Julia Louis-Dreyfus has played a make-believe vice president on TV. She begins our night by sharing small talk with Andrew Yang, the recently failed Democrat presidential candidate. Their repartee falls flat. Clunk. Julia tries to be funny. She mocks the pronunciation of Mike Pence’s name, with the implication that conservatives will reject Kamala Harris because her first name is not a classic White Anglo-Saxon Protestant name. But it simply does not resonate. We have elected for president someone with the name “Barack.” Someone with the name “Hussein.” Even someone with the name “Obama.” Twice. So, no, it is not about an exotic name.
Next, Julia tries another joke: “Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he does not need tear gas to get there.” Wow — yet another “joke” that falls flat.
The reason that so many Americans do not want Kamala Harris has nothing to do with her name or where her parents were born. Rather, it is because, first of all, she got her opportunity to advance geometrically in politics by cavorting in a manner that is reprehensible. Her dalliance was open. It was brazen. It was with a married man, 31 years her senior who was her state’s Democrat kingmaker. Once Harris predictably then got from the kingmaker her good-paying political patronage jobs and gained the opportunities to advance politically up the Democrat ladder, the coveted introductions to the power players in the state’s Democrat machine — opportunities that others who would not publicly compromise themselves that way do not typically get — she was on her way in a one-party Democrat state. That is how her big rise in Democrat politics began. It was public. Willie Brown’s wife was quoted publicly about it:
Listen, she may have him at the moment, but come inauguration day and he’s up there on the platform being sworn in, I’ll be the b***h holding the Bible.
In my world as an Orthodox rabbi, I have never met someone of either gender who openly, in full view of cameras and media, at major parties and events, cavorted with a married person — fully aware of the publicly expressed feelings of that married person’s actual spouse —with no prospect of that cavorting leading to marriage, but with opportunities to advance dangling. Many Democrats who were thrilled to watch Kamala Harris crucify Brett Kavanaugh over wild and unsubstantiated allegations regarding his late teen years now are offended when others describe Harris’s own substantiated, documented, and photographed behavior as a detestable and disgusting way to advance in politics. So be it. But that behavior tragically provides critical insight into the character and makeup of the person. The name and ethnicity are irrelevant.
Now, as a vice presidential candidate for the November election, she likewise has come under deeper scrutiny for her habit of lying publicly and her companion habit of flip-flopping on issues, often within days. First she says she will end private health insurance; then she reverses. She says we should consider giving imprisoned violent felons the right to vote; then she reverses after an outcry. First she presents as one who prosecutes marijuana-related offenses and locks up 1,560 people for that. Then, as she sees the winds blow, she starts telling interviewers gleefully that she smoked dope in college. To seem even more cool, she says she smoked weed while listening to “Snoop Dogg and Tupac” — but that was impossible because she was in college 10 years before the public ever heard of either of those two. So another lie.
That is why so many Americans do not want Kamala Harris as president — because there is no doubt but that a Joe Biden Veep may not need to wait long before being handed the Oval Office. Biden clearly is in jeopardy of not surviving the 25th Amendment. It has nothing to do with how we pronounce her name, nor her parents’ ethnicity or national origin. Republican conservatives have demonstrated support for Nikki Haley, a woman descending from Sikh parents whose roots are in the Punjab region of India. Republican conservatives have deep respect for a woman named Melania. Is Kamala Harris ready to confront Iran and ensure they do not build nuclear weapons? Our country needs more than political patronage jobs. What is her proven record on creating a dynamic booming economy? We saw what President Trump did to energize the economy for more than three years, achieve stock market records, and record lows on Black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, and women’s unemployment. Only a once-in-a-century worldwide pandemic could slow it down.
Back to Julia: “I am no policy expert, and I certainly do not pretend to be one.” And then, just as she has pretended on television to be a Veep, she proceeds to tell us her views on policy. Meanwhile, something unexpected is more revealing about this lady: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is just not funny without (i) a comedy writer providing her with funny lines to read from cards, and (ii) a laugh track. She keeps trying to insert cute one-liners, and they just do not land. Not a single one.
Next comes Sister Simone Campbell, of “Nuns on the Bus.” For her invocation, she asks the “Spirit” for a “vision” that ends “structural racism” and that heals the Earth. Remember: it is this very “systemic” “structure” that has seen Obama elected president twice and now Harris named to run for vice president. As Sister Simone continues invoking the “Spirit,” she does not speak a word about abortion, about partial-birth abortion, about the new Democrat advocacy made famous by the governor of Virginia, who advocates setting aside a newborn baby and keeping it “comfortable” while the parents decide whether to kill it. I am an Orthodox rabbi, not a Catholic, but methinks this lady is not one of the Little Sisters of the Poor for whom I co-submitted an Amicus Curae brief. Sister Simone says nothing about the Democrats’ determination to force Catholic religious institutions to provide insurance that, one way or another, pays for birth control.
