Joe Biden Is Not What America Needs: Frustrations From A Long-Time Fan

“In recent years, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Joe Biden found his lane. He excelled as Barack Obama’s wingman, and their productive rapport and friendship launched a thousand memes. He became America’s plain-spoken grandfather. And we all mourned with his family when 46 year-old son and former Delaware Attorney General Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. Joe Biden outlasted the train wrecks that were his failed presidential campaigns, rebuilt the respectability of the Vice President role (after the mercurial and cruel Dick Cheney tore it to shreds) and left the White House with a 56 percent favorability rating. That should have been enough for one public lifetime.

But it wasn’t and so Joe Biden is one of 21 candidates comprising the 2020 Democratic field. At 76 years old, he is relic from another time of perceived bipartisan cooperation, of white male backroom collaboration. It is unfailingly clear to many that Biden is ill-prepared to lead a new America where Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement has unleashed centuries of repressed victimization into empowering, female action and leadership.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

McCain’s Eulogizers Remind Us Democratic Norms Are Living Ghosts

McCain

“John McCain will be missed dearly. He was unpredictable. He was a man who loved his country and had enough character to shut down racist white voters pliant to Republican dog whistling. I was watching live in October 2008 as McCain appeared at a Town Hall event in Lakeville, Minnesota. I don’t remember much that was said, but I will never forget these words in defense of then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who has just been disparaged as an untrustworthy ‘Arab:’

‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].’

From the vantage point of September 2018, that kind of character seems lamentably noble and quaint.

And I suppose that sense underpinned the double consciousness experienced as I watched coverage of McCain’s State funeral this long weekend. The country and its leaders were not just coming together to mourn the loss of an American icon. As we listened to the passionate and powerful words of those who eulogized the deceased -Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama, and hell, even Dubya – it was hard to escape the feeling that something more than the Arizona Senator had endured a slow and painful death.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

The Year in Tears, Fears and Cheers

I’ve done a lot of the right kind of crying this week – big, fat tears of hope, awe and relief. More fantastic than the cathartic sobs themselves, however, is the direct connection between them and national politics. For most of the year, emotional inspiration from the country’s elected leaders has been in short supply.

The lion’s share of 2017 blubbering has been of the traditional disappointment/rage strain. It’s been a tough year with many challenges to moral authority, character and justice. It may seem incongruous to sexist hate mongers like defeated Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, but a liberal, atheist, feminist can also believe that standard codes of conduct should straddle all walks of human life. Righteousness is not the spiritual property of Bible-banging, racist, homophobic straight white men who condemn everyone outside their circle of privileged ignorance.

Regardless of gender, faith, geography or race, there should be a few universal agreements. We should reject white supremacy, violence, sexual assault, pedophilia, corrupt looting of the public treasury, heartlessness toward the poor and the war-torn.  When an American territory is ravaged by natural disaster, we should offer all forms of recovery assistance and skip the Ayn Randian self-reliance lectures. We should support science and research and take care of the only Earth we have. When hundreds are publicly gunned down at a concert and children are not safe in school, its way past time to ask ourselves if the Second Amendment should supersede all other rights.

Moderates, cynics and self-styled realists will be quick to say that we must make our way through the world as it is. Indulging idealistic daydreams is a waste of time. To which I reply in the words of my favorite former Vice President, Joseph R. Biden III: “That’s a bunch of malarkey.” Despite the unaccountable example elevated by President Trump, we can admit when we’re wrong. We don’t have to live with the choices we’ve made when empirical and experiential data illuminate error. If we’re not here to try our best to build a greater and more just world for ourselves and our children, what’s the point? If all we’re meant to do is take what we can and run, what sets humans apart from scavenger species like rats and vultures?

2017 has made it painfully clear that at the highest levels of American government and industry, a shared vision of social justice and opportunity has fallen out of favor. The Trump administration has appointed numerous leaders to public agencies with the express purpose of making it harder for us to breathe, receive a quality education or equitable treatment within the justice system, among other taxpayer scams. See, as just one absurd example, the decision to install Scott Pruitt, tool of the fossil fuel industry, as leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Never in modern history has it been so obvious that the public trust and tax dollar are being misused. The heavy-handedness of it all has elicited buckets of my impotent, despairing tears throughout the year. It’s been overwhelmingly tempting at times (Charlottesville, Republican tax “reform,” a sexual assaulter as POTUS) to view the country’s oligarchic, cynical tailspin without hope.

