All posts by Dr. ESP

Shooting the Messenger

There is no justification for what happened in Butler, Pennsylvania Saturday afternoon.  It was an unacceptable assault on democracy.  And America is fortunate the shooter was a less skilled marksman than Lee Harvey Oswald or James Earl Ray.  In a rare moment of agreement, both President Biden and Donald Trump called on their supporters to “cool down the temperature.”  This period of reconciliation did not last 24 hours. 

Biden went on national television Sunday night and reminded Americans, “We settle our differences at the ballot box, not with bullets” and pulled ads his campaign planned to run during the Republican National Convention.  Trump sent his supporters a fundraising letter which included a stylized version of AP photographer Evan Vucci’s image of the blooded candidate raising his fist in the air.

The question that haunts me today is, “Will Americans let a misguided 20 year-old with his father’s AR-15 decide the future direction of our country?”  Thomas Matthew Crooks must have thought he could.  Which brings me back to my previous posts, especial the one from July 9, titled, “An Unwitting Asset.”  The 2024 election, regardless of the Republican nominee, should never be about an individual.  “The soul of America,” about which Biden so often refers, has been under assault for decades.  When Democrats, myself included, focus on Trump’s flaws, we drop the ball.

I apologize for repeating myself, but the vision of America that will be laid out in Milwaukee did not begin with Donald Trump.  The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, Edwin Feulner and Joseph Coors.  [Note:  Weyrich, a la Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, insisted his last name was pronounced “Wy-Rick” instead of “Way-Rich.]  Weyrich, a conservative commentator, political activist and ordained deacon in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, recruited Coors, patriarch of the brewery which bears his family name, to underwrite creation of the Heritage Foundation.  Feulner, after serving as an aide to Congressman Phil Crane (R-IL), became Heritage’s first president.

If you think Project 2025 is the first time the Heritage Foundation played a major role in setting the agenda for a Republican administration, think again.  In 1981, the foundation provided policy guidance for incoming president Ronald Reagan including a document with 2,000 specific recommendations titled (drum roll) “Mandate for Leadership.”  Sound familiar?  Heritage exerted similar influence during the George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.

Following the announcement of Trump’s entry into the 2016 election cycle, the foundation was no fan of the future president.  Heritage Action director Michael Needham, during a Fox News appearance, said, “Donald Trump’s a clown.”  However, after Trump secured the GOP nomination, the Foundation forwarded a list of potential appointees, according to the New York Times, drawn from “a 3,000-name searchable database of trusted movement conservatives from around the country who were eager to serve in a post-Obama government.”  (Again I ask, “Sound familiar?”)

Which brings me to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies (FedSoc), founded in 1982 by law students at Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago.  It claims to be a response to judicial activism and often quotes Alexander Hamilton to support their views.

It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature.

To achieve that goal, FedSoc  wanted to flood the courts with their members.  And flood them they have.  All six Republican appointees to the Supreme Court belong to FedSoc.  And surprise, surprise, so does Judge Aileen Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, who, as I am writing this, just dismissed the classified documents case against Trump.  Among the law professors in the FedSoc ranks is former dean of the Chapman University School of Law John Eastman, one of the architects of the 2020 fake electors scheme.

While the Heritage Foundation is the policy arm of the one-percent, the Federalist Society is the judicial branch of the same confederation.  Donors include the Koch family ($116 billion net worth), the Richard Mellon Scaife family ($1.2 billion) foundation and the Mercer family ($900 million) as well as major corporations such as Google and Chevron.  Yes, that Chevron.  The losing plaintiff in a 1984 case which was recently overturned by a six member majority, you guessed it, the GOP appointees who just happen to be FedSoc members.  [NOTE:  The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society are both 501(c)(3) educational foundations which means, assuming these major donors are in the maximum 37 percent marginal tax bracket, the federal government subsidizes 37 cent for each dollar they give to their “noble” cause.]