The program’s religious portion continues with Joe Biden talking to a reverend: “I happen to be a practicing Catholic,” he says. Again, I just do not understand. The Vatican opposes abortion and is pro-life. It opposes abortifacients. It opposes gay marriage. I can understand that there are Catholics, like other Christians and like Jews, who do not practice. But Biden invokes his religion and says he is a “practicing Catholic.” Is he? Later in the program Pete Buttigieg will tell us that Biden supports gay marriage. OK, that is a matter of public policy, but is that “practicing Catholicism”? As an Orthodox Jew, I am not authorized to say. I may say that I cannot understand how someone can so publicly oppose certain Vatican teachings and yet identify otherwise. I am open to learning.
Next, Julia tries another joke: “Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he does not need tear gas to get there.” Wow — yet another “joke” that falls flat. She desperately needs Larry David to write something on a cue card and save her. As for her deceptive comment itself: When Joe Biden has gone to church, he has not been physically threatened outside his home by rioters. He has not had to visit his church after left-wing anarchists have burned it down.
Meanwhile, on this last night of this convention, the night one expected would be its crescendo, there is a remarkable weakness of substance and programming during the first of its two primetime hours. In alternating segments, it sounds at times like a Jerry Lewis–type telethon — only without Jerry Lewis — begging people to text to a number … and at other times like an overnight one-hour cable TV paid infomercial. It just has no flavor. Just a sense of “operators standing by,” perhaps willing to waive $5.95 shipping and handling.
There is a fascinating segment where the Democrats play a recording of President Trump speaking, raising several legitimate concerns about potential obstacles that can arise if the entire country votes by mail. Yes, of course we have had “absentee voting” for years. The country is experienced in conducting that component of a larger election. But we have not previously had a mail-in election for 130 million voters. Are we ready for it? Is a presidential election suited to be the first time to try such a massive change in our nationwide voting? It certainly is within reason to raise concerns, to ask the questions. Yet, the Democrats mock the president’s questions and concerns by having an Instagram lip-syncer, Sarah Cooper, on screen. Her shtick is cute in the juvenile way that third-graders are amused when a student is called up to the front of class and mimics the teacher. Again, these are the same Democrats who still do not accept the outcome of the last election, conducted with more traditional procedures and, as we now know after two years and $32 million of Robert Mueller, without Russian-induced voter fraud.
Next is Eva Gutowski, a YouTube influencer. She has 11 million who follow her on YouTube. That is so cool.
We get a former surgeon general who tells us that, amid COVID-19, we need a leader who can work with states. Since Andrew Cuomo was the Democrats’ convention expert on fighting the coronavirus, let us hear from Gov. Cuomo about a president who can work with states to fight COVID-19:
But on Monday, Cuomo took to an unlikely venue — The Howard Stern Show — to offer genuine praise for the president’s response to the coronavirus in his home state.
“He has delivered for New York. He has,” Cuomo said of Trump, in response to a question from Stern about whether the president has really done anything of consequence to help.
“By and large it has worked,” Cuomo said of the relationship.
He cited, as he has before, the sending of the Navy ship USNS Comfort and the construction of a military field hospital at the Javits Center as examples of the president responding quickly to the state’s needs.
You want more from Gov. Cuomo? OK:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Monday for responding “very quickly” to the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
The governor praised them during a press conference on Monday morning in which he provided updates to the coronavirus situation in New York.
“The fairness dictates that kudos where kudos are due, and here the vice president and the president responded very quickly. So, I want to thank them for that,” Cuomo said.
On Friday, Cuomo made similar remarks where he thanked Trump and Pence for helping New York facilitate more testing.
“I want to thank the vice president and especially the president, who facilitated this and moved quickly,” Cuomo said on Friday. “We’ve been talking to the federal government about the federal government authorizing states to do testing. State health departments regulate labs in their states. We need obviously more testing capacity, and we need it quickly. So I spoke to the vice president about this.”
Next comes Cory Booker. Want to know what he had to say? I didn’t think so.
Along comes Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois to call President Trump a “Coward in Chief.” Really, we live in a time and in a political environment where words have so little meaning that even the “little white lies,” exaggerations, and puffery salesmanship of politics are insufficient. We now listen to United States senators just throw around nouns and adjectives with shameless disregard for how false they are. Trump has had to deal with the most hateful, vicious assemblage of partisan media hacks, publishers of outright fake news and lies, and politically mercenary politicians. He has been subjected to Mueller for two years, an impeachment, every imaginable obstruction and personal assault — on his wife when she is absent from public view for a day, against his daughter, even against his boy. They pull out a family black sheep, a niece with a chip on her shoulder. They go after him night and day for three-plus years, and yet he never backs down. In a world where English words mean what they always did, that is not the definition of a coward but of a brave person. If you like him, he is a Mount Rushmore–quality hero. If you don’t like him, you focus on character flaws. But “cowardice”? These people are such brazen liars.
