20 Months Ago I Said Joe Biden Was The Best Person to Lead Post-Trump America
I wrote the piece below about Joe Biden in May of 2019, when he was the early frontrunner in the Democratic primary. The debate back then centered on whether the party should go for the moderate Biden, the putative best candidate to beat Trump, or a Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren type whose views more closely hewed to the mainstream of the party.
The point of the piece was that I thought this debate overlooked the most salient feature of Biden’s candidacy: That he was the best-equipped person in the country to lead a post-Trump America.
With his inauguration now upon us, I thought it useful to revisit why I thought then, and believe now more than ever, that Joe Biden is the best person to lead us out of, as Dante put it, “the dark forest” we’ve been lost in these past four years and back to a place where we Americans can once again “behold the stars.”
Piece below published in Medium, May 24, 2019
Joe Biden: The Best Person to Govern Post-Trump America
Most discussions surrounding Joe Biden center on the debate between the “He’s got the best chance of beating Trump!” faction and the “I don’t care, he’s not where the Democratic Party is right now!” camp. Which is striking to me because that debate glosses over the most salient feature of his candidacy: The fact that Biden is the person best equipped to clean up the mess created by Donald Trump.
And what a mess it is. In twenty-eight months Trump has: weakened Americans’ trust in the press, cast suspicion on the FBI, turned the Justice Department into his own personal law firm, led by managing partner William Barr, attempted to eviscerate Congress’s constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, exacted serious damage on America’s relationships with critical allies like Germany and Great Britain, undermined the strongest and most important strategic alliance in world history (NATO), to the delight of our mortal enemy Russia, and coddled the world’s most nefarious dictators (Putin, Kim Jong Un, Duterte, Erdogan, el-Sisi…it’s a long list and I don’t have the space.)
Righting the ship of America after this storm Trump has wrought will be enormously difficult. But Joe Biden is the one person who can get the job done. Why? Because he is the polar opposite of Trump in the three critical areas where Trump has plunged America into an existential abyss: competence, morality and civility.
Competence: We learn more each day about how incompetent Trump was as a businessman, but his shortcomings there pale in comparison to his abject failures in the governing sphere. Time and again he has demonstrated his total ignorance of virtually every area of government policy. He’s either incapable or unwilling to learn the issues central to performing his job. He has shown total contempt for our government by running it like his mom and pop real estate operation, i.e., relying on a handful of third rate sycophants to run the behemoth that is our federal government.
Most insulting to every American taxpayer should be Trump’s appointing his thirty-something son-in-law Jared Kushner to run point on everything from Middle East peace (are you kidding me?) to the opioid crisis. His cabinet departments and agencies run on skeleton staffs with many led by weak acting secretaries like Patrick Shanahan at DOD. He creates foreign policy on the fly with a decision-making apparatus that makes three ten-year-old boys deciding tree-house rules seem like the 1990s virtuoso trio of George H.W. Bush, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft.
And Biden? He’s steeped in all manner of policy gained from serving thirty-six years in the Senate and eight as vice president. Among numerous legislative accomplishments, he pushed through the Violence Against Women Act and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. As vice president he played a central role in shepherding the Affordable Care Act through Congress as well as almost singlehandedly preventing more than one government shutdown and a debt default through his behind the scenes negotiations with Republican leaders on the Hill. He knows, and CARES about, how government works. Just as important, he will appoint seasoned, cream-of-the-crop public servants to all levels of the executive branch. You won’t find Hunter Biden stalking around the West Wing creating havoc in a Biden Administration.
And what of the rest of the Democratic field? Virtually all are solid on policy. Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Harris, et al, could run circles around Trump on ANY issue…and that includes immigration. But not one of the twenty-odd Democratic candidates comes within a country mile of Biden when it comes to sustained, high-level government experience at both the executive and legislative levels. Our current crisis of weakened values, degraded norms, crippling partisanship, frayed relationships with foreign partners, climate change, inequality, etc., requires a seasoned, respected statesman like Biden and not any one of a number of junior legislators with little to no executive experience.