To suggest that FedSoc-appointed justices selectively suffer amnesia when its comes to Hamilton or their originalist philosophy is an understatement.  The dam broke with Citizens United v. FEC.  So much for legislative prerogative as Hamilton advocated.  This case literally outlawed federal and state legislators’ role in regulating campaign financing.  And, to this day, legal scholars are still looking for constitutional language that equates MONEY with SPEECH.

Likewise, by reversing the 1984 Chevron decision, the justices stripped Congress of its Article I authority to legislatively delegate rulemaking to federal agencies.  To the contrary, the courts anointed the judiciary as the venue for oversight.  In general, the Roberts court has repeatedly ruled in favor of management over workers, overturned state election laws and ignored the Article II of the Constitution in support of the the Heritage Foundation’s belief in the unitary theory of the executive branch.  Can you say “presidential immunity?”  I knew you could.

So forget Donald Trump!  Republican presidents since 1980 have been doing the bidding of this cabal of oligarchs not unlike the one that pulls Vladimir Putin’s strings.  Giving them massive tax breaks.  Reducing regulations promulgated to protect the public health and safety. Appointing their hand-picked justices and judges who regularly decide cases in favor of the privileged. The difference with Trump is that they now have someone who revels in the trappings of the White House, unlike his patrons who prefer life under the radar.  Equally important, even as he tosses out non-sensical ideas such as replacing the income tax with tariffs, he eventually lands exactly where they want him to be, deeper tax cuts and deregulation.  It is this system, not Donald Trump, that should be on trial November 5th.

The solution? 

  • #1: Reposition the 2024 election as something other than a “grudge match” between Biden and Trump by nominating someone who can prosecute the oligarchs’ agenda rather than their mouthpiece. 
  • #2: Structure the Democratic convention to expose the consequences of an administration based on Project 2025.  Do this with presentations by one member of Trump’s first administration who tells voters how implementation of Project 2025 proposals would corrupt the executive branch, followed by a Democrat who lays out an alternative agenda for the next four years.  Each presentation should be illustrated with examples of the consequences for most Americans. 
  • #3:  After pointing out Trump is only the messenger for the uber-rich elites, never mention his name again.  Although Trump claims he is a changed man following his brush with death, does any actually believe him?  Based on past behavior, I trust he will prove us correct without our help.

The prime directive?  Explain why the 2024 election is a choice between Russian-style oligarchy and democracy.  And separate voters’ perception that the MAGA agenda is a populist response to their grievances from what it really means for their families and wallets.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Both Sides Now

Jimmy Carter described his run for the White House as a marathon.  In actually, Presidential politics is more akin to a horserace.  The lead shifts when a candidate is positioned to take advantage of an opponent.  Maximizing that advantage requires vision, strategy and focus.  The last thing you want is to say or do something that erases that edge.

For most of the two weeks following Joe Biden’s “bad night,” the Biden campaign and his supporters had been playing defense.  Trump seized that advantage, until the Biden folks, and at last the media, decided to focus on Project 2025.  In response Trump did the only thing he could to accelerate this momentary shift in attention from Biden’s fitness to serve for another four years.  He tried to distance himself from the Heritage Foundation’s manifesto for an imperial presidency.  More importantly, of course he lied, posting on Truth Social, “I know nothing about Project 2025.  I have no idea who is behind it.” A laughable response considering so many members of his post-2020 brain trust and likely second term officials are listed as authors and contributors to the 940 page document.

Yesterday, everything changed.  But not for the reason you think.  Of course, Trump and his team will take advantage of the fortunately bad marksmanship of a wannabe assassin. Since January 6, 2021, Biden and Democrats had an ace in hole.  Trump peppered his speeches with dog whistles which not only incited violence, but actually produced violence.  January 6th.  El Paso.  Buffalo.  The Tree of Life Synagogue.  In contrast, most Democrats told voters the only way to defeat Trump and MAGA was at the ballot box.

