Strong, Smart, and Resolute Leaders: What America Needs Now

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COVID-19: Not impressed by weak, dumb, and irresolute leaders 

W.J. Astore

If nothing else is true, COVID-19 is a wake-up call to all of us about the need for strong, smart, and resolute leadership.

Donald Trump is not that kind of leader.  He ducks all responsibility for mistakes, provides false information, and blames the crisis on others (Europeans, a “foreign” virus, the Obama administration, and so on).  His VP, Mike Pence, has been a non-entity for years and has done nothing to allay the concerns of Americans.

Meanwhile, the Democratic front runner, Joe Biden, has given short remarks read off a teleprompter.  I see headlines like “Can Biden handle a two-hour debate?” and I wince.  If serious people think Biden may not have the physical and mental endurance to perform well in a staged political conversation, how can we possibly believe he is fit enough to be president for four years?  Biden will be 78 in November, and none of us is getting younger.  If there are serious concerns about his mental and physical stamina now, when he’s not being pushed, how can there not be profound concerns about his ability to handle the burden of presidential leadership?  Severe stress ages everyone, and we shouldn’t close our eyes to this reality.

Roughly the same age, Bernie Sanders appears mentally and physically robust, and his speeches on the pandemic have been sensible, detailed, and smart.  But even Bernie isn’t getting any younger.

In Biden’s case, people may argue that Joe can always fall back on his VP if he fails in office.  But we don’t elect a president with the idea that he’s infirm and may soon need to pass his duties to a younger man or woman.

There is one presidential candidate still in the running for the Democrats who is strong, smart, and resolute and who is young to boot: Tulsi Gabbard.  She is 39 and has dramatic ideas to help ordinary Americans during this crisis.  Yet she’s been excluded from the Democratic debate by the DNC that can’t forgive her for supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016 while criticizing corruption within the party.

As Americans, we need to get serious about our leaders.  Trump has shown he has no answers.  Biden’s debate performances (among other public appearances) raise serious questions about his mental and physical capacity for office.

Yet as of this moment these two men appear to be our likely choices come November.  At a time of severe crisis, that’s no choice at all.

Pandemics and Partisan Politics

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From the Oval Office: Beware of foreign viruses

W.J. Astore

If ever there was a time to put aside partisan politics, you’d think it would be now, as the United States faces the COVID-19 virus.  (When the American Mecca, Disney World, closes, you know times are tough.)  Instead, partisan politics are raging, especially in the White House, as President Trump implausibly blames his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the chaotic response by the Trump administration.  (Will “Crooked Hillary” be blamed next?)

Americans need to come together, and I think we are; Bernie Sanders gave a fine speech emphasizing science and teamwork as well as compassion and aid for those who lose their jobs and so on.  We need a much better testing regimen and we need to give doctors and health care personnel the resources they need to do their jobs.

But as I read David Lauter (LA Times Essential Politics), I despaired at the games being played as America faces a serious health crisis.  Here’s what Lauter had to say:

The Democrats have made clear what their line of attack will be: As Biden showed, they’re poised to say that while Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus outbreak, he made it worse by cutting government agencies designed to deal with epidemics and by refusing to take the advice of health officials and act aggressively to counter the illness when he could.

What Biden offers voters, Doyle McManus wrote, is a return to normalcy.

Trump has also tipped his hand on his likely response: Portray the disease as a foreign threat.

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, Trump repeatedly used rhetoric of a foreign invasion to describe the virus, as Noah Bierman wrote. His main policy response was to ban Europeans from traveling to the U.S., blaming them for having “seeded” many of the disease outbreaks in this country.

The speech did nothing to calm markets — indeed it roiled them further, as Bierman and Eli Stokols wrote. But it did provide a preview of Trump’s likely path.

Since the first moments of his astonishing political rise, with his opening blast against Mexican rapists, Trump has campaigned against immigrants and foreigners. And, despite much talk about blue-collar workers voting for him because of economic distress, the overwhelming weight of evidence is that opposition to immigration, concern about the changing demographics of the country and a belief that white Americans face discrimination form the biggest factors in predicting a person’s support for Trump.

In 2018, faced with the prospect that Republicans would lose control of the House, Trump tried to turn the election into a referendum on the supposed threat of immigrant caravans moving north through Mexico — a specter that largely evaporated soon after the election.

In 2020, deprived of the chance to campaign on economic prosperity and a rising stock market, it’s near certain that he will return to the theme that has powered his rise.

That approach might not work. His effort failed spectacularly in 2018 as suburban voters turned against Trump in droves. But Democrats would be wise to avoid overconfidence: The history of epidemics is also a history of xenophobia.

