What do Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden have in common? All four were ‘it’s my turn’ presidential candidates. Before becoming the Democratic nominee, all of them were prominent senators and all but Kerry was either vice president or secretary of state (Kerry became the latter too, but after the fact). They paid their dues serving their party and country, and so they were next in line for the top job. It was all about seniority, not merit – them’s the union rules.
The big difference, though, is Biden’s the only one among the ‘my turn’ foursome to win. My take on why can be found in Chapter One of my 2015 book Grumpy Old Party, titled: “It’s Likability, Stupid!” In my view, Biden is eminently more likable than the other three. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, of course, but in this case I align the mainstream.
I think I’m the ‘stupid’ in this situation, though, because even though I realized Biden was far more likable than Trump, I still picked the latter to win in 2020 (the first one I got wrong, ever) because I never dreamed the American people wouldn’t realize that by choosing Biden, they’d be ushering in Jimmy Carter’s second term.
Likability matters to me just like it does to tens of millions of other American voters. We vote for the person we want to invite into our living rooms (via our television sets) for at least four years. I didn’t want to invite Al Gore because of his incessant sighing and thinly veiled arrogance. Or Kerry, because I’ve never seen anyone be so wrong about so much and yet so insufferably sanctimonious. As for Hillary, beyond the shameless pandering, the unbearable shrillness of her voice in her woeful attempt to mimic a Kennedyesque staccato, and, as some of my relatives in Greece who never before commented on American politicians said, the look of pure meanness in her eyes. I could probably stomach Gore and even Kerry over her.
And, yet, I never thought I’d say this, but judging from what Biden’s done so far, we’d have been better off with Hillary.
Her odious personality aside, I always found Hillary to be vastly overrated. But her presidency might’ve been in, say, the Gerald Ford or George W. Bush sense, unremarkable, but not the type that would take years and years to remedy – such as those of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
Sure, Johnson completed important civil rights legislation started by his predecessor, John Kennedy, and Carter presided over the historic peace accord between Egypt and Israel (by the way, Donald Trump steered a whopping three Middle East peace deals and how did the media cover it? Crickets…), but Johnson botched Vietnam and his Great Society spending triggered the 1970s stagflation calamity, and Carter had the displeasure of a devastating 21% Misery Index (inflation and unemployment rates combined), and energy and Iran hostage crises.
Alarmingly, to this point Biden has shown us that he’s LBJ and Carter rolled into one.
Those who couldn’t dream that a rapidly-deteriorating 78-year-old who wasn’t particularly impressive even in his prime was capable of defeating incumbent President Trump, even amid a pandemic that unfolded on Trump’s watch, but who believe that the election outcome was legitimate, chalk up Biden’s victory to a nation weary of Trump’s provocative persona and nonstop frenzied pace that thirsted for a president as unappetizing as an unsalted, unbuttered boiled potato, but one also unlikely to give you indigestion. But from the alarming crisis on our Southern border, the return of inflation after decades-long dormancy, trillion-dollar giveaways, and now the abysmal handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, in Biden, thus far, Americans surely have had their share of upset stomachs.
I’m the last person to pile on a president, no matter the party, but when the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are in agreement, and Biden is the subject of their criticism – namely, his Afghanistan Waterloo – I’m surely not alone.
To this point, Biden has been mealy-mouthed. On July 8, he defended his plan to withdraw from Afghanistan and, far from his Inauguration Day promise to bring the nation together, blamed the result on a deal he ‘inherited’ from Trump, rather than praising Trump for having accelerated the timetable to pull troops out.
To suggest that Biden’s hands were tied because Trump had already made the decision is laughable, considering how many of Trump’s policies Biden reversed – often leading to utter chaos, such as transforming a border vigilantly defended under Trump to a porous catastrophe –literally from his first couple of hours on the job.
Biden repeatedly defended his decision to withdraw, as if the critics are a bunch of Dick Cheney clones who want us to stay there for the next 50 years. Biden is being lambasted now, and justifiably so, because in July he spoke so confidently about how the Afghan forces are so well-trained and equipped that the Taliban would be no match for them. Granted, hindsight is 20-20, but if he had prepared for that contingency, as he now purports, why didn’t he warn about such a possibility?
Repeating his promise never to lie to the American people, Biden acknowledged that the Taliban’s onslaught “unfolded more quickly than we anticipated.” That’s putting it mildly, How about admitting “I was completely way off base” instead? Also, in July Biden never hinted that he anticipated the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan at all, neither quickly nor slowly.
Drawing down troops in Afghanistan was the right decision. But not this way. We withdrew in Syria under Trump and things didn’t crumble, as his obsessive critics insisted they would.
Trump has now called on Biden to “resign in disgrace.” That would mean Vice President Kamala Harris would take over. The scary part is, I really don’t know which is worse.
Biden voters are on “the wrong side of history” (sound familiar?).
But, hey, at least we don’t have to deal with mean tweets anymore, right?