Then there is a segment on Beau Biden. He died of glioblastoma at age 46. He sounds like a wonderful mirror-image of his Burisma brother, Hunter Biden. Maybe Beau Biden would have been a worthy candidate. He sounds like a wonderful person, like someone I would have liked to know. But, alas, he is not on the ticket. Papa Joe is on the ticket. That is the problem of living in reality.
Mike Bloomberg is next. He tells is that we have a choice between two different candidates: “One believes in facts, one does not.” Which is Biden? Come and hear:
We choose science over fiction; we choose truth over facts.
Next there is a very endearing segment in which we meet a nice, sweet boy who stutters. Joe Biden sat with the young man and encouraged him. That is beautiful. It really is. Biden should be a school teacher. Really. He would be good with kids. And remember how he even let them rub the hair on his legs?
Now we go for the Jews. A Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware remembers the time his senator, Joe Biden, paid a shiva visit — a visit to a home where relatives were mourning a recently lost loved one. OK, very nice. Politicians do that kind of thing. Here is an example, though, where a busy business executive, not in politics, visited the shiva home of his attorney:
The night before the [November 2016] election, David Friedman spoke at a standing-room only event and opened it by telling a story that the media would never cover: the moment that cemented his friendship with then real estate magnate Donald J. Trump. It was during a snowstorm, and David’s father has just died. Neighbors told David that they could not attend his Shiva week visits of consolation and respect.
David was sitting alone. And David understood. All of a sudden, a tall man walked in and embraced him. Donald Trump managed to make it from NYC to the Friedman home. It took Trump 3 and a half hours. They sat and spoke intimately for over an hour. Friedman saw a side to Trump he never saw before.
Until that point, Friedman was simply one of Trump’s attorneys. After that, Trump became a friend. Trump also turned to David and asked him questions about Israel. Trump didn’t dictate; he had sincere concerns and questions, and listened to what he was told.
Years later Trump would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, move America’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, declare that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) are not illegal, would close the Washington, D.C., offices of the PLO, and would broker a peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. And he would name David Friedman our ambassador to Israel. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee: Now that’s a shiva visit!
The evening winds down. Hunter Biden is there to tell us that his father, Joe, should be elected because he will be “honest.” Yes, Hunter Biden who was paid $50,000 a month to sit on the Burisma board, despite knowing nothing about the natural gas industry nor even able to speak Ukrainian — all while his father, Joe, was in charge of America’s Ukraine relations, even to the degree that the vice president could withhold $1 billion in urgently needed American assistance to Ukraine — tells us that we should elect his dad because Joe is “honest.” Think of the corporate boards awaiting Hunter if Joe gets the nod in November.
The night closes with Joe Biden’s speech. It is a standard Democrat talking-point speech. It is not too radical. An enormous amount of the speech is about the coronavirus. He blames Trump for the impact of COVID, an impact that is the same all over the world. Not a word recognizing what Trump had done for the economy until the tragedy of the pandemic hit. Biden tells us that he could have done so much better, as happened when Ebola was controlled. But Ebola is not COVID-19 because, if COVID were so simple to control, it would not still be rampant and devastating population groups all over the world more than six months after arriving, with great pharmaceutical companies racing to find a treatment and with nearly two dozen vaccines in various stages of trials. It is the ultimate lie to end a convention of lies, to suggest that Biden could have done better. Biden even opposed Trump’s order to restrict flights from China when the virus hit. And his plan now, he tells us, is to enforce a law that we all will have to wear masks. OK, that’s innovative. The rest of his speech is basically workmanlike. It is OK. It is practiced, written for him, read from a teleprompter. Hopefully, he and his handlers now will be encouraged to let him engage President Trump in three live debates — unrehearsed, unscripted, unedited.
The night ends with some lame fireworks in a parking lot. At this point I do feel bad for the Bidens. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for them to experience the festivities of a political party’s convention-night finale, as the balloons and confetti come down, and tens of thousands cheer. And yet it is not to be. Biden tried so hard for this. He tried so often. He tried in 1988, until they caught him on falsifying his life story, outright stealing British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock’s life. (Maybe that is the Julia Louis-Dreyfus connection: the Seinfeld episode where Peterman buys Kramer’s life stories.) Then the media exposed his plagiarism in law school. Then that he had been falsifying his true grades and class standing. So Biden then dropped out and tried again in 2008, the campaign where he told America that he was impressed with Obama’s cleanliness: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
So Joe finally got it at age 77. And there he stood, arm in arm with Jill, both masked as necessary, looking up at some fireworks in a parking lot. Watching it, one feels the emptiness of the moment.
Hopefully, the Republicans will do better next week.