It would be a disaster if COVID-19 led to yet more fears of “foreigners,” however defined.

If anything, a threat like COVID-19 should remind us of our common humanity.  We are all vulnerable, and the smart way to meet this threat is to remain calm, to work together, and to listen to the experts.

Sure, the people who’ve botched America’s response so far should be held accountable.  But let’s first and foremost get a grip on the virus itself and stop its spread.  Because one thing is certain: partisan politics won’t stop a pandemic.  It’ll just make a bad situation worse.

A Few Words on the COVID-19 Pandemic

W.J. Astore

COVID-19 is now a pandemic, and each day brings news of cancellations and changes in an attempt to curb its spread, or to slow the rate at which it spreads.

First off, I’m not a medical doctor, but I think I understand the gist of the approach, as represented by this graphic:

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If everyone gets sick at once, our healthcare system will be overwhelmed.  But if we take protective measures and slow the rate of transmission, our healthcare system should be able to cope.

What are some of these protective measures?

  1. “Social distancing”: Avoiding crowds and the like.  We see this as schools close and put classes online, the NBA suspends its season, etc.
  2. Quarantine for those who test positive for COVID-19.
  3. Helping to prevent transmission by washing hands vigorously with soap and hot water for 20 seconds and avoiding touching one’s face and eyes.
  4. Cover coughs and sneezes.
  5. Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  6. Wearing a face mask if you believe you are sick.

The chart below may be useful in recognizing the symptoms and knowing the difference between COVID-19 versus regular flu and the common cold.  But always defer to your doctor/health care practitioner:

corona

The best site for news on the virus is the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at cdc.gov.  For example, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html for tips on how to prevent the transmission of the virus.

The CDC site has many useful tips, including what to do if you are sick:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

It’s important to stay informed and to follow the advice of health experts.

A Joe Biden Thought Experiment

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He’s a cool dude.  He’s still got it.  Right?

W.J. Astore

What if Joe Biden had decided to run for president in 2016 — and won?

And what if, while in office during his first term, he started showing signs of cognitive decline like the ones he’s shown on the campaign trail in 2019-20?

Wouldn’t many, if not most, people have advised Joe Biden to step aside, to be a one-term president?  Because we know the demands of the presidency are tough enough on men (I say “men” because all our presidents, so far, have been men) in their forties and fifties, let alone a man in his late seventies, a man who’s had two cerebral aneurysms, and (again) a man who’s shown signs of confused speech, among other difficulties.

I think this is a reasonable conclusion.  President Joe Biden may well have stepped aside in 2020, perhaps to allow his vice president to run.  And in this thought experiment, I’m guessing Hillary Clinton would have been the loudest person advocating that he step aside “for the good of the party and the country,” i.e. so that Hillary could take his place and run yet again.

But of course today’s reality is vastly different.  Biden didn’t run in 2016.  Hillary lost.  We got Donald Trump.  And now Biden is already being anointed by the DNC as the last best hope of defeating Trump in November.

With all this in mind, I’ve been reading about Biden’s preparations for the upcoming debate this Sunday.  I see where there’s talk of allowing him to sit (lack of endurance).  I see where he’s being advised to keep his answers short and simple (because his train of thought tends to derail when he attempts to string sentences together).  And I think to myself, does this make any sense for a man preparing for four tough years as the next president of the United States?  The next leader of the free world, as we used to say and sometimes still do?

If we were electing a man (or woman for that matter) to our local school board, and if he were pushing 80 and becoming less articulate, and various “handlers” for this candidate were trying to limit his public exposure, we’d probably vote for a different candidate.  Not because of ageism but because we know public service is demanding and even unforgiving, and not all are capable of meeting those demands.

I’d add something else as well.  What if Joe Biden was Josephine Biden, approaching 80, and having difficulty speaking.  Would we be willing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, or would we dismiss her as “dotty,” as an old biddy, as well past her “sell buy” date?  I owe these questions to my wife, who pointed out, quite accurately I think, that Joe Biden is getting a pass in part because he’s male.  Sure, he’s getting older, but he’s still got it, the old buck!  But do we really believe this?

To show I’m not so young myself, I was watching “Gunsmoke” today and one of the characters had a memorable line.  He said the law can’t protect an old man from playing the fool.  And I thought of Joe Biden and whether certain powerful elements are allowing him to play the fool for their own reasons.

What say you, readers?

P.S.  Readers of “Bracing Views” know I support Bernie Sanders, who is a vigorous 78 years of age.  This is not about age.