This was the one issue that clearly differentiated Democrats from MAGA.  Of course, that did not stop Trump supporters such as Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN) and Representatives Mike Collins (GA) and Lauren Boebert (CO) from connecting Biden rhetoric to the gunman’s attempt to kill Trump.  When I first heard this, I chalked it up to MAGA propaganda.  Calling Trump and his plans for a second term an existential threat to America is not on the same level as telling the Proud Boys “to stand down and stand by.”

Except this time they brought the receipts.  On July 7, Politico reported that, during a “private” call with donors, Biden included the following in his remarks.

I have one job, and that’s to beat Donald Trump. I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that. So, we’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye.

It does not matter if the timing of Biden’s words and Thomas Matthew Crooks’ failed assassination is causal or mere correlation.  In an environment of heightened political tension, uttering phrases like “it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye,” is unacceptable, exactly the way it was when Sarah Palin posted a map of vulnerable Democrats in Congress with a cross-hairs superimposed over their districts.  Just ask Gabby Giffords.

There are a lot of things about Joe Biden I could forgive.  His verbal gaffes.  An inability to prosecute the case against a second Trump term in a 90-minute debate.  His inability to sway to the music.  His agonizingly slow pace when he walks.  His occasional goofy smile.  But this is different.  His lack of self-awareness to understand, first. there is no such thing as a “private” conference call, and second, that he cannot, under any circumstances, use a metaphor involving lethal force to describe a political campaign.  Forget the issues of age and mental acuity, this is the line in the sand that must convince a consensus among Democratic leaders, donors and voters that Biden is no longer a viable candidate for president.

We all have good days and bad days.  The “Good Joe” was on full display yesterday.  He told the nation, “There is no place in America for this kind of violence.”  And he placed a phone call to Trump last night, wishing him a speedy recovery.  Too bad THAT Biden was not on the July 7 phone call with donors. 

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Men of UNreal Genius

In his victory speech following the 2016 Nevada primary, then candidate Donald Trump thanked those who made a difference during his campaign including a shout out for one demographic of which he seemed most proud.  “We won with poorly educated.  I love the poorly educated.”  I too would love this segment of the voting population if they continuously supported me despite the fact my policies and programs were not in their self-interest.  The best analogy is Trump as Omega Theta Pi pledge master Gregory Marmaland (James Daughton) in “Animal House,” wielding the ritual paddle on initiation night.  One can imagine Trump’s glee as he recalls, “Each inductee, with tears in their eyes, begged ‘hit me again, SIR.'”

However, if you want to understand the difference between “the uneducated” and “the just plain stupid” despite academic credentials, look no farther than page 696 of the Heritage Foundation autocracy handbook, “Mandate for Leadership:  The Conservative Promise,” otherwise known as Project 2025.

Intermediate Tax Reform. The Treasury should work with Congress to simplify the tax code by enacting a simple two-rate individual tax system of 15 percent and 30 percent that eliminates most deductions, credits and exclusions. The 30 percent bracket should begin at or near the Social Security wage base to ensure the combined income and payroll tax structure acts as a nearly flat tax on wage income beyond the standard deduction.

This chapter in MAGA’s 900+ page encyclopedia of malarkey was written by William L. Walton, Stephen Moore and David R. Burton.  Walton is a venture capitalist with a B.S. and M.B.A. from Indiana University and life memberships in MENSA and the NRA, which suggests he is probably more qualified to address the need for “smart firearms” than economic policy.  Moore is an economist with degrees from the University of Illinois and George Mason University and senior economic writer for the Wall Street Journal.  According to his Heritage Foundation bio, he is the recipient of the Ronald Reagan “Great Communicator” award “for his advancement of economic understanding.”  That honor will crop up again in this discussion.  Burton is a specialist in “securities law, capital markets, financial privacy, tax matters, and regulatory and administration law issues” at Heritage. He holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago and a law degree from the University of Maryland.  Based on his range of policy responsibility, he is the Jared Kushner of Heritage’s “where’s the loophole” division.

