Category Archives: Joe Biden

A story that sheds light on why I’m for Joe Biden

Biden stump 1

Tonight Joe Biden (and others) will be at the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. I had thought seriously about going, but decided I had too much to do to take the trip — almost two hours each way. (If you’re closer, I urge you to go. The Stump is always interesting, and this special-edition gathering promises to be particularly so.)

So I’ll give you a picture or two from the last time I saw and interviewed Joe at the Stump, and give you a link to my column about it. It was in 2006. (Special bonus feature: The column quotes former blog regular Paul DeMarco, who happened to be at the Stump — as I noted in a separate post at the time.)

And to add a measure of substance, here’s something else I meant to post last week. I don’t expect it to change any minds among those of you who don’t like Joe for whatever reason, but I offer it as another window into why I’m for him, and really don’t have a second choice among the others running.

It’s a story from the NYT about the way he handled the process that ended in a vote against Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. An excerpt:

Joseph R. Biden Jr. was on the brink of victory, but he was unsatisfied.

Mr. Biden, the 44-year-old chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was poised to watch his colleagues reject President Ronald Reagan’s formidable nominee to the Supreme Court, Robert H. Bork. The vote was unlikely to be close. Yet Mr. Biden was hovering in the Senate chamber, plying Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, a Republican of modestly conservative politics and regal bearing, with arguments about Bork’s record.

Rejecting a Supreme Court nominee was an extraordinary act of defiance, and Mr. Biden did not want a narrow vote that could look like an act of raw partisan politics….

Mr. Biden’s entreaties prevailed: Mr. Warner became one of 58 senators to vote against Bork, and one of six Republicans.

That’s Joe. As the piece says, it was a moment when “Mr. Biden’s political ethos found its most vivid and successful expression.” At a moment when most partisans would be satisfied simply to win, Joe wanted to go the extra mile to win in a way less likely to tear the country apart. One more excerpt:

The strategy Chairman Biden deployed then is the same one he is now proposing to bring to the White House as President Biden.

In the 1980s, as today, he saw bipartisan compromise not as a version of surrender, but as a vital tool for achieving Democratic goals….

And in both defining moments — his leadership of the Bork hearings and his third presidential campaign — Mr. Biden made persuading moderates, rather than exciting liberals, his guiding objective….

Yep, that sets him part from the people in his own party and the other who tend to think it terms of getting 50 percent plus one and cramming their policy goals down the opposition’s throat.

I have little patience with such people. And that’s another reason why Joe is my guy. He’s the one candidate who is the polar opposite of what’s wrong with our national politics…

Biden stump 2

Thoughts on the marathon ‘debate’ last night?

NYT debate graphic

Or perhaps I should say, further thoughts, since some of y’all have started the discussion on the previous thread. Which is cool.

As a conversation starter, I thought I’d post an image of the graphic the NYT ran this morning to go with a piece they had about winners and losers, featuring some of their opinion writers.

I read that this morning, and several other accounts of the night, and the consensus of what I’ve read — and I don’t strongly disagree with any of it — goes kind of like this:

  • Warren had the best night. That’s the consensus. I thought she started strong — I liked her Mayberry approach, with talking about her Aunt Bee instead of her usual intense ranting — but wasn’t as great the rest of the time.
  • Bernie seemed more and more to observers what he has always seemed to me — the cranky uncle who puts people off.
  • Yang embarrassed himself right out of the running with his money-giveaway gimmick. Too bad. I liked him.
  • Castro was second-worst, they say. Personally, I’d put him dead last and move up Yang. Basically what he did was the equivalent of blowing himself up with a grenade, in the hope that he could also wound Joe Biden in the process. Most thought it was bad; I think it was worse. He hasn’t learned what Kamala Harris learned belatedly: In the end, Democrats won’t like you for attacking Biden — and, by extension, Obama.
  • Kamala Harris was too scripted and rehearsed. Pretty much everyone thought she came across as phony.
  • Klobuchar did fine, but it wasn’t enough. And as one writer said, she remains irrelevant as the moderate alternative, unless Joe blows up. I still think she did better than the graphic above indicates.
  • I liked what Gail Collins said about Cory Booker: “So intense he kind of runs you over.” He’s like a younger, slightly (but only slightly) cooler, version of Bernie.
  • Buttigieg did OK, I thought. But others seemed to think he had an off night.
  • Beto was Beto. Most seemed to think he had a strong night. He continues to seem the callow (but earnest) youth to me. In that age bracket, Buttigieg still outshines him.
  • Consensus seems to be that Joe did all right — not great, not badly. He’s still the front-runner — with Warren breathing down his neck.

That’s about it. What did y’all think.

 

 

Oh, no! Is that three-hour ‘debate’ ordeal TONIGHT?

debate

On the radio this morning, a passing reference sort of ruined my day: It was mentioned that the three-hour Democratic “debate” is tonight.

And I don’t feel like I can’t watch it, and I probably won’t be able to avoid commenting on it, at least on social media, and there goes another perfectly good evening.

