A Tale of Two Presidents

Alan Zendell, June 30, 2022

This is about two men. One has dedicated his life to serving his country. The other has dedicated his life to serving himself. If they hadn’t both been presidents of the United States, we probably wouldn’t have noticed and it wouldn’t matter. But given their responsibilities to defend our Constitution, the people they swore to govern, and the half of the world that looks to us for leadership, it matters very much.

Joseph Robinette Biden is a good man. He’s imperfect, like the rest of us, but he wears who he is proudly, with no need to pretend to be anything else, despite the fact that not hiding his flaws exposes him to charges of weakness. Weak he is not, though at 79 (he’s six months older than I am, so I understand) he doesn’t possess the energy or vitality he once had. He has lived through traumas that are unimaginable to most of us, but because of his faith and values, his problems never made him less of a man. Even in the toxic political atmosphere of today, some of his most bitter opponents, people like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, respect him and consider him a friend. People who underestimate his strength and dedication do so at their peril.

Donald John Trump is a greed- and power-driven narcissist. I know no one, even among his supporters who would describe him as a good man. Most people who have done business with him, worked for him, or loaned him money will never do so again. The list of people he has libeled, stabbed in the back, or bankrupted because they got in his way grows every day. He believes he is exempt from laws, rules, and every standard of conduct, ethics, and decent behavior. All his life, he has demonstrated that he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, no matter who he hurts or what he destroys.

When I want to be sure I’ve sized someone up properly, my gut tells me to study the people who choose him or her as a life partner. Look at who Trump’s wives were; then look at Jill Biden.

Let’s compare their records. Biden is as experienced and knowledgeable a politician as there is in this country. There are things he could have done better in his early career – trusting his speechwriter not to plagiarize and allowing Republican Senators to savage Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing as Supreme Justice being the two low points. But overall he has acted with skill and integrity and earned the respect of almost everyone he worked with, including the leaders of our allies. Apparently, he impressed Vladimir Putin as well. Why else would he have gone to such trouble to support Trump’s election twice?

Trump is a businessman who has been very successful at erecting buildings with his name on them. Beyond that, his record is abysmal. He has been sued countless times by contractors, family members, and business associates. Every major bank in North America has severed ties with him, and more than a dozen women have publicly accused him of sexual abuse, allegations he made extremely credible by his own public statements about his treatment of women. As president, everything he did was in his own interest, surely not in the interest of the half million people who died unnecessarily from the first wave of COVID; surely not in the interest of our democracy.

Trump allowed the most deadly, first wave of COVID to get out of control because he feared that letting people know the truth would hurt his chances of re-election. I know first hand that he knew a vaccine was less than a year away, and he hoped Americans would think that was worth the 500,000 deaths that resulted because he fought against quarantines, shutdowns, masks, and social distancing – at least until he caught it, and then all the stops were pulled out to save his sorry ass. Biden inherited that mess and used every resource available to the government to get hundreds of millions of doses out to the rest of us, way out front of every other nation.

Trump did everything possible to take health insurance away from more than 20 million Americans, and would have succeeded except for the conscience of John McCain. Biden has done everything possible, working against an obstructionist Senate under the control of Mitch McConnell, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sinema, to retain and expand health coverage to millions more Americans. Trump attempted to dismantle NATO and attacked our allies with an imbecilic trade war, whose aftereffects are part of the broken supply chains and coming food shortages we’ll face. Biden has strengthened NATO and rebuilt our relationships with our allies, just in time to prevent a complete disaster when Russia invaded Ukraine. Our NATO allies have not been shy in heaping praise on him – despite knowing that if Trump-dominated Republicans take control again, they will not be able to look to us for anything, much less leadership.

Trump, ever pandering to the evangelist wing of the Republican Party and their extremist allies, assured his three Supreme Court nominees that it was okay to lie about their intentions during their confirmation hearings. Thus, everything related to our presumed right to privacy – abortion, sexual preference, the choice of who to marry, and our right to free and fair elections, in other words, the basis of our democracy is on the verge of being destroyed by a reckless Court dominated by extremists and perjurers. Biden has expressed his outrage, but even when Trump stands trial for attempting to overthrow the government, his life-long record of destroying everything he touches will remain as his legacy. As of today, that legacy includes a decision by that same corrupted Court that will prevent the government from containing carbon emissions, because religious fanatics who reject science insisted on it.

The story is to be continued. This week Biden held NATO together almost single-handedly, making a commitment to support Ukraine to the bitter end, even if that risks provoking a madman to launch his nukes. A terrifying but absolutely correct decision Trump would never have made. Does anyone doubt he’d have traded Ukraine for a building with his name on it in Moscow?

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