With the best education and real-world experience of these three old, white men, let us see what they actually proposed as tax policy to benefit all Americans.  First, it is not original.  Remember Moore’s Ronald Reagan award for communications.  A two-bracket regressive tax system, with rates of 15 and 28 percent, were established in 1988 by none other than (drum roll) Ronald Reagan.  This supply-side fantasy lasted exactly two-years before subsequent presidents including George H. W. Bush proposed a return to a more progressive rate schedule with additional tiers.  [Note: Moore, et. al., do not mention this former iteration of a two-rate system or credit Reagan for its origin.  At Miami University, where I was a professor, we would not have recognized Moore for his communications skills.  We would have charged him with plagiarism.]

Assuming this is Moore’s first offense, we will put him on probation.  It is more important that we understand how this scheme supports MAGA policy objectives.  In 2018, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross lauded the president’s 2017 tax legislation.  “As Americans filed their taxes this spring, they wrestled for the last time with a system that for decades plundered their paychecks and made American businesses uncompetitive.”  Sounds good.  But remember,  in 2016 Ross reimbursed investors $11.8 million and was fined $2.3 million by the SEC for fee overcharges.   In 2017, he was accused of insider trading after selling his shares in the Bank of Ireland.  In 2018, his partners accused him of siphoning $120 million from WL Ross & Co.  To paraphrase John Houseman, “He made money the old fashioned Trump way, grifting.”

Damn, it is so hard to keep on message.  So let’s give Ross a pass (as would the current Supreme Court) and take a deep dive into that paragraph that lays out the 2025 tax proposal and see whose paychecks get plundered and whose do not.  First, it is important that to understand what remains the same and what changes.

  • In the current system and Project 2025, all taxpayers are entitled to a standard deduction, $29,200 for married couples filing jointing and $14,600 for single filers.  Each year the size of the standard deduction is adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index.  Your gross income minus the standard deduction becomes your taxable income.
  • This tax year, there are seven incremental tax brackets ranging from 10 percent on the first $19,900 of taxable income to 37 percent on all taxable income over $628,300.
  • Under the proposed system there would be two brackets, 15 and 30 percent.  The  higher rate would kick in at the “Social Security wage base,” the point at which workers no longer contribute 6.2 percent of their gross salary to the Social Security trust fund.  For 2024, the wage base is $168,000.

With this information, you can now calculate the tax liability of individuals and married couples with different income for tax year 2024 and what it would be if the Project 2025 system was in effect.  Let me give you a few examples starting with Americans at the lower end of the wealth spectrum.

For a Married Couple Making $50,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $20,800
This year they would pay $2,236
Under Project 2025 rates they would pay $3,120
An additional tax burden of $884

For an Individual Making $50,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $35,400
This year he/she would pay $4,118
Under Project 2025 rates he/she would pay $5,310
An additional tax burden of $1,192

Maybe I misunderstood the objective.  Maybe Project 2025 tax policy is designed to reduce the federal deficit and national debt.  In which case, this seems like a reasonable contribution by lower income families and individuals.  Let’s see how much the wealthy contribute to this goal.

For a Married Couple Making $1,000,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $970,800
This year they would pay $289,665
Under Project 2025 rates they would pay $266,040
A savings of $23,625

Surely the 0.1 percent wealthiest Americans will make up for this.

For a Married Couple Making $5,000,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $4,970,800
This year they would pay $1,769,665
Under Project 2025 rates they would pay $1,466,040
A savings of $303,625

Now I get it.  Project 2025 tax policy is nothing more than an opportunity for Trump to hold a party at Mar-a-Lago for his major donors and tell them once again, “I made you a lot of money today.”  And the uneducated voters he loves so much get screwed again.

But these “men of UNreal genius” are far from finished.  The algorithms I created for the EXCEL spreadsheet to test the impact of the Project 2025 tax proposal provided the means to test the financial costs or benefits for families and individuals at any level of annual income.  And that’s how I found the following anomaly, perhaps the most damning evidence you should not believe anything these idiots tell you.

