Joe Biden Is Problematic

No amount of growth or good intentions will change this fact.

All five of these things are simultaneously true:

  1. Joe Biden is the Democratic front-runner and may well be the nominee.
  2. He is by far the favorite candidate among black voters.
  3. He was a loyal vice president to Barack Obama, and the two men seem to have shared a deep and true friendship.
  4. He, like the other Democratic candidates, would be a vast improvement over Donald Trump.
  5. And, Biden’s positioning on racial issues has been problematic.

This issue exposed itself again Thursday during the presidential debate in Houston. Moderator Linsey Davis put a question to Biden:

“Mr. Vice President, I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, ‘I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.’

You said that some 40 years ago. But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden could have taken responsibility for his comments and addressed the question directly, but he didn’t. Instead, he gave a rambling, nonsensical answer that included a reference to a record player. But, the response ended in yet another racial offense in which he seemed to suggest that black people lack the natural capacity to be good parents:

We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear four million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

His language belies a particular mind-set, one of a liberal of a particular vintage. On the issue of race, it is paternalistic and it pities, it sees deficiency in much the same way that the conservative does, but it responds as savior rather than with savagery. Better the former than the latter, surely, but the sensibility underlying the two positions is shockingly similar. It underscores that liberalism does not perfectly align with racial egalitarianism, regardless of rhetoric to the contrary.

On Sunday, Biden made a speech on race in Birmingham commemorating the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, in which he said on the issue of how racism and racial hatred affect black people:

“We know we’re not there yet. No one knows it better. My mom used to have an expression, ‘You want to understand me, walk in my shoes a mile.’ Those of us who are white try, but we can never fully, fully understand. No matter how hard we try. We’re almost, we’re almost at this next phase of progress in my view.”

Progress. That is the wall behind which white America hides, including white liberals. (Even many black leaders have absorbed and regurgitate the progress narrative.) It expects black people to swell and applaud at their effort. But, how is that a fair and legitimate expectation? Slavery, white supremacy and racism, are horrid, man-made constructs that should never have existed in the first place. Am I supposed to cheer the slow, creeping, centuries-long undoing of a thing that should never have been done?

Malcolm X was once asked if he felt that we were making progress in the country. He responded: “No. I will never say that progress is being made. If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing the wound that the blow made.”

I don’t even think that’s progress. That just returns the situation to a common baseline before the crime was committed.

Furthermore, it’s not what Biden says in prepared remarks that’s problematic, it’s what he says off the cuff and under pressure that to me reveal an antiquated view on racial matters and racial sensitivities.

It was the way he advocated for the 1994 crime bill, a bill that contributed to America’s surging mass incarceration, which disproportionately affected black and brown people in this country.

The bill did some good, but the harm it did cannot be overlooked or understated. Rather than fully owning up to to the disastrous aspects of the bill, Biden has over the years bragged about it and defended it.

It was in the way he described then-candidate Barack Obama in 2007 as an African-American who was “articulate and bright and clean.” Clean? As opposed to what?

This critique of Biden isn’t personal. I bear no ill will for the man. But, a fact is a fact, and no amount of growth, change or well-intentioned good-heartedness has the ability to erase it.

I Want to Hate …’

In Trump’s America people are understandably experiencing news fatigue. There are torrents of it on multiple streams. There is outrage after outrage. It is often overwhelming.

That’s the plan, I suspect. Trump is operating on the Doctrine of Inundation. He floods the airwaves until you simply give up because you feel like you’re drowning.

.. I remember the episode that first revealed to me the darkness at Trump’s core, and I am renewed.

.. On an April night nearly 30 years ago, a young investment banker was beaten and raped when she went for a jog in Central Park. The attack left her in a coma

.. After being questioned for hours, the defendants gave false confessions that conflicted with one another, and those confessions were captured on video. As The New York Times pointed out in 2002: “The defendants in the jogger case were put on camera after they had been in custody, in some cases, for as long as 28 hours.”

.. “When we were arrested, the police deprived us of food, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours. Under duress, we falsely confessed.”

.. A few days after the attack, long before the teenagers would go on trial, Donald Trump bought full-page ads in New York newspapers — you may think of this as a precursor to his present-day tweets to a mass audience — under a giant, all-caps headline that read: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

.. After serving up to 13 years in prison, the boys were proven right: Another man confessed to the crime and his DNA matched that at the scene of the crime.

.. The boys, then men, had their convictions overturned, were freed, and eventually reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city over their wrongful convictions.

How did Trump respond after having called for them to be put to death? In true Trump fashion, he refused to apologize or show any contrition whatsoever.

.. In a 2014 opinion essay in The Daily News, Trump wrote that the settlement was a “disgrace” and that “settling doesn’t mean innocence.” He continued his assertion that the men were guilty, urging his readers: “Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

.. Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

He continued:

“Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”

.. That to me is the thing with this man: He wants to hate. When Trump feels what he believes is a righteous indignation, his default position is hatred. Anyone who draws his ire, anyone whom he feels attacked by or offended by, anyone who has the nerve to stand up for himself or herselfand tell him he’s wrong, he wants to hate, and does so.

