Alan Zendell, August 21, 2020
For months, Donald Trump and his supporters, have been labeling his Democratic opponent “mentally deficient.” Biden has been in politics long enough to have his own folk lore, which seems to revolve around his so-called gaffes. That started in 1987 when he quit his first presidential run amid charges of plagiarism. It was as unfair then as it is today. Politicians rarely write their own speeches; the charge that Biden had quoted from a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution was a lesson in placing too much trust in a speechwriter.
In 1987, the bar was still pretty high for politicians. The nation hadn’t yet been exposed to a politician like Donald Trump who revels in lying, misquoting people, and inventing conspiracy theories on the fly. Since accusing his opponent of lying would undoubtedly backlash on him, Trump instead focused on Biden’s lifelong affliction with stuttering and characterized it as everything from mental incompetence to encroaching dementia.
Yes, Biden occasionally stumbles over words or misspeaks. It’s part of his being human. He doesn’t always filter his thoughts or words like other politicians. Some people see that as a character flaw. Others, like me, find it an endearing reminder that he is real and authentic. I am five months younger than Biden, and if I didn’t have my dictionary and thesaurus handy when I write, I’d be known for gaffes too – as would almost everyone I know.
All that aside, the Democrats put on a brilliantly conceived virtual convention that surprised most observers with its intimacy and personal appeal. It was far more watchable than previous conventions with their self-serving applause lines, balloons, horns, and whistles, all of which could be summed up in one word: boring. The only time they were interesting was when a nomination was contested after the first ballot.
This convention wasn’t like that. While there was an occasional minor snafu, and one might argue with the emphasis on some of the content, the convention did its job. Holding my attention for more than eight hours without commercial breaks says a lot. With all that success, last evening it all came down to the last half hour when Joe Biden delivered his acceptance speech. With the world watching, we would all see if the gaffe machine, as he jokingly refers to himself, could pull it off without embarrassing himself.
Biden’s supporters held their breaths as he began speaking, but he silenced our concerns quickly, with a well-written, moving appeal to Americans’ better natures, and a clear agenda for what he will do the moment he takes office to get the pandemic under control and revitalize our economy. The focus was jobs and bringing manufacturing back home, rather than relying on China to keep supply chains running. He was so good, we stopped worrying that he might screw up and just listened, coming away feeling more optimistic than any time since Trump won in 2016.
But don’t just believe me, I’m clearly biased. Let’s see what Chris Wallace, the most professional journalist on Fox News thinks. “After tonight, Donald Trump will have to run against a candidate, not a caricature.” Wallace called Biden’s acceptance speech “enormously effective,” asserting that it blew a hole in Trump’s characterization of him as a mentally shot captive of the extreme left.
That won’t convince devotees of Sean Hannity, but independent voters who are troubled by Donald Trump’s incompetence and divisiveness should have no concern that Biden is not up to the job. He showed himself to be everything we hoped he was: compassionate, caring, experienced, and thoroughly in touch with the existential threats to our nation. At the margins, where it counts in this election, that should be a clear sea change.
It shouldn’t be difficult for clear-thinking concerned voters to distinguish between the man who has taken on the task of restoring America’s soul with the president who has been destroying it for five years. As Trump continues to rail against phantoms like voter fraud and campaigns with hate-filled rhetoric, he looks more like a desperate caged animal every day. As his administration is revealed to be the corrupt creature it is and he uses every ploy he knows to distract from the 175,000 COVID deaths he could have prevented if he cared about anything but himself, it’s reasonable to ask who the mentally deficient label fits best.
I can’t wait for their first debate.