So you’ll probably find me on Twitter tonight. Unless ennui overtakes me, and I sit it out.

Top Five things I’d rather be doing tonight:

  1. Sleeping.
  2. Watching an episode of “Shetland” on Britbox.
  3. Reading a book I’ve read before.
  4. Reorganizing my sock drawer.
  5. Getting a root canal.

I’m not kidding. As I’ve said before, sometime back, I’m SO ready for this to be over. I’m only asking one thing of the Democratic Party: Nominate Joe Biden, and don’t damage him along the way (there are a number of ways they might do this, chief among them pressuring him to overcommit himself to the left wing). As I said in July:

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

But I guess I have to watch this thing. I guess…

Biden should promise to make Obama secretary of state

The once and future team?

The once and future team?

I’ve had this idea kicking around in my head for weeks now, and I’ve been waiting to have time to present it thoughtfully, with extensive, carefully constructed arguments that will be perfectly unassailable, and I finally decided I’m not going to have time for all that stuff.

So here goes.

Joe Biden should promise to name Barack Obama as his secretary of state. Assuming he can talk his old boss into it. And assuming his old boss can talk Michelle into it, which could prove to be a bridge too far. But it’s worth trying (assuming it’s constitutional, which I think it is), for a number of reasons.

Joe’s campaign is all about restoring sanity in the White House — or saving the nation’s soul, as the former veep likes to put it. Just today, I was listening to an interview with him on NPR. Don’t be put off by the headline, which is “‘Details Are Irrelevant’: Biden Says Verbal Slip-Ups Don’t Undermine His Judgment.” It actually contains substance, rather than just more pointless yammering about trivial mistakes made now and then by a guy who talks all day. (I’m convinced that if the media adopted the same attitude toward other candidates — We’ve gotta watch him like a hawk to catch him sounding senile — they’d succeed in coming up with similar “proof” of the hypothesis.)

And one of the points of substance is about the heavy lifting that the next president will have to do to repair our relations with the rest of the world, restoring America’s status as a country that other countries — friends and foes — can respect.

“The next president is going to have to pull the world back together,” Biden asserts in the interview. And he’s right.

It’s hard to imagine a gesture that could more convincingly persuade foreign leaders of his seriousness and good faith on that point than to make the last president the world could respect his point man in dealing with the rest of the globe.

I find it hard to think of another living human being who could restore our nation’s dignity on the world stage as well as Barack Obama. And Obama could, by accepting the post, perform a more direct and dramatic service to the country in his post-presidential life than any president since John Quincy Adams served in the U.S. House after 1828. He would make a real difference in the world.

Not to mention how such a promise would make Biden more likely to be in a position to keep it. Some of his Democratic rivals have dared to quibble with the Obama-Biden legacy. But it would be really hard for them to make a winning case against an actual reunion of the party’s last winning team.

And no, it’s not the same as asking Obama to be his running mate. It’s far more substantial than that. I see it as being like the relationship between Lincoln and Seward. Seward was such a respected figure that when he was named secretary of state, many people mistakenly assumed he’d be the real president and country-bumpkin Lincoln would be a figurehead.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but nevertheless Seward was Lincoln’s right-hand man, a partner with real political juice of his own, helping our greatest president guide the country through its greatest crisis.

I think the prospect of Obama being secretary of state would change the whole tenor of the campaign from here on out.

And it would prove to be a very, very good thing not only for the country, but for the whole world…

This one’s going on my Amazon wish list

Hope 1

You may have already heard of this book — actually, it appears to be one of a series — but I had not when I happened to see it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble.

In this hot weather, I’ve taken to walking in the nearly deserted — but still-air-conditioned (at what cost, I know not) — Richland Mall during my daily exercise breaks. I allow myself the indulgence of doing a full sweep of B&N during these circuits. On this occasion, I was whizzing through the fiction section, went “What!?!” and had to turn on my heel and go back for another look at what I’d just passed.

Yep, it’s a murder mystery in which the parts of Holmes and Watson are played by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And as with the Conan Doyle original, they are told from the perspective of Biden:

It’s been several months since the 2016 presidential election, and “Uncle Joe” Biden is puttering around his house, grouting the tile in his master bathroom, feeling lost and adrift in an America that doesn’t make sense anymore.

But when his favorite Amtrak conductor dies in a suspicious accident…

OK, you’ve got me! I’ve gotta read it. It’s going on my Amazon wish list right… now. I might even rip off the cover and frame it.

Sure, it’s a gimmick, like this same author’s previous Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. But the gimmick works — on me, anyway — and I’ve gotta hand it to the huckster who came up with it…

Hope 3

Bolt? No way! And if we did, where on Earth would we GO?

See? The DOG gets it...

See? The DOG gets it…

Our good friend Bryan may be taking a hiatus from the blog, but does that mean we can’t comment on what he posts on social media?

Of course not!

So let’s consider this:

Oh, come on, Bryan! Joe’s had some slip-ups here and there, but that one’s not even worth mentioning.

