Now that our betters in big corporate media have all but called the election for Joe Biden, we come face to face with a proposition all but dismissed just a few months ago: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. as the leader of the free world.
The key word in there is leader. What people of all political stripes are thirsting for in this time of peril, with multiple existential crises occurring in real time, is genuine leadership. The times call for a man or woman with the ability to see beyond the fog of political and cultural upheaval, reassure a flagging people, and present a coherent, salable, and optimistic vision of the future. And while we are all by now well aware of Trump’s leadership skills, like them or not, we are compelled to undertake a thorough examination of the leadership capacity of the Democrat nominee whose campaign has been defined by, shall we say, a low profile.
Questions abound – and they start with the issue of the former vice president’s evident cognitive decline. No doubt the man who played wingman for Barack Obama and debated effectively against Sarah Palin in 2008 and Paul Ryan in 2012 demonstrated the political skill and mental acuity commensurate with the role of vice president. But is there anyone who would deny that he is hardly the same man today? He presents as elderly, plodding, and intentional with every move and utterance, projecting a level of mental and physical agility hardly befitting the job description of the most powerful man in the world. The striking contrast with the COVID-plagued but endlessly dynamic 45th president is hard to miss.
At the same time, it is logical to assume that after four years of Trump – from the firestorms which have defined his deliberately disruptive presidency to the downward spiral of 2020 – many people may have just reached the point where they believe normalcy as it was once defined should be the hallmark of a leader for such a time as this. That version of normalcy, of course, is optimistically framed as a calm and steady hand at the helm reminiscent of no-drama-Obama. After all, it seems everything has changed since COVID-19 laid down an indelible marker, driving us forward to a future far more unknown than we could have imagined when the calendar first turned to 2020. Will voters, four years after bravely rejecting the status quo to which Biden would return us, decide to do a 180 and go back to the future when everything we hold dear has been stretched to the breaking point and the old normal is no longer even possible?
Then there is the matter of the Biden agenda. Compare the positions he has publicly embraced on critical issues for almost 50 years to those he now holds in deference to the Democrats’ hard-left progressive base on areas as diverse as the environment, taxes, trade, criminal justice, and guns. Does Biden have the capacity to hold his own against the mounting pressure of leftists employing his harmless visage as a front for their radical policy prescriptions? We could fully expect a proliferation of conspiracy theories mirroring those from the left during the Bush 43 presidency, when it was assumed that Dick Cheney was the man behind the curtain, calling the shots for the hapless man in the Oval Office. Would Biden be capable of holding back the forces within his own party seeking an undiluted Green New Deal and government-run health care – and the astronomical tax hikes and economy-crippling regulations necessary to implement them? How will he sell the idea that shuttering fossil fuel industries is worthwhile as millions lose their jobs to the futuristic vision of 100% green energy?
But with less than a month to go before Election Day, Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis has apparently put the pandemic back atop the list of issues concerning the electorate. When President Trump shut down travel from China in January, Biden condemned the move, calling it xenophobic. He later objected to the travel ban from Europe. Imagine if we had followed the counsel of Biden instead of Trump – many thousands more would certainly have died. The former vice president played Monday morning quarterback on virtually every hard decision Trump was forced to make during a pandemic that refuses to surrender. But he has offered little to nothing in the way of alternatives. He and his fellow travelers on the left have depicted Trump as a dictator from the moment he descended that escalator more than five years ago. And yet, as the president rightly placed the ultimate power to address the crisis in the hands of individual state governors per the Tenth Amendment and federalist nature of the U.S. Constitution, Biden has cruelly assigned him the singular blame for the over 200,000 who have died with or from COVID-19.
The reality is that nobody – from Trump to the sainted Dr. Fauci – has spoken the full truth about the coronavirus because no one yet knows it. Even the scientists so acclaimed by the left and supposedly ignored by the president were from the start reduced to educated guesses – and they were frequently wrong about what might happen next. And there’s a good reason for that. We have not witnessed anything like this plague in over 100 years. But it has presented a gift of incalculable value to Joe Biden. What career politician would not savor the opportunity to condemn an opponent fighting uphill to contain a catastrophe when all he has to do is fire broadsides from the sidelines while holding no responsibility to be part of the solution?
But is that leadership? Throwing verbal stink bombs from the safety of the cheap seats while the man in the arena is struggling to catch a tiger by the tail?
On the international front, after four years of Trump leading conspicuously from the front, would Biden’s restoration of normalcy mean a return to Barack Obama’s stated policy of “leading from behind”? And we could only hope the assessment of former Bush and Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades” would prove not to be prophetic. As with many other issues, Biden has reversed his rhetoric on the nation that presents the greatest threat to America, now talking tough about China to match Trump’s hard line, after decades of official appeasement in the Senate and as vice president. As the Chinese built their influence across the globe with the acquiescence of our political establishment to which he has always attached himself, Biden consistently dismissed the threat of the world’s most populous nation, saying in March of 2019, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man … they’re not bad folks … they’re not competition for us.”
Of course, the most effective way to judge a man’s capacity to lead is his own track record. In his most prominent leadership position, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, he allowed the Supreme Court confirmation process to be dragged, likely permanently, into the gutter in the repulsive Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings. Witness the shameful and baseless attacks on display during the Brett Kavanaugh disgrace, which may soon be on fresh display with Amy Coney Barrett as the latest subject of leftist fury.
In the end, could a President Joe Biden truly be his own man? Is he capable of commanding the room, commanding the stage, and commanding the nation in a time of profound crisis? Can we be confident in the wrenching, complex, and profoundly significant decisions he would make as the nation’s chief executive, affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people? Those are the questions that should be burning inside the voters trying to decide whether the Donald Trump era should come to an end after four years, or eight.
Read more from Tim Donner.