.. This hateful spirit envelopes him, consumes him and animates him.

He hates women who dare to stand up to him and push back against him, so he attacks them, not just on the issues but on the validity of their very womanhood.

.. He hates black people who dare to stand up — or kneel — for their dignity and against oppressive authority, so he attacks protesting professional athletes, Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama himself as dangerous and divisive, unpatriotic and un-American.

.. He hates immigrants so he has set a tone of intolerance, boasted of building his wall (that Mexico will never pay for), swollen the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and attacks some as criminals and animals.

He hates Muslims, so he moves to institute his travel ban and attacks their religion with the incendiary comment that “I think Islam hates us.”

.. He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

.. So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak.

The Great American Tax Heist

when this bill leads to these predicted deficits, Republicans will return to their sidelined deficit rhetoric armed with a sickle, aiming the blade at the social safety net, exacerbating the egregious imbalance of the tax bill’s original sins.

.. That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong.

.. No matter how folks try to rationalize this bill, it has nothing to do with a desire to help the middle class or the poor. This is a cash offering to the gods of the Republican donor class. This is a bill meant to benefit Republicans’ benefactors. This is a quid pro quo and the paying of a ransom.

.. Last month at a rally in Missouri, Trump said of the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.” He continued:

.. “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s O.K. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”

That, too, was a lie.

..  It also lines the pockets of people like Senator Bob Corker, who mysteriously “coincidentally” switched his vote from a no to a yes on the bill after the language was added.

.. Donald Trump is a plutocrat masquerading as a populist. He is a pirate on a mission to plunder.

.. Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.

.. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.

The Omen of Alabama

Doug Jones’s defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election is yet the latest signal that the accommodators of Donald Trump, those who have normalized and bolstered him, the gutless, schismatic conservatives who abandoned principle to follow a pariah, will have hell to pay in 2018.

Yes, Roy Moore was defeated, but it can never be fully erased from history or memory that he was endorsed by this president and supported by the Republican National Committee. All of Roy Moore’s sins are their sins, and they will wear that scarlet R straight into the midterms.

.. Moore still won the Republican vote and the white vote and, yes, the “white born-again Christian” vote. These people contorted their faith to support a man accused of unthinkable transgressions.

They made a mockery of Christian faith and moral fidelity.

.. they are motivated and insistent that the past will not defeat the future.

.. black voters, particularly black women, have been summoned to save America from its worst impulses and to establish that they are the most loyal and crucial constituency of a Democratic Party that still doesn’t grant them enough respect or deference

.. The Resistance has its own Southern Strategy.

.. It proved that Trump was a fringe candidate who tapped into an American ugliness and rode it to a fluke victory with the help of a foreign adversary.

.. Republicans must brace for the reckoning. If the Resistance can maintain its intensity — and there is no sign of it weakening — the midterms may well amount to a purge.

In Defense of the Truth

The Department of Justice confirmed in a Friday court filing what we all knew to be true: that Trump’s slanderous assertion on Twitter in March that President Barack Obama had Trump’s “ ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” just before the election was in fact a total fabrication.

.. To some this lying may seem small, just another defect among many, but to me it is so much more. Honesty is the foundation of character. The truth is the common base from which all else is built.

And yet, this man feels completely unbound by it. He has no respect or reverence for it. For him, honesty is an option, one that he feels no compunction to choose.

.. Before Trump’s bigotry, race-baiting, misogyny, corruption, bullying and vindictiveness, there is the lying. One could even argue that the lying is a core component of all the rest.

.. The Washington Post calculated that Trump made 492 false or misleading statements in his first 100 days — “That’s an average of 4.9 claims a day” — and that there were only 10 days without a single false claim.

.. “The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it.”

.. When we are overwhelmed with false, or potentially false, statements, our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through everything. It’s called cognitive load — our limited cognitive resources are overburdened.

.. Eventually, without quite realizing it, our brains just give up trying to figure out what is true.”

.. It is not only hard to imagine that any person could lie this much — let alone the leader of the free world — it is also impossible for us to keep pace.

Failing All Tests of the Presidency

Donald Trump is many things — most of them despicable — but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.

Donald Trump is a man of flawed character and a moral cavity. He cannot offer moral guidance because he has no moral compass. He is too small to see over his inflated ego.

.. Trump has personalized the presidency in unprecedented ways — making every battle and every war about his personal feelings. Did the person across the street or around the world say good or bad things about him? Does the media treat him fairly? Is someone in his coterie of corruption outshining him or casting negative light on him?

His interests center on the self; country be damned.

.. By claiming that there were some “very fine people” among the extremists marching in Charlottesville, the president made a profound declaration: The accommodation of racists is his creed.

.. According to The Chicago Tribune, one of Fields’s high school teachers said he once “wrote a three-page homework paper that extolled Nazi ideology and the prowess of the Führer’s armed forces,” and that even before then, the teacher said, “he had been well aware of Fields’s racist and anti-Semitic beliefs from private discussions he had with Fields during his junior year.”