The Cold, Cynical, Corporate DNC

 

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Biden briefly mixed up his wife and sister in a speech this week.  It wasn’t a good look for the gaffe-prone former VP

W.J. Astore

Is it OK to feel sorry for Joe Biden?

I remember him running for president in 1988.  It was a disaster.  He plagiarized speeches and lied about his college record.  To be specific, he claimed he graduated in the top of his college class, with three degrees, on a full scholarship, while winning an award from the political science department.  The truth was he graduated near the bottom of his class, with one degree, on a half-scholarship, while winning no such award.  When it comes to talking about his record, Biden’s got more than a little of Trump in him.

Biden has never done well running for president — until these last eight days, when victory in South Carolina led the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to go “all-in” on him.  Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar conveniently dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden (no collusion here, people!), and other prominent democrats quickly followed suit in singing Biden’s praises.  Rumor has it Barack Obama was involved behind the scenes, making phone calls, twisting arms, getting the corporate tools to line up behind his former vice president (not that they needed much convincing).

In a way, it worked too well.  Biden vaulted ahead on Super Tuesday and is now the front runner and presumptive nominee.  The DNC, and Daddy Warbucks Mike Bloomberg, are pledging undying love and lots of money.  Even Kamala Harris, the little girl who was so, so hurt by Biden’s opposition to school integration, is now a big Biden booster.  What happened?

The answer is obvious.  A cold, cynical, corporate DNC decided Biden was the best man to stop Bernie Sanders.  Stopping Bernie and stomping on the progressive base of the Democratic Party is the paramount goal of the DNC.  And they are likely to achieve this goal.

What the DNC doesn’t really care about is defeating Donald Trump.  Good thing too, since Joe Biden can’t do that, and the DNC knows it.  Assuming he’s the nominee, Biden is going to be humiliated in the general election.  His weaknesses, which are legion, play to Trump’s strengths.

People are hiding this harsh reality from Joe Biden.  And maybe he’s hiding it from himself as well.  I really don’t want to get into signs of Biden’s cognitive decline, for even if he were sharper, let’s say the Joe Biden of 2012, he’d still lose to Trump, and badly.

I’m sure the DNC is already generating excuses for the post-election press conferences in November.  They’ll say things like Bernie hurt Biden by staying in the race too long.  They’ll claim Russian interference again in Trump’s favor.  Perhaps they’ll say the economy was too strong, or they’ll blame millennials for not voting, or they’ll condemn the electoral college, and so on.

The real reason will be staring back at them.  Joe Biden is exactly the wrong candidate to go up against Donald Trump, but no matter.  Four more years of Trump is far better than a principled progressive agenda advanced by a man of integrity like Bernie Sanders.

Did I mention the DNC is cold, cynical, and corporate?

Tulsi Gabbard Is Invisible!

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The Invisible Woman

W.J. Astore

Last night, I caught a snippet of MSNBC as the panelists talked about the upcoming debates between two white men in their late seventies.  Nobody mentioned that a woman of color in her late thirties had also qualified for these debates, and an Iraq war veteran to boot: Tulsi Gabbard.

Today, I saw an article at the New York Times with the plaintive title: “Was It Always Going to Be the Last Men Standing?”  Here’s the online summary of the article:

A two-man race? Women aren’t surprised

“One of the hardest parts of this,” Elizabeth Warren said as she withdrew from the presidential race on Thursday, “is all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years.”
The senator’s exit essentially winnows what had been a diverse Democratic field to two white men, and the debate over an enduring question — can a woman win the presidency? — remains unresolved, our politics reporter Lisa Lerer writes in a news analysis.

I like that little caveat of “essentially winnows.”  Because Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race, has qualified for the debates (under the old rules), and is being treated like a non-person by the cynical, corporate, manipulative, and dishonest Democratic National Committee.

People are still telling me to “vote blue no matter who,” even as Tulsi is denied her right to be heard, and even as the DNC conspired to eliminate all moderate challengers to Joe Biden so that they could block Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, to put it gently, has shown serious signs of decline and will be 82 years of age in 2024.  He has called for cuts to social security and has been a water boy for decades for credit card companies and their usurious interest rates.  He voted for the Iraq War, supported job-eliminating trade agreements, and is a servant of Big Pharma and the health insurance industry. among other faults.  And has everyone suddenly forgot his creepy tendency to touch women, to sniff their hair, and otherwise to invade their personal space?

If only we had a woman of substance to challenge these two ageing white men, Biden and Sanders.  If only she was principled, perhaps even a different religion (Hindu?), perhaps even a woman of color, perhaps even a war veteran, perhaps even principled in her stance against wasteful, regime-change wars.