Seriously, did you have the date of the Parkland shooting memorized? I didn’t. If you had asked me out of the blue to say when it was, without looking it up, I’d have said maybe 2017 (and I’d have been two months off). And if you corrected me and said no, it was 2016 — when Obama and Biden were still in office — I’d have accepted it without question or surprise. It would still seem about right.

As it was, Joe was less than 13 months off. NOT “two years.” It happened in February 2018. Obama and Joe were still in office for most of January 2017. Learn to read a frickin’ calendar, people.

Now, real quick, when was the Sandy Hook massacre? When did that guy shoot up the theater where they were showing a Batman movie? If you can tell me within a year, good for you. But I won’t think less of you if you can’t.

So no, there’s nothing in this incident that makes me or (I hope) anyone else want to “bolt” from supporting Biden.

But let’s go to a bigger question: What if we DID want to “bolt” — where would we go?

It would be nice to have a backup plan, because humans are fallible, and for that matter Joe could get sick or something.

But I don’t have one. Oh sure, some of you will say there are plenty of good options, and in fact better ones than Joe, yadda-yadda. Well, yeah — for you. But not for me, speaking as a quintessential Biden supporter. Which is the kind of person that Bryan’s tweet was about.

I have my reasons for supporting Joe, which we’ve discussed here, and I don’t see anyone else measuring up according to the standards that matter to me — such as experience, understanding of the job, character and ability to win. I don’t see anyone even coming close, among the three or four other Democrats who might be seen as viable at this point. (Viable for the nomination, I mean — I don’t see any of those three or four as promising for the general. There are others who might do well in the general, but I don’t see them getting the nomination.)

And we — Americans I mean, not Democrats — have to get rid of Trump, as an essential first step in marginalizing Trumpism, and restoring our country to what it was from 1790-2016.

Only Joe is in a position to do that.

So stop trying to seize on every little human mistake, and let’s focus on the big things.

Because we need to get this thing done…

Thoughts on the Democratic debate(s)?

July 31 debate

Last night I got a text from a friend and colleague in Columbia, asking “Are you watching the debate? I was looking for your twitter commentary.”

(Yes, some real people actually LIKE it when I riff on social media during these events, and miss it when I don’t do it. So there.)

But I wasn’t on the Twitters because a) I’m on vacation, and any time I spend on a keyboard is dedicated to something I just have to do for work or whatever (this post being a notable exception); b) it was my wife’s birthday, and we were having a family celebration; and c) having watched most of the debate the previous night (and Tweeted a bit), I was thoroughly fed up with this reality-TV mockery of our politics, and had no appetite for any more of it.

I had started Tuesday night willing to have fun with it…

…and ended up just disgusted:

So, even if I hadn’t been busy with more important things, I would not have watched Wednesday night with any, shall we say, gusto.

Anyway, today I’ve read a number of accounts of it, and I don’t think I missed much.

Here’s a summary: Joe did all right. That’s all that matters. He didn’t set the world on fire, but the consensus was that he wasn’t damaged and is unlikely to lose his dominant position in the polls — despite the increasingly desperate efforts of the wannabes to pull him down, extending to some really strategically stupid stuff like tearing down President Obama and his legacy.

For me, the only point in watching other than to make sure Joe’s OK would be to see if anyone emerges as a good backup option if he doesn’t make it. And that has not even come close to happening (based on my watching and reading). And not because my mind is closed. I’d like to have a backup plan. I don’t like not having a backup plan. I makes me uneasy. But I’m not going to lie to myself. I’m not going to pretend that someone else looks good just to ease my own mind.

Y’all know what I want. I look forward to the day that all this slapstick nonsense is over and Joe is the nominee and we can get on with the real business.

Anyway, what did y’all think?

A fun SNL skit to look back at as debates loom

First, this is just plain hilarious, so enjoy.

Second, it’s relevant. As brilliant as Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was, it’s easy to forget how good a job Jason Sudeikis did with Joe Biden. And the Joe Biden that he was making fun of in 2008 is the same Joe Biden we see today.

It seems particularly relevant in light of Joe’s statements last week about working with everyone who will agree to help (even segregationists). What he was trying to say (which I understood perfectly, as did John Lewis and Jim Clyburn, although some people claim to be confused) last week was a lot like what Sudeikis’ Biden is saying about John McCain. I mean that in the sense of Joe’s ability to happily and cheerfully “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Or in the sense of his willingness to disagree vehemently with someone, but still regard him as a fellow human.

It’s a message that’s counterintuitive for people who believe that left is left and right is right and never the twain shall (or should) meet. And that’s where the humor comes from in these lines:

Well, I would do what I have done my whole career, whether it’s been dealing with violence against women or putting 100,000 police officers in the streets. I would reach across the aisle. Like I’ve done with so many members of the other party. Members like John McCain. Because, look, I LOVE John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But, at the same time, he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank, John McCain — and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for — is bad at his job and is mentally unstable. As my mother would say, “God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…” and a dear, dear friend….

