Wed, Feb

The Presidential Primary Season Is Just Starting and It's Already Over


GELFAND’S WORLD - The privileged, self-indulgent people of Iowa and New Hampshire get to lord it over the rest of us. We can expect Trump to waltz to an easy victory on Tuesday. Nikki Haley will hold on until South Carolina -- unless she doesn't -- and that will be that. 

Joe Biden, as the incumbent president, will gratefully accept his party's nomination and try to convince the swing voters that there is danger in electing a self-identified dictator-for-a-day because he would really be a full-time dictator who wants to be dictator-for-life. 

And there is also the problem that Trump is flighty at best, cannot administer, and picks the worst people to run government departments as long as they are loyal. We have the testimony of his own former appointees to that effect. There is also that little problem that Trump chronically takes Vladimir Putin's side on critically important issues. 

And I apologize to readers for even bringing the election topic up. But we have to take note of the political situation as it plays out over the next 9 months. 

There is a serious corollary to be found in the overall topic. As analysts have pointed out, whenever the right wing makes an accusation, it is really a confession. Donald Trump and the Fox News commenters like to accuse Joe Biden of being corrupt, even though their attempts to scratch for even a bit of evidence have come up short. It's the old Karl Rove approach but taken to truly perverted lengths. Attack your opponent on his strengths in order to camouflage your own. 

So it's not surprising that they have been accusing Biden of being senile and mentally challenged. But what could be a better description of Trump? His recent comments connecting Nikki Haley to the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack were pathetic. (It also included the lie that Trump offered the Speaker ten thousand troops to defend the Capitol, even though sworn testimony debunks this claim.) 

Trump is the one who is showing mental deterioration. Just look at a transcript of one of his public speeches or look at his out-of-control behavior in the courtroom. This being the case, we can expect more and more Trump surprises, as he increasingly gets tied up in mental knots and says increasingly stupid things out on the campaign trail. 

And this time around, the national media are a little more likely to point those lapses out in real time. 

Red fingers 

We're going to have more questions like the following: What were those red spots on Trump's fingers? Were they the residue of a Sharpy? (Trump likes to use Sharpies to draw on weather maps and so forth.) Or were they evidence of advanced syphilis? We know that we can't be sure about Trump's health, considering how secretive he has been, and we can be sure that he will do everything he can to cloud the waters. Perhaps the red fingers story is just malicious tripe being fanned by angry lefties (now that is a mixed metaphor if there ever was one) but it's up to Trump to answer. 

There is one thing we can be sure of. Trump is going to continue to hold rallies and deliver speeches full of incomprehensible statements -- mishmashes of made-up stuff, out and out lies, and words strung together without grammatical logic. It's now up to the national media to cover those Trumpisms in real time, with the requisite seriousness. 

I put the over/under on another Trump surprise at 10 days. 

The presumption of innocence vs guilt and how it applies to politics 

At a murder trial I attended, the prosecutor was giving his summation to the jury, talking about the notion that the accused is presumed innocent. He explained that yes, there is that presumption when the trial starts, but the presumption of innocence goes away as the prosecution evidence and testimony accumulates. The jury should not think that they must acquit simply on that presumption. They have to look at the details. 

We have a nearly analogous situation right now in terms of candidate age. The pundits are sighing and whining that nobody wants a rerun of the 2020 election. They point to Biden's age as the driving force for this argument. (They don't have to say anything about Trump.) In making this argument, they are in essence dusting off the concerns of 2020, when we were facing the frightening prospect of another Trump term, with an opposition candidate who was already in his late 70s. The argument was, in essence, that we should be looking for somebody less likely to show the effects of age. 

The current manifestation of that argument is that Biden is now old, that he will be getting older -- although he is not currently showing evidence of senility, in spite of right wing protests to the contrary -- and that in a perfect universe, we would be better suited in finding a younger candidate. It is the old yearning for the next Jack Kennedy. The other part of this argument, made less overtly but still there, is that the Republicans will be using Biden's age against him, and that there is therefore a risk of running him one more time. 

We need to be careful about allowing this argument to pass unchallenged. 

 We have the evidence that has accumulated over the past 3 years, and it shows that Biden has been a superlative president. He is the first president in years to support the labor movement, he has presided over rational economic policies, and he supports civil rights in an era when the right wing is trying to take us back to 1953. Unlike Trump, he seems to be able to read, to listen to reasoned reports from qualified aides, and to enforce rational policies. 

We need to hold the pundit class accountable for bad judgment and mental laziness when they thoughtlessly repeat the anti-Biden stuff. If they have legitimate complaints, fine. Bring them. But let's be wary of giving Trump any advantage based on malicious gossip. 

The Washington Monthly and its long-term effects 

I sadly have to mention the news that Charles Peters has passed. Peters was the founder and long-time editor of the Washington Monthly. The Monthly used to be known as the most influential publication that nobody had heard of. Peters put together a group of writers and editors (James Fallows, Gregg Easterbrook, Jonathan Alter, etc.) who have steered a lot of public discourse. Peters used to argue that there are governmental functions that we need, but that it was necessary to make them work properly and efficiently. It was a kind of liberalism set in the real world. You can find a remarkable tribute to the Peters effect here. The writers point out that the recent movement by our government to fight monopolies comes from the Washington Monthly influence, along with so many other policy improvements. You can follow the Washington Monthly at WashingtonMonthly.com 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)