But where are we to find such a woman?  Because I’m sure the DNC would embrace such a paragon of diversity committed to truth-telling.  Wouldn’t they?

Update (5:05 PM EST): Tulsi eliminated from the final two debates with a new DNC rule:

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/486348-new-standards-eliminate-tulsi-gabbard-from-next-democratic-debate?__twitter_impression=true

For what it’s worth, I posted this personal note on social media:

I know politics is divisive or boring to many. But here’s the story. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has changed its rules to muzzle Tulsi Gabbard, eliminating her from future debates. Remember when the DNC rewrote its rules to allow billionaire Mike Bloomberg to debate?
We’re left with two old white guys, aged 78 and 77, to represent Democratic diversity and “wokeness.” Meanwhile, Tulsi, a woman, an Iraq war veteran, and a Hindu, is cast into the darkness. And while I like Bernie Sanders, I would love to hear a young woman speak against the stupidity and wastefulness of America’s wars, which is the core of Tulsi’s message.
And, of course, look when the DNC announces this rule change: late on a Friday afternoon, when they assume it will go unnoticed. It’s all so cynical and sad.
When the Democrats lose to Trump again in November, remember this moment, among so many other cynical decisions by the DNC.

Biden Is Back as the DNC Prepares to Lose Again

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Prepare for lots of malarkey

W.J. Astore

Last night’s election results show a big delegate haul for Joe Biden, as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) conspired to eliminate Biden’s main challengers for the “moderate” vote, Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar.  That conspiracy worked, boosting Biden to wins and cutting into Bernie Sanders’s haul of delegates.  When the results from California are final, Biden and Sanders may be roughly equal in delegates, setting up a two-man race that’s reminiscent of Hillary-Bernie in 2016.

As my wife quipped this morning: The elections are rigged.  No Russians required.

Speaking of rigged elections, the DNC is putting its thumb on the scale yet again by changing the rules so that Tulsi Gabbard won’t be allowed to debate, even though she qualified with a strong showing in American Samoa.  Here’s how Caitlin Johnstone put it:

The establishment narrative warfare against Gabbard’s campaign dwarfs anything we’ve seen against Sanders, and the loathing and dismissal they’ve been able to generate have severely hamstrung her run. It turns out that a presidential candidate can get away with talking about economic justice and plutocracy when it comes to domestic policy, and some light dissent on matters of foreign policy will be tolerated, but aggressively attacking the heart of the actual bipartisan foreign policy consensus will get you shut down, smeared and shunned like nothing else. This is partly because US presidents have a lot more authority over foreign affairs than domestic, and it’s also because endless war is the glue which holds the empire together.

And now they’re working to install a corrupt, right-wing warmongering dementia patient [Joe Biden] as the party’s nominee. And from the looks of the numbers I’ve seen from Super Tuesday so far, it looks entirely likely that those manipulations will prove successful.

All this means is that the machine is exposing its mechanics to the view of the mainstream public. Both the Gabbard campaign and the Sanders campaign have been useful primarily in this way; not because the establishment would ever let them actually become president, but because they force the unelected manipulators who really run things in the most powerful government on earth to show the public their box of dirty tricks.

Just so.  The DNC and its machine, including the corporate-owned mainstream media, have been fighting since day one to smear and red-bait both Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders.  They will do most anything to deny the nomination to Bernie, handing it to Joe Biden, a man who is well past his prime, and who will almost certainly be humiliated and then defeated by Donald Trump.

But, to quote Jimmy Dore, the Democratic establishment would rather lose to Trump than win with a truly progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders.

Even Donald Trump knows the score.  He tweeted that: The Democrat establishment came together and crushed Bernie Sanders, AGAIN! Even the fact that Elizabeth Warren stayed in the race was devastating to Bernie and allowed Sleepy Joe to unthinkably win Massachusetts. It was a perfect storm, with many good states remaining for Joe!

So, I hope Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard join forces and run together as third-party candidates.  For if the choice is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, that’s really no choice at all.

Update: Mike Bloomberg has dropped out, endorsing Joe Biden.  Surprise!  In a truly democratic party, news that a Republican-leaning, Stop&Frisk billionaire endorsing Biden would be a big negative.  But not in Biden’s moderate right Democratic Party.

Warren will probably drop soon and likely will endorse Biden.  She’s probably negotiating her price right now, just as Mayor Pete and Amy K. did.

But here’s the reality: A moderate right party (the Democrats) will not defeat a hard right party (the Republicans) in November.  Not with Joe Biden at the helm.  Just think of the enthusiasm gap between these two rightist parties.

Grim news, but there you have it.