In the Foreword titled, “A Promise for America,”  Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts writes.

The Heritage Foundation is once again facilitating this work. But as our dozens of partners and hundreds of authors will attest, this book is the work of the entire conservative movement. As such, the authors express consensus recommendations already forged, especially along four broad fronts that will decide America’s future:

    1. Restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children.

Okay!  If that is the goal, certainly the tax policy, even it if is biased toward the wealthy, will incent the formation of families.  Wrong!  Consider the following comparison of current tax policy to Project 2025.

For a Married Couple Making $100,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $70,800

This year they would pay $8,236
Under Project 2025 rates the would pay $10,620
An additional tax burden of $2,384

For an Individual Making $100,000/year
Taxable Income for 2024 would be $85,400
This year he/she would pay $14,261
Under Project 2025 rates he/she would pay $12,810
A savings of $1,451

In simple English, here is the message emitting from the brilliant minds of Walton, Moore and Burton.  Want to save $3,800 a year in taxes?  Don’t get married.  Just shack up.  Of course, you might get arrested by the Christian nationalist morality police for living in sin.  But that’s a small price to pay for a $300/month tax break.

Maybe that’s why we all should embrace the uneducated.  They would never come up with anything half as stupid as these guys, all of whom will likely be members of a second Trump administration under Project 2025’s personnel mandate, “Replace expertise and experience with loyalty.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Sometimes It’s Not a Duck

The two weeks since the Biden/Trump debate have been the best of times for presidential historians when it comes to media exposure.  Among the panelists on all three major news networks, you can find the likes of John Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss.   The program hosts consistently seek enlightenment on the following questions. “Are there historical precedents for the current situation where an incumbent president faces an intra-party challenge?  If so, what can we expect from efforts to replace Joe Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket?”

In fact, there have been three such occasions beginning in 1968 when Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy took on incumbent Lyndon Johnson.  Ronald Reagan v. Gerald Ford in 1976.   And Ted Kennedy v. Jimmy Carter in 1980.  The lesson?  In each case, the candidate who eventually secured the nomination lost the general election.  Pretty strong evidence for those who believe a change at the top of the ticket will guarantee a Trump victory in November.  As they say, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

However, a closer look suggests 2024 may be more of a phoenix than a duck.  First, we need to understand the context in the three comparable situations.  1968 is easy.  The January 1968 Tet offensive blew the whistle on General William Westmoreland’s declaration two months earlier that “The enemy’s hopes are bankrupt.”  McCarthy rode growing skepticism about the war, especially among young voters, to a near upset in the March 12 New Hampshire Primary.  Nineteen days later, Johnson announced he would not seek nor accept his party’s nomination for reelection.

In hindsight, the 1976 contest for the Republican nomination was more of a “coming out party” for Reaganism which had little, if anything, to do with Gerald Ford.  Voters were tired of Nixon administration scandals and an annual inflation rate of 5.7 percent.  Likewise, some members of the conservative wing of the GOP thought Nixon had gone soft on communism following his visit to China and similar outreach to Russia.  They also questioned his pro-business credentials, particularly following creation of the Environment Protection Agency and issuing an executive order freezing wages and prices in hopes of taming inflation.  What better opportunity to introduce an alternative economic philosophy.  Unfortunately, that alternative was supply-side economics.

The lessons from Kennedy’s 1980 unsuccessful attempt to oust Carter as the party’s nominee?  Politicians enter dangerous territory when they try and have an honest conversation with voters.  And, if you’re going to go there, end on a positive note and tell voters what you will do to reverse the situation.  I am, of course, referring to Carter’s infamous July 25, 1976 “malaise” speech which included the following.

