With CHARLIE HARPER
You have to give Donald Trump credit. The American President, who has been caught in nearly 20,000 public lies by what he calls the “lamestream” press, spoke with disarming candour the other day.
Someone asked Trump about allegations by Tara Reade, a former staffer in Joe Biden’s Senate office. Reade has charged that Biden inappropriately touched her nearly 30 years ago.
Trump, appearing to shoot from the hip as usual, said he thought Biden “should fight back”. The President sided with the man who hopes to throw him out of office in six months in dismissing Reade’s complaint with a literal and figurative wave of his hand.
Well, this was honest at least. Trump, more than any public figure in memory, certainly knows what it is like to face politically inconvenient charges of sexual misconduct from women in his past. We can be certain he spoke from the heart in this case.
Meanwhile, Biden aspires to be a champion for women. He has pledged to select a female running mate. She would certainly not be the first major party V-P candidate: Sarah Palin shared the 2008 GOP ticket with John McCain just a dozen years ago, while Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in 1984.
Since Biden will be 78-years-old two weeks after the November election, there seems to be the possibility of a one-term presidency and hand-off to his V-P to run on her own for the White House in 2024. Biden’s own expressed desire to represent a “bridge to the next generation of political leaders” is designed to encourage such speculation and to distract from his occasional senescence.
Democrats are trying to repair this unwelcome Tara Reade pothole on Biden’s path to the presidency. Republicans watch with eager anticipation, hoping for a destructive conflagration.
One of the most interesting reactions from either side comes from Linda Hirshman, a controversial feminist lawyer, philosopher and polemicist. Writing in the New York Times the other day, Hirshman declared that after some soul-searching, she would cast her vote for Biden in the fall.
This feminist stalwart is the author of “Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World” and “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World.” Here is part of her justification for supporting Biden, and, in effect, throwing Tara Reade and her allegations under the bus in the process.
“What is the greatest good or the greatest harm? Mr. Biden, and the Democrats he may carry with him into government, are likely to do more for women and the nation than his competition, the worst President in the history of the Republic.
“The Trump administration, and the Republican Party that he represents, are unassailably the political equivalent of a shipwreck. Offering only hatred, rejecting facts, refusing accountability, they represent the wreckage of the American ship of state. We knew that before thousands of Americans died of COVID-19 in a spectacle of villainy and incompetence, but when you are faced with a distasteful moral choice, it can be useful to be reminded of the immensity of the stakes in making that choice.”
Hirshman is nothing if not clear in the reasons for her choice. As the prominent Democratic women reported to be on Biden’s short V-P list tap dance around the Tara Reade issue and earnestly hope it goes away, there are echoes of past and current public Democratic hand-wringing over difficult moral choices.
Trump and the shared passion for dismissing him makes it much less difficult to accept the distasteful moral compromise to which Hirshman refers. Republicans hoping for a crippling moral wrench in the Democratic party works may be disappointed this time.
Septuagenarians competing for the soul of the US
The COVID-19 pandemic has now claimed over 70,000 American lives and an unpublished American government study is reportedly circulating which asserts that by June the death toll in the US will soar to 3,000 victims each day before the carnage subsides – if it even subsides by then. What a scary, disastrous outcome that would be.
Many of America’s principal health experts report that in most US states, the grisly total of coronavirus cases and tragic deaths is rising. Nonetheless, officials in 41 states are authorising or planning the imminent, partial reopening of their economies.
The intensity and thrust of this activity vary by state and, in many cases such as in Florida, by county. But the evidence is clear that despite official federal warnings from Washington that resuming economic and social activities too quickly can lead to devastating results, governors and others find irresistible the pressure to relax restrictions.
Just as there have been numerous commentaries and reports in The Tribune warning of the dangers of economic reopening here before the virus is contained, the mainstream US press is similarly full of caution.
Enter the man under whose name the federal warnings of premature reopening are issued.
Donald Trump, who will not or perhaps just simply cannot discipline himself to cut his losses on this issue and be quiet for a change, is often heard leading the cheers for those governors and other officials who are unshuttering restaurants, movie theatres, nail salons and other economic entities.
Trump makes no secret of his urgent desire to restore the American economic furnace to its earlier white-hot intensity. In the process, he will of course stimulate his own re-election prospects.
But of course, the political downside of encouraging a premature economic opening if the death toll continues to mount is pretty obvious.
On Tuesday, declaring himself fed up with isolation in the White House, Trump flew out to Arizona on a mission whose political purpose he hardly tried to disguise. He appeared unmasked with others also without masks in a state where there is mounting evidence he may have some troubles in November.
A key group which may be turning against the President is the significant number of senior Americans who reside in Arizona, whose ranks have been particularly hard-hit by the virus’ virulence in nursing homes.
It’s no accident that politically astute Trump travelled to Arizona. The President knows maintaining Republican control of the US Senate is essential to his future success in office. The GOP now has a 53-47 edge in the American upper house.
Democrat Doug Jones, a long-shot upstart winner over a reprobate former judge in Alabama two years ago, is largely written off by both parties. That means that if Biden wins the presidency in November, his Democratic colleagues must unhorse at least four GOP incumbents. (The American Vice-President breaks Senate tie votes.)
Arizona’s Martha McSally, an Air Force academy graduate and former congresswoman, lost a Senate bid two years ago but was then appointed to John McCain’s seat when he died, is running to retain the seat this year. McSally, haunted by various missteps, looks vulnerable to the challenge of former astronaut Mark Kelly. Trump’s second trip to Arizona in three months was designed largely to help McSally remain in office.
There are several other Republican Senators on an electoral scorecard that features far more GOP seats to defend than Democratic ones. The upcoming contests most talked about are in Maine, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia and Montana. There is even a credible opponent in the race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. There is an abundance of questions and uncertainties about the upcoming election. Nothing is certain in politics. It’s early in the electoral campaign. Who knows what effect the pandemic will have on the election? Blah, blah.
What is certain is both major political parties have swallowed their misgivings about their standard-bearers and rallied around their candidates. This will not be an American election fight waged between two candidates whose differences are blurred and hard to discern except on relatively minor issues.
The forthcoming months will see a political campaign that should be notable for the clarity of its distinctions between two septuagenarian candidates competing for the elusive soul of the United States.