Alan Zendell, August 8, 2019
On Monday, we heard our president mouth the empty platitudes and lies we expected from him. What does it say about a leader that he can’t utter comforting words or state truthful intentions without reading them from a teleprompter? And even then, he looked so uncomfortable I thought he was trying to pass a kidney stone.
I’m all for background checks, we can’t have crazy people running around with guns! We need to wipe out White Nationalism! That’s what Trump said, as the racists and neo-Nazis winked at each other, and as Wayne LaPierre looked up the White House’s phone number so he could remind Trump that the NRA and its related gun lobbies would foment a rebellion by his base if he didn’t get back on the right course.
The moment Trump began speaking in that tortured way he has of letting everyone know he’s being coerced and doesn’t mean a word of it, we instantly recognized that this was just another rerun. We hated Act 1 the first ten times we saw it, and this time was no different. Then came Act 2, the obligatory visits to the scenes of the latest terrorist massacres.
I wonder why he does them. He always blows them. His phony adulation of the first responders and heroes was hollow the first time he tried it, and this week was no exception. Maybe if he’d said something honest like: “I wish I possessed your courage and concern for every American,” we might believe him. If he cared about those heroes he would have shared the wealth with them when he signed the enrich-the-billionaires tax bill. If he cared about sounding credible to anyone but his rabid base, he might have resisted the temptation to act like he was the victim.
But that’s not part of either Trump’s psyche or his repertoire. His day isn’t complete if he hasn’t skewered someone in the media. He is always the aggrieved party no matter how much blood has been spilled by others, and how many people are truly mourning the loss of loved ones. Poor Donald. The Senator (Sherrod Brown) and Mayor (Nan Whaley) who accompanied him in Dayton weren’t effusive enough in their praise of his meager, insincere efforts at consoling the real victims, so in Act 3, the moment he saw a TV camera, Trump spent more time attacking and lying about them than talking about the real tragedy.
If you believe for one second that Trump will direct Mitch McConnell to reach some accord on guns with the Democrats, if you believe he’d risk taking on the NRA, and if you believe that he has any sympathy for the Hispanic Community in El Paso, there’s a 130-year-old bridge not far from Trump Tower that he’d love to sell you. (It’s really a cool bridge.)
Just when we needed it, Joe Biden added Act 4 to the drama. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jonathan Capehart said it best so I’ll just let him tell you about it: “Joe Biden reminded all of us of what a presidential president would sound like.”
Biden was campaigning in Iowa, but this was not a stump speech. There’s a distinctly different tone in his speeches, compared to those of other candidates. The other major contenders earnestly want to be president. But after everything he’s been through in his life, as one of the most admired politicians of this or any other generation, Biden doesn’t need it and probably wouldn’t be running if the incumbent were anyone but Donald Trump. Biden is running because he believes he can “save the soul of America.”
Corny as that sounds, I absolutely believe him. The speech he delivered in Iowa, yesterday, was made in his classic avuncular style, yet it brimmed with eloquent sincerity and passion. He drew straight lines from Trump’s own words, delivered repeatedly in interviews and at rallies, to the hateful manifestos posted by terrorists. He illuminated the clear cause-and-effect between Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric and the words and actions of the people who decided to kill to preserve the divine right of white Americans.
Here’s the thing. When we’re done arguing about Medicare For All, abortion, and immigration, there are two realities to keep in mind. One is that presidents don’t make policy or pass legislation, the Congress does. The more important one is that if Biden were to win in 2020 and carry the Senate majority on his coattails, all of those things would be ironed out in House and Senate committees along the lines of a progressive agenda that represented the will of the majority.
If your main concern is replacing a piggish president who has no moral center with someone we can look up to and admire, Joe Biden has let us know that he is what we need to help the country heal from Trump. He may be white, male, and old, but you can’t have everything. America needs Joe now even more than it needed Gerald Ford to heal the damage done by Richard Nixon.