In order to be hilarious, it’s exaggerated. But it also expresses something about who Joe Biden is. And America knows Joe Biden is this way, which is one of the reasons he’s been leading in the polls.

But whether you love or hate the way he is, whether you think it makes him a better candidate or disqualifies him, I thought you might get a laugh out of this look back.

So enjoy…

"As my mother would say, 'God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…' and a dear, dear friend."

“As my mother would say, ‘God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…’ and a dear, dear friend.”

The most presidential candidates EVER in one place?

signs

I mean, it’s gotta be, right?

I don’t remember a time when there were this many people running for a major-party presidential nomination before, and almost all of them (21!) were right there today in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Of course, MY candidate went last, as I had a feeling he would. And after waiting through a bunch of the prelims I finally went home to get a late (about 3) lunch and watch the rest on my iPad via MSNBC.

Joe did not disappoint. Personally, I didn’t need him to rattle off all those policy proposals he recited — I guess Elizabeth Warren has made him think he needs to do that — but he did great. I got a little irritated when someone off-screen tried to hurry him right when he got to the podium, saying standing there receiving applause was using up his time (he’d only been standing there a few seconds), but hey, he didn’t get rattled and he did fine.

The next two best among the ones I heard (I missed some of the early ones, including Warren, Harris and Buttigieg) were probably Andrew Yang and Jay Inslee. Interestingly, Yang was a smoother speaker than veteran pol Inslee, but I could still see why Bud likes him.

Anyway, I’ll just post my Tweets here as a conversation-starter, and then I want to know what y’all thought if you were watching. And if you weren’t, here’s some coverage by The State and the Post and Courier:

And then, finally, Joe. Which was a great note to end on…

Where am I going to put my Joe Biden bumper sticker?

my truck

The above picture, which I posted randomly a couple of days ago, reminds me:

I need to figure out where to put my Joe Biden sticker when I get one. Which I expect will be soon. A couple of weeks back, I ran into my friends Sally and Mark Huguley. Mark was pulling up to the curb in front of St. Peter’s after Mass to pick up Sally, and Sally told him to pull up a few more feet so I could see the Biden sticker on the back of their vehicle.

I was, of course, envious. I need to reach out to Kendall Corley or Scott Harriford, two Smith campaign alumni who are now running the Biden operation in SC, to see if they can get me one. And a yard sign, when they’re available. Time’s a wastin’!

But then I look at the back of my truck, and think, where should I put it? I mean, it’s going to spoil my perfect bipartisan symmetry. All through the campaign, I had my James Smith sticker and my Micah Caskey sticker. And while I was a bit self-conscious parking it at HQ at first, that wasn’t my target audience.

My idea was this: Our single greatest obstacle to winning — and in the end, this is what defeated us probably more than any other factor — was that most white voters in the state have some kind of disability, a mental block. They are incapable of conceiving of voting for someone with a D after his name. They don’t think it’s a thing that a person can do.

If I could just get ONE voter, driving behind me, to think, “Whoa! This guy who votes for Republicans just like I do is also voting for James Smith. I wonder why,” then it would be worth any dirty looks I got from Democrats.

Oh, and if you think people don’t have thoughts like that, you’re wrong. Humans are hugely suggestible. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but the Bandwagon Effect is one of the most reliable factors in politics (as ridiculous as I think that is). If people see that other people are voting for someone, they are at least slightly more likely to do so themselves.

I know that some people noticed. The first time I had occasion during the campaign to meet with Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson, I mentioned something about my bumper stickers, and he said, “Yeah, I’ve heard about that.” And I thought, Yeah, I’ll bet you have. I knew by that time that there were some Democrats who didn’t like that James had hired someone like me, and it wasn’t surprising that some of them would have brought such a detail to Trav’s attention.

But again, Democrats weren’t my target audience. I was trolling for persuadable Republicans. (And yes, that’s a thing. Here’s one of our Republican endorsements, and a video to go with it.)

Anyway, now I have to figure out where to put my Biden sticker. My first thought is to put it right in the middle, but then my tailgate will be 2/3 Democratic. Which is not the effect I’m going for. But then, does that matter, since Joe is running in the Democratic Primary? I mean, what do I care what Republicans think in this context? Worrying about being perfectly bipartisan is more about worrying about what people think of ME, isn’t it? And that shouldn’t be a factor.

I could put it over the Smith sticker, since the campaign’s over and all, but I won’t do that. My experience last year is something I’m proud of, and I’m going to continue to wear it on my sleeve. Or tailgate.

Anyway, look how shiny and new it still is. It looks good. By contrast, Micah’s sticker has faded considerably.

Of course, being focused on the Democratic primary, I could just cover Micah’s sticker until after Feb. 9. But I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to abandon my representative, even for a short while. He’s got re-election next year.

So… I’m thinking the Biden sticker needs to go in the middle. And I need to get with Micah to get a fresher sticker sometime between now and next spring…

David Brooks is exactly right today about Joe

his Joeness

In today’s column, David Brooks gets Joe Biden exactly right.

