Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis held a 17-point lead over Vice President George W. Bush in July 1988, as they prepared to contend for the White House. A month later Bush was up eight. And Bush won 40 states that November.
We are at an amazing moment in our history. We all have been thrown off-balance by COVID-19, another pandemic gift from China. Other than the guy who created Zoom, the rest of humanity has been messed up really badly. It is the same all over the world. Coronavirus has ruined all economies. It has jammed hospital emergency rooms everywhere. For example, I follow the nightly TV news out of Israel especially closely because that is how I practice my conversational street Hebrew while living in California’s Orange County. Israel handled the first wave very nicely, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got high marks from his countrymen. Polls there showed he would win in a landslide in a new election if held right then. That was two months ago. So Israel opened up its restaurants, bars, schools, beaches, gyms, synagogues, and wedding halls — and now they are experiencing mass chaos. Netanyahu has dropped in the polls like a falling Acme anvil in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Every night there are massive noisy demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s Jerusalem residence, demanding he resign. All that turnaround in only two months.
The Second Wave in all countries is proving predictably to be a bear because people psychologically came to accept in February and March that, “darn it, the economy is going to get blasted to smithereens, and everyone will have to isolate or there won’t be enough ventilators, but let’s do it now and get it over with so we don’t have to do it later.” Yeah, but now is later — and, by golly, people now are in the mindset of “We ain’t doing that again. Never putting that genie back into the lamp, that toothpaste back into the tube. Been there, done that.” So the second waves of discontent are erupting everywhere.
The media are so one-sided. They deified Obama and Holder. They play down that Bernie is a millionaire who owns three houses and that Elizabeth Warren is even richer and more corrupt. But the same media gang crucify Trump with every tool they have. Such bias. Democrats walk on water with the media, and Republicans cannot get a break unless, like Mitt Romney, they bleat like sheep in a Democrat herd. Consider that Tom Cotton graduated magna cum laude at Harvard in only three years. He was a member of the Harvard Crimson editorial board. Later a graduate of Harvard Law School. Then an American army captain who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was decorated for his service. A United States senator. By any yardstick, quite accomplished. But an opinion article of his could not meet the “editorial standards” of the New York Times, which — by contrast — had published a different piece contending that Jesus was a “Palestinian.” Think about that doozy; no problem for that whopper to get by their crack editorial standards.
Can the media be more biased? The New York Times fires an editor for publishing an opinion authored by Harvard-trained U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, while an editorial opinion writer there publicly resigns because the place has become such a tunnel-visioned echo chamber that she, a moderate liberal, is called a “Nazi” at work. A really clever insult that only the Left would throw at a Jew. Look at how they and all the media elevate every cartoon character ready to smear Trump: Omarosa, Stormy, Avenatti, Michael Cohen, now the niece. Yes, they even have grabbed his disgruntled niece: “Stick with me, kid, and I’ll make ya a star.”
I have been a congregational rabbi for more than 30 years. In that pastoral role, people share internal family secrets with me. Without my violating anyone’s confidences, let me tell you a secret you already know all too well yourself, no matter your ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or shoe size: every single family under the sun has someone with “issues” somewhere along the chain. Either one or more kids are angry for life at one or more parents. Or the parents at the kids. Or the parents and kids are fine with each other, but one or more siblings are not talking. Or they don’t like a brother-in-law or a sister-in-law. Or an aunt or an uncle or a niece or a nephew. This is true of every family. Even in the Bible, Sarah had Abraham expel Ishmael from the house. Esau wanted to kill his brother Jacob. Joseph’s brothers had “issues” with him, enough to fill an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This is not news; this is life. What went on with Kennedy and his wife behind closed doors, with all those Judith Exners on the periphery? Jimmy Carter had the ubiquitous embarrassment of a brother Billy. Clinton — his stepfather was an alcoholic who would beat up the wife, so young Bill had to threaten to beat up the guy. Even Obama — his father abandoned the family, walked out on the Mom and him, went to some other continent.