The threat [to American democracy] is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

Kennedy justified his candidacy on three tenets.  Economic recovery post-inflation during the Nixon/Ford years did not meet voter expectations.  Carter’s inability to get the release of U.S. hostages in Iran following the Islamic revolution.  And Carter’s lack of a concrete plan to address both these crises, though crisis may be an overstatement.  As I pointed out earlier this week, the average annual growth in the gross national product during the Carter years was 3.6 percent, a full point higher than Trump’s pre-COVID rate of 2.6 percent, you know, the economy he trumpets as the best of all time.

Which brings me to 2024 and while it may share some characteristics with a duck, it is not.  Unlike 1968, American soldiers are not dying in an ill-conceived war halfway around the world.  Unlike 1976, the only scandals the Biden administration is guilty of are free of any evidence and reside solely in the minds of MAGA conspiracy mongers and right-wing media.  No one is wearing a “Whip Inflation Now” button because the trend is in the right direction and is now almost half that at the end of the Nixon/Ford era.  Unlike 1980, the threat to democracy is not the mindset of the American public but a demagogue unleashed by a runaway Supreme Court.  Plus, no one can accuse Biden of inaction, having signed more legislation than any of his predecessors in the last 50 years.  And rather than bemoaning a dismal future, Joe Biden constantly reminds voters “I am never more optimistic about America.”

But for once, the past is not prologue.  Even though Biden has a strong record to run on, and Democrats are on the right side of most 70/30 issues, Democrats have done a lousy job reminding votes of those facts.  Especially when Trump is a fire hose of lies and misinformation.  Biden is a perfect example of what doomed Michael Dukakis in his race against George H. W. Bush.  Technocratic skills translate into good governance, but mediocre campaigns.  Winning campaigns depend on effective messengers.  Successful administrations depend on the knowledgeable and experienced team the winner puts together.

Therefore, I now propose Plan Z+1.  It begins with everyone who is interested in replacing Biden at the top of the ticket agreeing to the following.

  1. But for the age issue, based on his accomplishment the last four years, Biden would be a heavy favorite to win reelection.
  2. Despite the age issue, he won more than 90 percent of the elected delegates to the convention.
  3. He deserves to be rewarded for those successes.
  4. The best reward?  The right to pick his successor, someone he feels is most likely to carry forth the agenda from his time in office.  And someone best qualified to prosecute the case against Trump and Project 2025.

Given this opportunity, I would still encourage Biden to make the case for a Harris/Murkowski “unity” ticket.  Second choice is an all-Democratic, all-female Harris/Gretchen Whitmer ticket.  Not far behind is a Harris/Andy Beshear ticket.  If we, in fact, face the most existential internal threat to the United States since the Civil War, we need not ask presidential historians for their advice.  We have it straight from the horse’s mouth.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing, or all the other.

~Abraham Lincoln/June 16, 1858

If Lincoln delivered this speech today, the second sentence would describe a choice, not about slavery, but democracy and autocracy.  He would argue there is no scenario where the United States would have democratic states and autocratic states.  To repeat Lincoln’s warning, “I do not expect the house to fall–but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing, or all the other.”  Ensuring that the “all one thing” be a nation without slaves depended on Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.  To do that he replaced his first term vice president Hannibal Hamlin of Maine with a southerner Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.  Ballots listed the Lincoln/Johnson ticket as nominees of the “National Union Party,” a coalition of Republicans, War Democrats and the Unconditional Union Party.

Bold and decisive actions such as the one to replace Hamlin with Johnson explain why Lincoln was recently ranked #1 among all U.S. presidents by 154 current and former members of the American Political Science Association.  For the record, Joe Biden tied for 13th with John Adams and Donald Trump was last at #45.   This was the third such ranking  going back to 2015.  Let me assure you, if Biden and the Democrats do not do whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office next January,  Biden can kiss that #13 ranking goodbye.  And that’s no malarky.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

The Lede

O.J. Simpson, who ran to fame on the football field, made fortunes as an all-American in movies, television and advertising, and was acquitted of killing his former wife and her friend in a 1995 trial in Los Angeles that mesmerized the nation, died on Wednesday at his home in Las Vegas.