I recently took a personality test shared via link by a Facebook friend. I scored high on the quiz’s concept of reverence. Although the word has taken on a religious connotation, as applied in the personality assessment, it denotes a humbling of the self in respectful recognition of something perceived to be greater. I recognize this existential need. I’m a devoted planner and tactician, but always in service of a motivating larger concept. Shake my faith in the efficacy of action and I’ll quickly devolve. More Law & Order marathons, less self-confidence and movement. Reverence and I have been estranged for months at a time this year, replaced by tears of bitter shame as 45 debases this great nation with Twitter feuds, misogyny, bigotry, feckless and dangerous domestic and foreign policies.

But as we approach the end of the calendar year and the conclusion of the first twelve months of the Trump presidency, I’m starting to get my reverent groove back. On Monday night, Bob and I went to the Chicago Theatre to see the aforementioned Joe Biden on the Windy City leg of his book tour. Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, according to The New York Times Book Review, “splices a heartbreaking story with an election story and a foreign affairs story. And in so doing, he offers something for everyone, no matter which strand draws you in.”

Reading the words of Joe Biden is a privilege. Hearing his earnest, human good sense and compassion live is better still. The 75 year-old public servant is an American hero. A man who has weathered enormous personal tragedy with grace, intelligence and a steadfast commitment to bending the arc of humanity towards justice. I was, am and will always be inspired by Papa Joe. The choked sobs I released on Monday were full of gratitude – for Americans like the longtime Delaware senator, and for a husband who knew that walking down Obama/Biden memory lane would sooth my battered soul.

Then last night, voters in the deep red state of Alabama rejected a twice-sacked, child molesting, bigoted judge in favor of a pro-choice Democrat with a demonstrated commitment to civil rights. Much has been made in the media about urban and suburban white distaste for Moore. But the real story is the 93 percent of black men and 98 percent of African-American women who overcame all disenfranchisement odds and pundit expectations to put their state on the right side of history. As Esquire columnist Charles Pierce noted:

“Voter suppression is a scandal and a crime and an offense against the Constitution. John Roberts’s declaration of the Day of Jubilee in Shelby County v. Holder was an act of historical butchery. The laws enacted since that day should be torn out, root and branch, and burned to cinders. However, what the results from Alabama demonstrated is that, with good candidates and a solid message and tireless work, you can swamp the bastards and all their works just by showing up.”

2016 went out for me with a disillusioned, distressed whimper. Hillary Clinton’s loss was my despair for the country, for womanhood, for immigrants and any chance of addressing the nation’s increasingly stratified economic and social opportunities.

At the end of 2017, I’m rediscovering reverence for the American proletariat. The wise and compassionate words of a retired public servant and the empowered, forward-looking agency of Alabama voters make great holiday gifts.

T’was the Night Before the Election (November 5, 2012)

T’was the night before the election, and all through Ohio
Margaritas were flowing like Cinco De Mayo.
Because Buckeye State residents were confident no matter who won,
Their days in the swing state spotlight were temporarily done.

Camp Romney retired its campaign of fluff,
Hopeful that the Etch-a-Sketch shaking had been enough.
To overcome the ire of chicks,
Who believed in their reproductive freedom, even without dicks.

Team Obama was bolstered by last minute polling,
That saw the incumbent ahead, and his opponent’s effort stalling.
Healthier job creation, increases in home sales, residential,
Images of a post-Hurricane Barry looking Presidential

Gave Obama a boost in the waning days
That claims about Jeep production in China just couldn’t sway.
Jon Stewart and Colbert toasted a winning season of lampoon,
Almost (but not quite) wishing Romney a boon.

Because jokes and puns write with ease
When your campaign platform has more holes than Swiss cheese.
From “extreme conservative” to moderate and back
While crying foul over ads that attack

One’s revolving positions, so hard to cement
Except for that business about the 47 percent.
“Borrow money from your parents” just doesn’t seem to be
A responsible education policy.

The Tea Party zealots, clutching copies of Ayn Rand,
Hoped that they’d filibustered enough to render Obama an also-ran,
When out of the blue from the sound bite penalty box
Came Joe Biden with Paul Ryan’s socks.

That was the only thing left of the GOP candidate, you see,
After Biden leveled him in debate, cheerful as could be.
“Medicare won’t change” promised Ryan, as long as you’re a Boomer,
But the rest of you will be screwed much sooner.