So Trump, despite a famously notorious divorce, has five kids who really love their Dad to pieces, are really tight with him. No matter one’s politics, it is a beautiful thing to watch that filial devotion: Eric, Donald, Jr.; Ivanka, Tiffany, and Barron. They all love the guy, passionately so. That is pretty good. Neither of his two former wives seeks to sabotage him, much nicer than Newt Gingrich’s bitter “ex” who aimed to take down her former husband eight years ago. The whole Trump family seems tight. For a while, he even dangerously mulled naming his sister to the U.S. Supreme Court before his advisers disabused him of that idea. But the point is, he loves his sister that much. The Trumps are an enviably tight family. So the despicable media finally find one solitary bitter niece, who got cut out of the Trump millions, and they make her into the next Avenatti–Omarosa star. This way they cut him down, while she gets to sell some books and make some money ragging on her famous uncle. Such a despicably cheap shot. Every family has some bitter relative with an axe to grind. Check out this news item of 30 years ago about Sallie Bingham. The Binghams of Louisville are that city’s uniquely majestic dynasty. Sallie was the angry one, so she wrote a whopper of a book. And the crazy thing is that she had gotten $62 million anyway. But this is what happens in families. There’s always one. And this one, Mary Trump, is not even in the nuclear unit of child, parent, sibling, spouse. But she’s the closest they could dig up. The media really are so disgusting. That is what they do to him.
And, frustratingly, it is that same biased media — truly the enemies of the people — who have made Independents unsure about Trump, imagining that the alternative, Joe Biden, can do better.
It really is unfathomable. Was Biden ever really presidential material? Democrat voters in primaries repeatedly have answered no, one decade after another. He always has raised eyebrows outside of Delaware, the nation’s second smallest state. If an answer ever has been “Joe Biden,” then that question must have been pretty sketchy. There always have been things wrong with him, even when he seemed to have all his wires connected. Just contemplate the way he kept copying not only other people’s speeches but even their life stories.
Look, I am an Orthodox Rabbi and a law professor born in Brooklyn. Imagine I go around making speeches about my years living in Buckingham Palace with my family, my brothers Charles and Andrew (whom I always called “Chuck” and “Andy”), my sister Anne (the only normal one, as my Dad, Phil the Duke, would say) and my Mom, with the hats that match the dress that match the coat. I like to call her “Lizzy,” sometimes “Queensie Weensie,” and sometimes “Your Royal Mumsyhood.” And, for fun, sometimes — even though his name is Duke of Edinburgh — I like to call Dad “Duke Snider.” That ruffles him because he prefers cricket. Oh, and there’s Eddie, the unknown brother, whom I like to call the Earl of Wassup (as in “Wassup, Eddie?“). And he always corrects me: “That’s Edward, the Earl of Wessex, Dov.” What a great family! Not.
But really. Anyone listening to such would be watching me for a clue: “Dov, you’re kidding, right? Like, you’re not really from that messed-up family? You know that, right?” And if I would stick with the story, then people would say that I need to be evaluated because, well, if I am their kid, how come I speak English so much gooder, the right way with a Brooklyn accent, unlike all the rest of them with their “lifts” for elevators, “lorries” for trucks, and “boots” for trunks? And what normal person would drink Pimm’s Cup No. 1-6 when she or he can get Maker’s Mark?
But that is what Biden did, even in the old days when he used to know what state he was in. He told someone else’s story — that of a British coal miner’s son — as his own. Oh my darlin’, Biden’s father sold used cars; he wasn’t a coal miner or the son of one. But that was Biden’s speech and life story — because it was British Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s speech and life story.
And now this same guy is locked in a basement, like the 1996 comedy movie House Arrest, reading words being fed to him by his handlers — and this character is soon to be the leader of the free world? Is this something Independents actually would do to themselves? As Biden himself would say: Aw, c’mon, man.