The headline is “Your Average American Joe.

The subhed is, “Biden is not an individualist.”

Absolutely. And amen to that.

An excerpt from the end:

… The character issue will play out in all sorts of subterranean and powerful ways this election. We have lost our love for ourselves as a people, a faith in our basic goodness, and this loss of faith has been a shock. A lot of voters want to raise their children in an atmosphere marked by decency and compassion, not narcissistic savagery. Values are central to this race.

Here is what is subtly different about Biden. He’s not an individualist. He is a member. He belongs to his family; his hometown, Scranton; his Democratic Party; his Senate; his nation, and is inexplicable without those roots. He used the word “we” 16 times in his short video announcing his candidacy.

Some candidates will run promising transformational change. Biden offers a restoration of the values that bind us as a collective.

Yes! I could have done without the word “collective;” as it brings to mind the AOCs and Bernies of the world, and that’s definitely not who Joe is. I’d have gone with “a community,” or “a people.”

But otherwise, very nicely done.

We communitarian types may not have a party, but we have a candidate…

I support every 2020 hopeful you can find in this photo

Obama_and_Biden_await_updates_on_bin_Laden

Yesterday, Bud said “This year there is an embarrassment of riches among the Dems,” just before listing 18 people running for president.

I’m glad he’s pumped about it, and that’s certainly a bunch of names, but the fact is that until Joe Biden entered his name today, there wasn’t anyone who was even close to being ready for the job.

There is no one else who has been anywhere near the presidency or who has held any kind of position that prepares one for the presidency the way 36 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years at the right hand of our nation’s last sane, decent president do.

When I got to thinking about how to graphically demonstrated that fact, I thought of this picture.

I’m not saying Joe Biden went out and got bin Laden personally. I’m not saying he’s doing anything special in that picture. I’m saying that he happens to be in the room because of who he is, because of what he’s done, because of his experience and personal leadership qualities. His life experiences brought him to that room at that moment.

And those experiences — combined with his basic human decency, which is a quality more needed at this moment than at any other in our history — make him qualified to be president of the United States.

He’s not qualified because he’s in the picture. He’s qualified because of who he had to be and what he had to do to get there.

And yeah, Hillary Clinton was qualified, too. She was a pretty good secretary of state — not to mention the eight years she spent at the center of presidential power before that.

But she was a terrible candidate, badly lacking in the ability to relate to voters.

I think Joe will be different in that regard, if he’s not brought down by a million cuts by all the Lilliputians out there.

He’s a natural campaigner. And a decent human being.

But most of all, he’s the only person who is even remotely qualified. And the best person to replace the least qualified, least decent president in our history, by far.

Aw, lay off the kid with the funny name, will ya?

The State decided to run an “opinion” page today, which served the purpose of bringing to my attention this Doyle McManus column that The Los Angeles Times ran a week ago. An excerpt:

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., could turn out to be the biggest, boldest surprise of the 2020 presidential campaign. But he’d better come up with some policies first.

Buttigieg was virtually unknown outside his home state until two months ago, but he has surged into third place in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire

There’s only one element missing from Buttigieg’s potentially meteoric campaign: positions on major issues.

That’s not an accident. He says voters aren’t looking for policy papers. They care about values and character, and knowing that a candidate cares about their lives….

Aw, lay off the kid, why don’t you?

I hold no particularly brief for Buttigieg. I’ve heard him on the radio and have found him surprisingly impressive, and I’m not at all shocked that he has risen in the polls in spite of his absurd youth and lack of relevant experience.

These pins are being offered by Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

These pins are being offered by one Annie Fogarty, @FoGaGarty.

But y’all know my candidate is announcing tomorrow.

Still, I don’t like to see anyone taken to task for failing to make specific campaign promises.

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t want candidates making campaign promises, any more than they absolutely have to to get elected — and unfortunately they do have to, since most voters aren’t like me. (The Smith/Norrell campaign had some policy proposals out there before I joined. I did not push to elaborate upon them.) No one knows what kinds of situations a candidate might face in office if elected. I prefer that they keep their options open so they are free to choose the wisest course under those unpredictable circumstances.

My favorite example of why campaign promises are a terrible idea is “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Once in office, Bush found himself in a situation in which he found it advisable to compromise with Congress on a budget deal that in fact raised some existing taxes. That sank him politically. But acquiescing in a tax increase wasn’t his sin. His sin was in making the stupid promise to begin with.

So how do I choose a candidate? By the quality of his or her character, of course — at this moment in our history, considering what it in the White House, being a decent, honest human being is more important than ever.

Just as important is what we’ve seen that person do in the past, preferably in public service. It’s not just that such experience helps you know how to do the job. It’s that, if you have a significant record of such service, it means we the people have had the opportunity to observe how you have performed, and decide whether what we have seen inspires confidence that you will deal appropriately with future challenges in office, whatever they may be.

So to the extent Buttigieg has a problem in my book, it’s that lack of experience — in office, and in life. He’s an attractive candidate, but would be more so with more of a track record.

