that I’ve tried, for sure) and move on to the response from Joe Biden’s campaign: “Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told Politico. “We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop COVID-19.”

Tuesday’s debate is scheduled to take place in Cleveland, so I spent part of Monday morning looking up Ohio drug-testing laws, including a ghastly recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court that says employers are allowed, under certain circumstances, to watch employees pee when they test them. If, as Bill Clinton is fond of saying, an election is “the world’s most important job interview,” and the President works for we the people, does that mean—you know what, let’s end this thought here.

It’s slightly more palatable to ponder what President Trump, a person whose political career has been dogged by the rumored existence of a “pee tape,” thinks could come from this particular 3-D chess move. When former FBI Director James Comey briefed Trump on the pee-tape allegations, Trump responded privately, as he later would do publicly, that it was impossible because he’s a “germaphobe.” He’s also a teetotaler and yet someone about whom, since the early ’90s, there’s been speculation about associations with doctors said to provide “amphetamine-like diet pills” and “cheap speed.”

In 2015, after Trump said Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” in the 2008 Democratic primaries, Steven Pinker suggested he’d “reached for what he thought was a Yinglish word for ‘beat’ and inadvertently coined an obscene one.” Such generosity became harder to muster the following year, when headlines like “Donald Trump defends size of his penis” appeared. Trump’s never been shy about coarse subjects, or what some used to call “barnyard epithets.” The New York Times examined his love of profanity in 2019, suggesting he was “growing more comfortable with crudeness” a year and a half before he claimed Biden would get “a big fat shot in the ass” of whatever drug he imagines the ex vice-president needs to get tested for.

Trump fans like to point out that stunts like his drug-testing tweet are head-fakes, the kind of thing that hands him a win every time a soy-swilling journalist takes them seriously enough to write about. That said, it’s also been reliably proven that when it comes to lots of his threats, the President has a propensity to cave. You could even call it a yellow streak.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.