Biden’s Best Veep Pick Is Obvious

She, more than anyone, can get under Trump’s skin.

Whatever his wobbles, Joe Biden has, from the start of his presidential campaign, got one thing exactly right: The 2020 election is a battle for the soul of America. That’s not just a pretty slogan. It’s the stomach-knotting truth — and it’s the frame he should use for choosing his running mate.

It’s why he should pick Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

She’s a paragon of the values that Donald Trump, for all his practice as a performer, can’t even pantomime. She’s best described by words that are musty relics in his venal and vainglorious circle: “sacrifice,” “honor,” “humility.” More than any of the many extraordinary women on Biden’s list of potential vice-presidential nominees, she’s the anti-Trump, the antidote to the ugliness he revels in and the cynicism he stokes.

Americans can feel good — no, wonderful — about voting for a ticket with Duckworth on it. And we’re beyond hungry for that. We’re starving.

That ache transcends all of the other variables that attend Biden’s deliberations as he appraises Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Val Demings and others: race, age, experience, exact position on the spectrum from progressive to moderate.

Duckworth, a former Army lieutenant colonel who lost both of her legs during combat duty in Iraq, is a choice that makes exquisite emotional and moral sense. Largely, but not entirely, because of that, she makes strategic sense, too.

For the uninitiated: Duckworth, 52, is in the fourth year of her first term in the Senate, before which she served two terms in the House. So unlike several of the other vice-presidential contenders, she has ascended to what is conventionally considered the right political altitude for this next step.

But it’s her life story that really makes her stand out. It’s the harrowing chapter in Iraq, yes, but also how she rebounded from it, how she talks about it. It’s her attitude. Her grace.

As my colleague Jennifer Steinhauer explained in a recent profile of Duckworth in The Times, she didn’t just serve in the Army: She became a helicopter pilot, which isn’t a job brimming with women. And as she flew near Baghdad one day in 2004, her Blackhawk was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. The explosion left her near death.

She later received a Purple Heart, but she bristles when she’s called a hero. That designation, she has often said, belongs to her co-pilot, Dan Milberg, and others who carried her from the wreckage and got her to safety.

She put it this way when, as part of a “Note to Self” feature on “CBS This Morning,” she read aloud a letter that she had written to the younger Tammy: “You’ll make it out alive completely because of the grit, sacrifice and outright heroism of othersYou haven’t done anything to be worthy of their sacrifices, but these heroes will give you a second chance at life.” She paused there briefly, fighting back tears.

To Steinhauer she said, “I wake up every day thinking, ‘I am never going to make Dan regret saving my life.’” Her subsequent advocacy for veterans, her run for Congress, her election to the Senate: She casts all of it in terms of gratitude and an obligation to give back.

Tell me how Trump campaigns against that. Tell me how he mocks her — which is the only way he knows how to engage with opponents. Or, rather, tell me how he does so without seeming even more obscene than he already does and turning off everyone beyond the cultish segment of the electorate that will never abandon him. Duckworth on the Democratic ticket is like some psy-ops masterstroke, all the more so because it was she who nicknamed Trump “Cadet Bone Spurs.”

I asked her about that on the phone on Thursday, remarking that it was uncharacteristically acerbic of her. “This guy’s a bully,” she said. “And bullies need a taste of their own medicine.”

Warren, too, is terrific at giving Trump that. Her placement on the Democratic ticket might fire up the progressives who regard Biden warily. And she could make an excellent governing partner for him.

But mightn’t Warren also give moderate voters pause? What about her age? She’s 71. Biden’s 77. Can the party of change and modernity, whose last two presidents were both under 50 when first elected, go with an all-septuagenarian ticket?

Governing partners don’t matter if you don’t get to govern. The certain catastrophe of four more years of Trump demands that Biden choose his running mate with November at the front, the back, the top and the bottom of his mind.

Harris also ably prosecutes the case against Trump. But many progressives have issues with her, and the idea that she’d drive high turnout among black voters isn’t supported by her failed bid for the Democratic nomination. She lacked support across the board, including among African-Americans. And in a recent national poll conducted by The Times and Siena College, more than four in five voters — including three in four black voters — said that race shouldn’t be a factor in Biden’s vice-presidential pick.

Duckworth is neither progressive idol nor progressive enemy. That partly reflects a low policy profile that’s among her flaws as a running mate but could actually work to her advantage, making her difficult to pigeonhole and open to interpretation. Trump-weary voters can read into her what they want. And in recent congressional elections, Democrats have had success among swing voters with candidates who are veterans.

Duckworth certainly can’t be dismissed as the same old same old. Her vice-presidential candidacy would be a trailblazing one, emblematic of a more diverse and inclusive America. Born in Bangkok to an American father and a Thai mother, she’d be the first Asian-American and the first woman of color on the presidential ticket of one of our two major parties.

She was the first United States senator to give birth while in office and the first to bring her baby onto the Senate floor. You want relatable? Duckworth has two children under the age of 6. She’s a working mom.

She’s not the product of privilege: In fact her family hit such hard times when she was growing up in Hawaii that at one point she sold flowers by the side of the road. But she went on to get not only a college degree but also a master’s in international affairs.

Cards on the table: I’m not at all sure that running mates matter much on Election Day. There’s ample evidence that they don’t.

But in any given election, they sure as hell might. Biden would be a fool, given the stakes, not to consider his running mate a victory clincher or deal breaker and to choose her accordingly.

Duckworth’s virtues include everything that I’ve mentioned plus this: She projects a combination of confidence and modesty, of toughness and warmth, that’s rare — and that’s a tonic in these toxic times.

