Human beings are naturally drawn to bold statements, and, concomitantly, to overstatement. Nowhere is that more visible than in politics, and nowhere is politics more prone to it than when it involves the President of the United States. Such overstatement is dangerous no matter who it comes from, as it reinforces illusions about the world in which we live. Even if the result is more CNN than FOX News, it’s still dangerous.
Bombast like that of the outgoing president is easy to spot and criticize, especially when you vehemently disagree with the person spewing it. More moderate overstatement is just as damaging and common, but it is less obvious. This more subtle bombast has gone into overdrive in 2020, in large part as a reaction to Donald Trump’s term in office and savage attempt at reelection.
As liberals sigh with relief at Joe Biden’s imminent assumption of the Oval Office, we see comments such as this, from J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami (full disclosure: I have known Jeremy for many years, and, despite significant political differences with him, I like and respect him): “I know you’ll agree: January 20, 2021 cannot come soon enough. Beyond that lies hope inspired by broad vaccine distribution, economic recovery and a new day for our nation marked by new leadership and new direction.”
I certainly agree that January 20, 2021 can’t come fast enough. The reasons are obvious, and virtually all of them have to do with Trump’s exit, not Biden’s entry. But he does not symbolize hope, he is not “new” in any way, and he does not offer either a new direction or a way out of our current morass.
The debacle of the first presidential debate left no real substance to talk about. What little there was got buried under the ninety-minute spectacle of Joe Biden fighting to maintain some composure and dignity under the onslaught of childishness, boorishness, and general Trumpishness of the sitting president.
But one thing Biden said caught my attention. I think it demonstrates a fundamental problem that we have in confronting racism in this country. Nearly an hour into the circus, moderator Chris Wallace (who is getting far more criticism for this disaster than he merits—people are criticizing him, but no one can control a president who is intent on disrupting things. But I digress) asked Trump about his new attack on racial sensitivity training.
The news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death had barely broken when Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would move swiftly to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. As of this writing, President Donald Trump has issued a statement on RBG’s death (which he obviously didn’t write), but not about his plans for replacing her. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the glee with which he received the news.
Doubtless, in Trump’s mind, the foremost question is whether it is more to his advantage to push for her replacement before the election or hold out until after. McConnell is likely pondering a similar question. Pushing hard for a quick replacement could be seen as securing more goodwill among potential Trump and down-ballot Republican voters. Holding off until after the election could motivate more votes from conservatives wishing to ensure that Joe Biden does not have the chance to nominate a new Justice. Continue reading