Biden does not have an original thought. Remove the adjective from that previous sentence, and it still reads accurately. He ends up in a debate with Bernie Sanders and comes out with Bernie Sanders’s ideas because that is the last thing he heard. He gets cornered at a debate: “Will you name a woman as your vice presidential running mate?” Caught by surprise, with no time to think — not that it would have mattered — he blurts out: Yes. Now he’s stuck. Go choose among Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and whoever else the New York Times’ 1619 Project comes up with. Maybe run with Anita Hill, and kill two birds with one stone. Or, y’know, go back to the Neil Kinnock life story, and run with Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter. The Left demands defunding the police, so now he takes a position close to it. He used to speak of being Catholic and supporting life. No more.
What do people know about Biden? When he sought a presidential nomination in the past, while campaigning for votes in the South, he cultivated the racism vote, bragging that Delaware had been a slave state up to the Civil War:
You don’t know my state.… My state was a slave state. My state is a border state.… My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state.
He was fine working alongside decades of racist Democrat senators in Dixie, the kinds whose monuments would get torn down if they ever had inspired statues in the first place. He has made so very many racist comments. Praising a Black candidate, Obama, he noted that Obama not only was good-looking but even was “clean.” Imagine that — a Black who is clean! What normal person in today’s world thinks like that? Or “You cannot go into a 7/Eleven or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.” Or, while speaking to White voters in Iowa:
There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.…
When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes, when you have children coming from homes where there’s no books, where the mother from the time they’re born doesn’t talk to them — as opposed to the mother in Iowa who’s sitting out there and talks to them — the kid starts out with a 300 word larger vocabulary at age three. Half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom.
Do Independents cognitively believe that Basement Joe is seriously presidential material?
It is concerning, that they even would consider Basement Joe. Of course Biden wants to be safe; many Americans over 65 are staying indoors until a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is available. Good for him. And while he remains at home and in the basement, he is safe from getting caught thinking out loud. But how can Independents really want to place their lives, their economy, their children’s future in such hands?
In truth, we now are in a season akin to what baseball calls “Spring Training.” It still is the time of preliminary scuffling and testing messages before the real games begin. The real season starts between August and Labor Day. Then we begin a two-month period that is unique in America: the only two months every four years when the Republican conservative message gets heard — because we pay for it. It is too expensive to advertise and pay to be heard 365 days annually. Accordingly, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of dollars are raised, so that a message can be broadcast throughout all the contested states, unfiltered for two months. Those ads, and the three debates that must take place, will be critical. Think back. That’s when elections turn, when fates are decided.
We still remember the year when one side had Willie Horton walking through the revolving door of justice, while the other side had a guy in a Mickey Mouse hat in a tank. We remember a debate when a man said, “I am paying for this microphone,” and another debate when he joked about his age and his opponent’s “youth and inexperience” and another when he discussed a “Misery Index.” We remember an ad about “Morning in America.” We remember a debate where a CNN reporter broke protocol and the rules, butted in, and left a candidate looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Another debate where a candidate stated that East Europe was not under Soviet hegemony. And even that primary when a guy said “Ooops.” A moment can be a game-changer during that season. Al Gore walking up to George W. Bush, menacingly. John Kerry, who married the widow heiress to the Heinz ketchup, pickle relish, and baked beans fortune, saying to Dubya that “we both married up.” George W., being accused of favoring the lumber lobby, opening his suit coat and asking, “Want some wood?” Perot’s vice president candidate asking, “Who am I? Why am I here?” Biden interrupting Ryan endlessly with manic laughter. Trump’s tag of “Low-Energy Jeb[!].” The LBJ television ad of the little girl picking a flower getting blown up by Goldwater’s nuclear holocaust. These are indelible images and sounds that reverberate and impact elections. The season has not yet started.
It will come down to the ads, the debates, what happens amid two more months of coronavirus between now and then, and then two more months of it after that. America will see which Black woman Biden picks — because that is who will run the country if he gets elected, whether they roll out the 25th Amendment on him or not — and whether they can yank Basement Joe above ground for three debates, with him resisting: Aw, c’mon, man. We shall see.
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