.. “At least four times when the boy was in the eighth and ninth grades, Florence police were summoned to his home, mostly by his frantic mother, Samantha Bloom, an I.T. specialist. It was just the two of them living together, and young James, among other incidents, was reported to have spat in her face, smacked her head with a phone and frightened her with a foot-long knife, according to records of the 911 calls. Neighbors, in interviews, similarly described a troubled youth who treated his mother cruelly.”

.. He apparently felt that the media had unfairly condemned him for his original remarks and he was going to be the counterpuncher and strike back at the media. Again, it was all about him, not us.

.. He was not there to heal the nation or to uplift it. He was there for personal exoneration and redemption. He wasn’t there to plead the case that America could rise on the wings of its better angels. He was there to defend the demons.

.. Trump said that he had not initially condemned both sides because he wanted to wait to get all the facts, because that’s what he likes to do.

Lies.

On Saturday, when tens of thousands of protesters turned out to counter a small group of radical racists, Trump’s first response was to tweet: “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”

This man doesn’t wait for facts. This man doesn’t care about facts, or much else for that matter. He only cares about himself, his image and his positioning.

Comments:

.. I am among the 67% of Republicans who approve of Trump’s response to the mayhem in Charlottesville.

If, unlike Charles Blow, you watched the entire press conference, you would approve too. Trump said unreservedly that racists, white nationalists, Nazis, whatever you want to call these freaks should be condemned.

Taken out of context by this columnist and most of the news media is that President Trump said that there are good people who believe that these statutes should not be taken down. This is not a controversial statement. You may disagree with this view, but surely good people could take this view.

In the present Trump Derangement Syndrome suffered by this columnist and the major news media, any semblance of nuance, or even fully listening to the president’s words, is lost.

.. Saggio: Mr. Blow lets lay aside the emotion and look at the facts. GDP is up after years of nothingness under President Obama. Unemployment is down. Wages are up. For the first time a President of the United States has faced down North Korea and there is a slim hope for progress. We are beginning a realistic trade policy with China. And many foreign corporations are building new plants in America. Does any of this count with you?

 

.. Jack Sonville .. As a Jew, to me the most sickening characters in this plot line are the Jews in his cabinet–people like Cohn and Mnuchin. It is not enough to say, well, I know Donald Trump and he is personally not anti-Semetic. They are enablers and excuse-makers. They like being in power so much that they will broach any indignity and throw their heritage and people under the bus.

My question to them: After your time with Trump is done, where will you go to get back your dignity and self-respect?

 

.. zoe .. I watched the entire press conference. How many times did he say “fake news”? Are there people in this country that believe these statues should remain? Of course. Do you really think that they were marching with torches and armed with riot gear simply to protest the removal of a statue? What is more symbolic that marching with torches? It was very easy for the donald to state what some CEOs have since stated, what Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, what just about anyone on the street could have stated, at the beginning, as soon as we heard what had happened. He was waiting for the facts? Seriously? The donald never waits for facts. Whether you support him or not you know this is true. I watched the entire presser and someone with presidential temperament would have handled it differently. Nuance? He’s afraid of alienating his base. Do you believe him when during the campaign he said he knew nothing of the KKK or David Duke? There were no “fine people” marching alongside people caring Nazi flags and KKK ornamentation with guns at their side.

 

.. Bob israel .. I am sure that Charles Blow is not naive. When he excoriates President Trump for essentially telling the truth about the Charlottesville riots , that there were people with legitimate motives and also people with violent intent on both sides, which is now becoming clear, he is being disingenuous, at the very least.

The Hijacked American Presidency

Trump himself is the offense. Everything that springs from him, every person who supports him, every staffer who shields him, every legislator who defends him, is an offense. Every partisan who uses him — against all he or she has ever claimed to champion — to advance a political agenda and, in so doing, places party over country, is an offense.

.. We must remind ourselves that Trump’s very presence in the White House defiles it and the institution of the presidency. Rather than rising to the honor of the office, Trump has lowered the office with his whiny, fragile, vindictive pettiness.

.. This latest episode is simply part of a body of work demonstrating the man’s utter contempt for decency.

.. [Republicans] have surrendered any moral authority to which they once laid claim — rightly or not. If Trump goes down, they all do.

.. A madman and his legislative minions are holding America hostage.

.. It is what it is and has been from day one: The most extraordinary and profound electoral mistake America has made in our lifetimes and possibly ever.

.. We must always remember that although individual Americans made the choice to vote affirmatively for him or actively withhold their support from his opponent, those decisions were influenced, in ways we cannot calculate, by Russian interference in our election, designed to privilege Trump.

.. We must remember that we now have a president exerting power to which he may only have access because a foreign power hostile to our interests wanted him installed.

.. Trump simply lied when he said that he would have won the popular vote were it not for millions of illegal votes.

.. He is banking on your becoming overwhelmed by his never-ending antics.

.. Trump is an abomination, and a cancer on the country, and none of us can rest until he is no longer holding the reins of power.