I asked her whether she deems Trump a patriot. She said that he wraps himself in the American flag — a flag, she noted, that will someday drape her coffin — for the wrong reasons.

I would leap into a burning fire to pull that flag to safety, but I will fight to the death for your right to burn it,” she told me. “The most patriotic thing you can do is not necessarily putting on the uniform but speaking truth to power, exercising your First Amendment rights — that’s what created America, right?”

I asked her how it felt to have her name floated as a possible vice-presidential nominee.

“It’s surreal, right?” she said, recalling that she was once “a hungry kid who fainted in class for lack of nutrition. It’s unbelievable I’m even a U.S. senator.”

“But it’s one team, one fight,” she added, referring to the Democratic quest to defeat Trump. “I will work as hard as I can to get Joe Biden elected because the country needs it. It doesn’t matter where I end up on that team.”

Yes, Senator Duckworth, it does. In the right role, you could help guarantee the right outcome.

 

This is the new GOP: Angry and afraid

One of the unpleasant surprises of your 50s (among many) is seeing the heroes and mentors of your 20s pass away. I worked for Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, who became, through his work with prisoners, one of the most important social reformers of the 20th century. I worked for Jack Kemp, who inspired generations of conservatives with his passion for inclusion. I worked against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries but came to admire his truculent commitment to principle.

Perhaps it is natural to attribute heroism to past generations and to find a sad smallness in your own. But we are seeing the largest test of political character in my lifetime. And where are the Republican leaders large enough to show the way?

President Trump’s recent remarks to evangelical Christians at the White House capture where Republican politics is heading. “This November 6 election,” Trump said, “is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion.” A direct, unadorned appeal to tribal hostilities. Fighting for Trump, the president argued, is the only way to defend the Christian faith. None of these men and women of God, apparently, gagged on their hors d’oeuvres.

.. “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that [Democrats] will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence.” Here Trump is preparing his audience for the possibility of bloodshed by predicting it from the other side. Christians, evidently, need to start taking “Onward, Christian Soldiers” more literally.

.. This is now what passes for GOP discourse — the cultivation of anger, fear, grievances, prejudices and hatreds.

.. “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game.” He comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people, and opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American” and “treasonous.”

.. As Robert S. Mueller III continues his inexorable investigation of Trump’s sleazy business and political world — and if Democrats gain the House and begin aggressive oversight — a cornered president may test the limits of executive power in the attempt to avoid justice. If the GOP narrowly retains control of the House, Trump and others will take it as the vindication of his whole approach to politics. The president will doubtlessly go further in targeting his enemies for investigation and other harm. He will doubtlessly attack the independence of the FBI and attempt to make it an instrument of his will. He will doubtlessly continue his vendetta against responsible journalism and increase his pressure on media companies that don’t please him. On a broad front, Trump’s lunacy will become operational.

.. But at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal, was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigor, and could no more be budged than a cliff.”

Republican leaders may dread it, but they will eventually be forced to identify that final area where they keep themselves — or find there is no one there.

‘Accidental hero’ halts ransomware attack and warns: this is not over

Expert who stopped spread of attack by activating software’s ‘kill switch’ says criminals will ‘change the code and start again’

I was out having lunch with a friend and got back about 3pm and saw an influx of news articles about the NHS and various UK organisations being hit,” he told the Guardian. “I had a bit of a look into that and then I found a sample of the malware behind it, and saw that it was connecting out to a specific domain, which was not registered. So I picked it up not knowing what it did at the time.”

The kill switch was hardcoded into the malware in case the creator wanted to stop it spreading. This involved a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to – just as if it was looking up any website – and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading. The domain cost $10.69 and was immediately registering thousands of connections every second.

 .. MalwareTech said he preferred to stay anonymous “because it just doesn’t make sense to give out my personal information, obviously we’re working against bad guys and they’re not going to be happy about this.”
.. He warned people to patch their systems, adding: “This is not over. The attackers will realise how we stopped it, they’ll change the code and then they’ll start again. Enable windows update, update and then reboot.”
.. By Friday evening, the ransomware had spread to the United States and South America, though Europe and Russia remained the hardest hit

Syria’s White Rose

At the end of Bertolt Brecht’s “Life of Galileo,” there is a sharp exchange. Andrea Sarti, a student of the astronomer, says, “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” To which Galileo shoots back: “No, Andrea. Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”

.. “We don’t have the necessity today to resist in Germany because this is a free country,” Wolffsohn said. “Resistance is the readiness to incur lethal personal risk.”

.. R.B.S.S. will not stop its efforts to spread word of the crimes of ISIS. To record is to resist evil; to forget is to permit its spread. As Czeslaw Milosz wrote: “The poet remembers. You can kill one, but another is born.”

Wolffsohn drew a parallel between Alhamza’s resistance to ISIS and that of the White Rose group to the Third Reich. Formed in 1942 by Munich University students and their professor, the White Rose, in the face of certain death, distributed leaflets denouncing Nazism. The first read:

“Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes — crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure — reach the light of day?”

.. “The White Rose knew from the very beginning that they would lose but that their loss was necessary to show that humanity and human dignity cannot be wiped out completely. It’s the same with the Raqqa group.”

Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of 669 Children From Holocaust, Dies at 106

Nicholas Winton, a Briton who said nothing for a half-century about his role in organizing the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, a righteous deed like those of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, died on Wednesday in Maidenhead, England. He was 106.

.. Why did he do it?

He never really explained, though he offered a bare rationale in an interview with The New York Times in 2001: “One saw the problem there, that a lot of these children were in danger, and you had to get them to what was called a safe haven, and there was no organization to do that. Why did I do it? Why do people do different things? Some people revel in taking risks, and some go through life taking no risks at all.”