Romney/Ryan failed to learn the lessons of Bush
That entitlements turned vouchers have the appeal of stale tush.
Romney ran away fast from his running mate’s “serious” clunker
And all but banished him to the Cheney bunker.

But hide and seek is no game to play
With middle class voters still clawing their way
Back from the failed policies of Bush Number 2
That left the economy of ’08 a rancid stew.

“He’s had four years and his policies haven’t worked,”
Claimed Cantor and Gingrich and Boehner the Jerk.
Hoping upon hope if they said it was so
The voting public would forget the party of “no”

So off to the polls went John and Jane Public
In between looking for jobs and food for the stomach.
Because things are not fine but they’re definitely improving,
With much more to do to get the economy moving.

Believing in change, if slower than desired
Is a certainly preferable to being stuck in the mire
Of endless wars and tax cuts for the rich,
Watching the American Dream stuck in a ditch.

So “yes we can” re-elect Obama and forge ahead
With hope for the country that’s far from dead.
So to all you suffragists on the left and right,
“Happy Election Eve to all, and to all a goodnight!”

Biden Versus Ryan: Defense is the Best Offense (October 9, 2012)

Following a somewhat unusual Presidential candidate debate last week, featuring possibly the most futile moderation in history from PBS’ Jim Lehrer (I’m still puzzled by Lehrer’s good-natured laugh in response to Romney’s vow to cut funding from the public broadcasting network as a method of balancing the Federal budget), liberal voters are left to anticipate this week’s Vice-Presidential throw down between current office holder Joe Biden and GOP hopeful Paul Ryan. The event is being positioned by both parties as a clash between the old and new guards of American politics.

Team Biden is promoting the debate as the definitive choice between experience and wisdom versus youthful, brash ignorance. On last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd cautioned those who might expect a fumble from the foot-in-mouth-prone VP, “Everybody talks about the gaffes on the trail, but he won most of the Democratic primary debates in 2008.”

Joe Biden, a man with a lifelong penchant towards shooting from the hip, is not the bumbling caricature of Gerald Ford comically delivered by Chevy Chase in the Saturday Night Live parodies of yesteryear. It would serve naysayers well to remember that Biden was a Senate veteran with 26 years of experience before he was promoted to the White House. The 15th longest serving Senator in history built a career out of bipartisan cooperation, and is widely considered one of the most likeable lawmakers in the nation. It may also serve the opposition to recall that when Biden was added to the 2008 ticket, it was in part an effort to strengthen then-candidate Obama’s foreign policy credentials. Joe Biden is no lightweight.

On the other side of the spectrum, Paul Ryan supporters are positioning the week’s rhetorical skirmish as a battle between fresh, wonky ideas versus the old and tired status quo. In the same Meet the Press broadcast, panelist and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich characterized the 42 year-old elected official as “one of the brightest people in Congress. I think he knows an immense amount of facts.” It is tempting to point out that personality traits that might render one well-prepared for an evening of bar trivia are hardly a recommendation for America’s second-highest office.

Debate watchers may also be curious as to what set of “facts” Ryan will be armed with on the evening in question. Will he bespeak the much-maligned, if personably delivered, “truth” about the Romney budget plan that Mittens tried to sell to registered voters last week, a plan infused with magical fairy dust that permits the elimination of the deficit without destroying the social safety net or cutting taxes further for the wealthy? Or will Ryan adopt the Dr. Phil-esque “get real” approach so yearned for by the likes of New York Times columnist David Brooks? Does Ryan have the courage to talk to likely voters like adults, detailing the real impact of a Romney administration?

Scheduled several weeks after the strangest, most deceptive Republican National Convention in recent memory, gamblers may want to place their bets on the fairy dust edition of Paul Ryan.

With the benefit of a higher “Q” rating and an established presence as a genial and intelligent public servant, a report this week from Yahoo! News distills Joe Biden’s mission for the evening to one simple goal: “Biden needs to enter the ring with his boxing gloves on. Ever since Romney picked Ryan as his running mate, the Obama campaign has been attacking the Ryan plan left and right, and Biden has to be ready to throw punches against Ryan’s economic philosophy.”

That’s right. Vice-President must accomplish what President Obama failed to do in his opening battle with Romney: put Ryan on defense and keep him there. It’s a winning strategy because Ryan’s budget plan is heartless, bad for America and when properly scrutinized, indefensible. Just keep smiling Joe and watch the young kid strangle himself.