Just don’t get on his case for not laying out a bunch of specific policy proposals. To the extent that there’s a problem with him, that’s not it.

Has South Carolina become for Dems what it was for GOP?

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint...

The main thing about the SC primary, of course, is that the right candidate runs and wins it. Hint, hint…

I mean in terms of the presidential primary process.

Starting in 1988, and ending in 2012, SC was in many ways the contest Republicans had to win. It was key to both of the Bushes especially. SC Republicans went around saying things like “We choose presidents,” yadda yadda. They did this because they picked mainstream, establishment candidates with appeal beyond the base, and our early primary helped tip the selection process in their favor.

Then, in 2012, it all fell apart with the rejection of Mitt Romney in favor of the fire-breathing Newt Gingrich. And we know what happened in 2016 — yeah, SC Repubs picked the eventual winner, but the whole national electorate had to go stark, raving mad in order for that to happen. At the time of the SC primary, it looked like Palmetto State Republicans were chasing off in another crazy direction alone, as with Gingrich. If decisions were still made in smoke-filled rooms by a party elite, SC would have lost its early primary by now. (In saner times, SC Republicans would have salvaged the hopes of the hapless Jeb! They had never let a Bush down before.)

Meanwhile, over the last few elections, this red state has gotten more important to Democrats. I was impressed by how many Dems we saw trooping though our editorial boardroom in 2003-4 (my own favorite being, famously or infamously, Joe Lieberman). And while he didn’t get the nomination, the execrable John Edwards’ win here helped get him the second spot on the ticket.

SC was very helpful in helping Barack Obama get the momentum he needed to pull ahead in 2008. The SC Democratic primary wasn’t really a contest in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning hands-down as expected.

But this year, you’d think the Democratic nomination was going to be awarded right here, on the spot, next Feb. 29. They’ve been trooping through here in battalions, for months. (You’ve seen me complain about that distraction, and media fascination with 2020 over 2018, back during the campaign last fall.)

This is an interesting phenomenon. There have always been some aspects of the Democratic contest in this blood-red state that caused folks to pay attention nationally. That was largely because there are essentially no black voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, so Dems who won in those places would be told, “Let’s just wait and see how you do in South Carolina.”

But this thing we’re seeing now exceeds what we’ve seen in the past. With the huge field, and particularly with some of the chief contestants in it being African-American, we are looming large.

I’ve had a lot of occasions to note this; we all have. What kicked this off today was Vanity Fair’s “The Hive” making this observation about Bernie Sanders:

None of Sanders’s opponents are scared by those numbers, however. Because what Sanders was less good at in 2016 was spending his large pile of money to win votes. Particularly the crucial Democratic primary votes of women and African-Americans. Especially in the key state of South Carolina. And three years after being crushed by 47 points there by Hillary Clinton, with an even more challenging field of primary rivals shaping up, Sanders is showing little sign that he’s going to get it right this time around. True, in January he spoke in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sanders has also taken every opportunityto blast President Donald Trump as a racist. Yet Sanders remains remarkably awkward on the subject…

The piece ends with a lengthy quote from our own Bakari Sellers.

I don’t know why that particularly grabbed me. Something about Vanity Fair of all entities calling poor li’l ol’ us “the key state.” Anyway, you’ll be reading plenty more like that.

This is deeply ironic, of course — a state that hasn’t been in play in the general election being so important to Democrats. But it’s increasingly a thing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out going forward.

In short, will this story have a happy ending (with Joe Biden deciding to run, winning in SC, and going on to win the White House), or not? That’s my perspective, anyway… :)

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him...

The stream of Dems who came through our editorial board room in 2004 was impressive. Since that was pre-blog, this is the only photo I have from that time. It was shot by a Dean fan when my assistant Sandy Brown and I were escorting the governor from the building after meeting with him…

 

You want to be president? Send me your resume, and maybe I’ll get back to you…

We may joke around, but here's one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes...

We may joke around, but here’s one guy I can take seriously. Have the others drop off their resumes…

One of the most maddening parts of my job working for James Smith was the way the SC press went gaga over anything having to do with anyone who might be running for president in 2020.

It was one of several irrelevant things that they often preferred to write about instead of what they should have been writing about. Others included campaign finance, ad strategy, and occasionally really off-the-wall stuff like Brett Kavanaugh or abolishing ICE. What should they have been writing about? Things that would help voters decide whether James or Henry was better qualified to be governor. Period. If you’re not providing that service to the voters, then the First Amendment has no purpose. And there was far too little of it.

(Oh, and don’t go, “Aha! Now that you’re on the other side you see how awful the press is!” Wrong. This kind of stuff had been driving me nuts for at least 30 years. It’s one of the reasons I made the transition from news to editorial back in 1994 — looking for a situation in which I could do journalism that meant something. And my alienation from the way political news is done increased enormously after that transition. Reading the paper every day as an opinion writer was painful. I’d start reading a story wanting to know one thing that would help me — and the readers — decide what to think of that particular news development, and not only would the information be missing, but I’d see no evidence that it had even occurred to the writer to ask the question.)