Morality: While I don’t know much about Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or Benjamin Harrison, I find it hard to believe that they, or any of the forty-three other people who have served as president, were less moral than Donald Trump. Have other presidents lied repeatedly while in office? Absolutely. Have others been corrupt? Yes. Have some engaged in tawdry affairs and associated with the dregs of society? Sure.
But no president has ever reached the Everest-level heights that Trump has in all three of those areas. His documented lies now number in the THOUSANDS, he routinely uses his office to make money off the presidency and he swims in a cesspool of muck with the likes of porn stars and that paragon of morality The National Enquirer. Not to mention his racist rants about immigrants, his separation policy at the border and his stated belief that some neo-Nazis are very fine people. While the pundits in the media seem reluctant to sum all this up and call it what it is, I am not. Trump is simply an awful human being.
But millions of Americans don’t care that Trump is an immoral lout. They just want him to keep their taxes low and get tough on immigrants. So why should Americans be concerned with Trump’s low character? Because the foundation of America, unlike any country on earth, is built on principles. You prick a French hand and French blood oozes out. Do that to a Russian and you get Russian blood. Do that to an American and you don’t get American blood. You get blood that represents respect for freedom. And equality. And decency. Trump’s normalizing of lying, cheating and greed threatens the foundation that holds up the building we call America.
And Biden? I worked in Washington, D.C., from 1987 to 2000, and here is what I learned about Joe Biden the human being. First and foremost, in a town where philandering is the norm and not the exception, I never heard boo about Biden hitting on women. It’s a small town and word gets around. From everything I heard, he was a squeaky clean husband and an involved dad. And no financial scandals, either. From everything I’ve heard, all of the 2020 Democrats are also decent people so Biden doesn’t gain an advantage on the field here.
Civility: To be fair, the incivility of our politics predates Trump. It started with Newt Gingrich’s bomb-throwing in the late 1980s and has deteriorated every year since. Has Trump made it infinitely worse? Yes. Bigly. His juvenile name-calling, hysterical rallies, strongman tactics and his total takeover of Fox News have driven our politics into an ever-deepening ditch. The result is near-total government paralysis. Democrats and Republicans rarely talk to each other in Washington. The powers that be can barely agree on funding the government nowadays, much less hammer out a comprehensive immigration strategy or a plan to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure or anything making even the smallest dent in global warming.
And Biden? As I write this, America’s population is 328,890,728. If one were to rank every one of those Americans in order of who is best-suited to restore civility to our national politics, Joe Biden would be number one on that list. Why is that? Because he is a decent person who will not hurl invectives at his adversaries. More important, Joe Biden is trusted, respected and LIKED by members of Congress on BOTH sides of the aisle. Just ask the hyper-partisan Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who he sought out time and again to cut major deals with the Obama Administration and McConnell will tell you: Joe Biden. Will he fight like hell against Republicans to further an agenda aimed at helping America’s middle class adapt to the global, information-based economy we now live in? You bet. But in doing so he will treat his opponents with something Trump never has: respect, decency and grace.
And the other Democratic candidates? Nobody comes close. Is Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris going to restore civility to American politics? No. Much as I respect them and many of their views, none of them possesses either the gravitas or the relationships required to accomplish that gargantuan task.
Finally, some may say, “But hold on. America faces enormous challenges like health care, economic inequality, global warming, etc. We can’t just take a time out to recover from Trump.” We won’t have to take a time out if Biden wins. Because in addition to being the best person to restore the foundation of America, he’s also unrivaled when it comes to successfully pursuing health care, climate change and the rest.
I’m not saying Joe Biden will be able to extinguish the conflagration Trump has brought on our great country. All I know is that he is without a doubt the only fireman in America with a chance to succeed.