But maybe I’d better get to the point.

As I said, reporters got really excited about people who were looking at a 2020 run (clicks, baby!). And they’d want to interview us about them, apparently presuming we were excited, too. What do you think of this national celeb who’s coming to help your campaign? Yeah, right. They were coming to help themselves. There was only one 2020 poss about whom we cared — Joe Biden. Joe is a mentor of James’, and we very much looked forward to his coming to help us with a fund-raiser. Which he did, on Oct. 13. It was a big day, a highlight of the campaign for us — not because he might run in 2020, but because he was Joe Biden, and we loved the guy. Having him in our corner said things about us that we actually wanted said.

I’m going to get to the point, I promise…

Here it is…

We live in a country, in a world, in which the about only qualification needed to be a candidate for president (and therefore for any other office), and to be taken seriously by an alarming number of people, is to be presumptuous enough to put yourself out there. Well, that, and the ability to get some people to pay attention to you when you do.

Whom does this describe? Lots of people. To mention a few — Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and the granddaddy of them all, Donald Trump. I could mention other Republicans, but then I’d have to stop and think, and it’s the Democrats who are irritating me the most right now, on account of my recent campaign experience.

Oh, and yes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Those two will really get a rise out of people, because they’ve been taken seriously by so many people for so long now that their candidacies seem inevitable. And I’ll grant you that Sanders has at least demonstrated one necessary capability, as counterintuitive as the fact is: the ability to get actual people to actually vote for him.

So what are my criteria for taking someone seriously for the nation’s highest office? There are a number of them. Some are intangible, like the ability to inspire or simply being a person well matched to the moment — and some of you will say some of the above fit one of those criteria. But particularly this far out, when we are first deciding whom we might take seriously, the number-one thing I’m looking at is résumé. (Sorry, Doug, but it’s one of those posts.)

What I mean by that is, when I read this person’s bio in Wikipedia or some other bland, relatively impartial source, does it say to me, “Obviously, the next step for this person is to run for POTUS?”

Joe Biden’s does, of course. Over on the GOP side, John Kasich’s looks pretty good, which is one reason why I voted for him in 2016 — if not exactly awesome. (The biggest weakness in Kasich’s bio is lack of experience in foreign policy, which of course is the most important part of a president’s job.”)

Of course, résumé isn’t everything, and it’s possible to have a thin one and still be a pretty good president — JFK and Barack Obama come to mind. But those were extraordinary individuals of great intellect and almost superhuman oratorical skill, and they both fit into the “being a person well matched to the moment” category I mentioned earlier.

And some people with good resumes are simply not politically viable. I’d put Lindsey Graham in that category. On paper, he looks good — legislator, congressman, senator, longtime leader on issues ranging from national security to judicial confirmation, now chairman of Senate Judiciary. But he’d never get elected, and not just because he’s gone off his trolley on Trump.

Once, you generally had to have a great resume to be considered at all. Look at Lyndon “Master of the Senate” Johnson, or Nixon, or George H. W. Bush. Even Reagan, whom I regarded as a lightweight at the time, had been governor of our largest state. Eisenhower, of course, had no electoral experience, but his diplomatic chops holding the Allies together in Europe were pretty awesome, and of course there was that saving-the-world-from-Hitler thing. (Harry Truman was of course an anomaly. His resume was so unimpressive that he shocked everyone with how good a job he did.)

That has changed because of all sorts of things — the decline of parties as entities that certified qualifications and suitability, the rise of uncurated media, celebrity junk culture, other things. Now, if you can generate some buzz on social media, at least some people will take you seriously as potential leader of the Free World. Even if you lack any qualification for the job — in fact, even if everything that is known about you loudly proclaims that almost anyone in the country would be better suited than you. Doubt me on that? Do I have to bring up Trump’s name again?

So anyway, forgive me if I fail to get excited when the next “2020 hopeful” comes to town. Just ask them to drop off their resumes while they’re here, and if those look good, I’ll get back to them and assess them for other qualifying factors.

Sure, dismiss me for being even more presumptuous than the wannabes themselves. But you know what? While it’s far from perfect, I guarantee you that would lead to a better field of candidates than the current non-process for identifying this week’s “it” candidate….

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him...

We love the guy, and were happy to be seen with him…

The last group picture

Last shot

Phillip and Kathryn have already remarked upon a version of this photo, on Facebook. Said Phillip:

Brad looking extra cool and laid-back there off to the side, showing the youngsters how it’s done.

This was on Saturday. It was the last time campaign staff were together in headquarters. We had cleaned the place out. Or rather, everybody else had cleaned the place out and I had helpfully watched them do it.

I was more helpful on Thursday, when we had dismantled and removed most of the furniture. I went through every sheet of paper in the random heap on my desk — actually, a bare-bones table from Ikea — and then dismantled the table, and left the pieces on the front porch where presumably someone was to pick them up. And did some other stuff, but mainly dealt with my own particularly chaotic space.

But when I got there Saturday, I was late, and everyone else seemed to have a task, and before I could get my bearings we were done, and posing for pictures. (The group you see above is more or less the core staff, with a volunteer or two. Some people who played a major role are missing, such as Phil Chambers.)

It wasn’t a total waste, though. Managing to look cool in the picture is in itself an accomplishment, right?

I’ll have more to say about the last few months, about what preceded the cleaning-out. But I’ll probably unpack it randomly, as a picture or a word or something in the news reminds me. My mind is still decompressing at the moment. All those months of intensity at an increasingly faster pace, culminating with those eight days and nights on the RV — it’s going to take time to process.

In the meantime, there’s the last picture. There will be more. I shot thousands… Below is one (that I did not shoot; this was done by a professional) showing some of the same people the day Joe Biden came to Charleston.

Between those two was the most intense part of the experience. The Biden thing seems in a way like yesterday, and in a way like 10 years ago…

Biden group shot

 

Joe Biden on James Smith

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Seeing that Jim Hodges had become the latest Democratic heavyweight to endorse James Smith for governor reminded me that I meant to go back and read the P&C’s story in which Joe Biden explained why he’s backing Smith.

It’s not just because James led the unsuccessful Draft Biden effort in SC before last year’s election.

Here’s hoping the Charleston paper doesn’t mind if I share a good-sized chunk:

Why Biden is backing Smith: “I have met a lot of guys in my career … but this is a guy, I swear to God, that I would trust with anything. This is a guy who I watched, he never puts himself before anybody else.”

“He’s not about tearing the house down. … I look at him and I think this is a guy with the energy, the integrity, the experience that can really have South Carolina get up and start to walk.”

How Smith reminds Biden of his son: He said Smith possesses the sense of duty of his late son, Beau, who passed on taking his father’s Senate seat when Biden become vice president to remain Delaware’s attorney general. Both younger men went on military deployments to the Middle East while in political office.

“They’re kindred spirits. … I know it sounds corny but it comes down to honor, duty and again the guy (Smith) has all tools. He knows the issues. His instincts are right. He thinks you should be able to make a billion dollars if you could, but you ought to take care of people and just give everybody a chance.

“I remember saying to him once that I thought that one of the problems with the elites in both our parties, we don’t have a lot of faith in ordinary people any more. And James started talking about his grandfather and great-grandfather (working class men from poor backgrounds). Ordinary people can do extraordinary things if you give them half a chance. I’m convinced he believes that.”…

Sounds like he knows James. There’s a bunch more, just overflowing with Joe-ness, if you want to go read the whole piece.

I’m still waiting to hear who’s backing Phil Noble. He must be responding to something going on in the party; I’m just not sure what. I didn’t know there was a sizable contingent of Democrats who didn’t like James. I need to learn more…

Looking ahead, without joy, to a Joe-less election

Our Joe huddled with the president, just before the fateful announcement.

Our Joe huddled with the president, just before the fateful announcement.

Mercifully, I was out on a golf course and oblivious when the terrible news came: My man Joe Biden would not seek the Democratic nomination for president.

This means several things, all bad:

  • Without that to talk about, we’ll likely go back to all-Trump, all the time. And I, for one, am not up for that.
  • If everybody starts to have heartburn about Hillary’s trustworthiness problem again — and remember, that’s the way things were very, very recently — we’ll have no viable options on the Democratic side. At least Joe’s Hamlet routine gave us hope.
  • Even though there’s a ridiculous number of people running for president this year, this leaves us without a single Joe of any sort. And an election without essential Joe-ness is an election hardly worth having.

You may think I’m being facetious on that last bullet point, but I’m not. Without Joe, there’s no viable candidate running on either side that I can truly, actively like. And we are poorer for it.

 

‘Joe, Run.’ Draft Biden super-PAC releases video

Hey, it gives me goose bumps. Here’s a story about the video. Excerpt:

It comes from the “Yale Day” speech Biden delivered the day before the Ivy League school’s commencement, as he knew his son’s fight with cancer was unlikely to succeed. Beau Biden died two weeks after that speech.

Possibly because of that timing, or something, it reminds me of that famous recording of Bobby Kennedy announcing the death of Martin Luther King, just a month before his own death…

Bloomberg Poll: 1 in 4 Democrats favor Biden

And the guy’s not even running — yet.

Here’s the news from Bloomberg:

One quarter of Americans who are registered Democrats or lean that way say Vice President Joe Biden is now their top choice for president. The findings of a national Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday represent a notable achievement for an as-yet undeclared candidate, suggest concerns about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and raise the prospect of a competitive three-way race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, once the prohibitive front-runner, is now the top choice of 33 percent of registered Democrats and those who lean Democrat, the poll shows. Biden places second with 25 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is at 24 percent. The other three Democratic candidates combined are the top choice for less than 4 percent of that base….

Not only that, but almost half of respondents say they think the veep should get into it. Sounds like some of those still with Hillary want a backup plan…