~New York Times/April 11, 2024

Ernest Hemingway was found dead of a shotgun wound in the home in Ketchum, Idaho.

~New York Times/July 3, 1961

James Dean, 24, one of Hollywood’s brightest new motion picture stars, was killed early last night in a head-on-collision at the rural town of Cholame, 19 miles east of Paso Robles, the California Highway Patrol reported.

~Los Angeles Times/October 1, 1955

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, who built a global reputation on anti-Communist investigations, died tonight of a liver ailment at the age of 47.

~New York Times/May 3, 1957

For those unfamiliar with newspaper lingo, a “lede” is defined as “the opening sentence or paragraph of a news article, summarizing the most important aspects of the story.”  The lede in the above obituaries would be much different if Simpson had not been tried for murder, Hemingway had not killed himself, Dean was a more careful driver and McCarthy had a few less drinks with Roy Cohn. I first started thinking about the lede in Joe Biden’s obituary during the following exchange during his interview with George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS
And if you stay in, and Trump is elected, and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

BIDEN
I’ll feel, as long as I gave it my all, and I did the — good as job as I know I can do — that’s what this is about.

Imagine if Stephanopoulos had reframed the question.  “If you stay in, and Trump is elected, and everything  you’re warning about comes to pass, what do you think the first sentence in your obituary would say.”  It might read something like this, assuming the New York Times and Washington Post survive a second Trump administration.

Joe Biden, 46th president of United States, after successfully ending Donald Trump’s chaotic and controversial first term, insisted on running again at the age of 81, opening the door to an even more turbulent era in which American democracy. as we once imagined it, is forever changed.

A potentially accurate, but sad commentary on the life of a man who dedicated 52 years of his life to service of his country and its citizens.  Joe Biden deserves better.

I am not foolish enough to predict what the outcome of a Biden/Trump contest will be.  But I think I have finally made my choice whether Biden should stay in or hang it up.  If Trump is going to win, which of course I hope he does not, Biden should not be the person to give the concession speech. Or have to apologize to his supporters even if, as he said, “…gave it my all.”

Biden  has nothing to apologize for and it has nothing to do with returning civility to the presidency.  Or his leading the nation out of the worst pandemic in a century.  Or his record of bipartisan, consequential legislation.  I believe his most significant accomplishment was defeating Donald Trump at the ballot box, and by doing so, exposed Trump as the most dishonest, narcissistic and un-patriotic person to ever hold public office in this country.  The folks who need to apologize are all the members of the U.S. Senate, and especially Mitch McConnell, who had a chance to convict Trump and ban him from any role in the nation’s political future.  Instead, in light of everything they saw and knew, they chose to ignore the obvious.

**********

Joe, if I may, let me speak to you directly.  You said it yourself.  On December 7, 2023, as you left the podium following remarks urging Congress to support the security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, you were asked about your candidacy in 2024.  You replied, “No, I’m not the only one who can defeat [Trump], but I will defeat him.”  As you walked out the door, you turned and added there were “probably 50 Democrats” who could beat him. 

One of those 50 Democrats, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer appeared on today’s edition of “Morning Joe.”  Mika asked her to complete the sentence, “If Donald Trump wins…”  She did not hesitate.  “If Donald Trump wins, America has failed.”  The only way Trump returns to the White House is if a majority of voters in battleground states do not know or appreciate what the American experiment was all about.  Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The government you elect is the government you deserve,” will be more prescient than ever. Joe, do not let those voters off the hook.  Do not be their scapegoat.

And if a Democrat wins, you will be lauded for making the right decision, putting party and country before your personal interests.  In that situation, I would be honored to write the lede for your obituary (sometime far in the future).

Joe Biden, 46th president of the United States, twice at the end of his political career guaranteed the United States envisioned by the Founding Father survived the attempt by a demagogue to transform our democracy into a dictatorship.  First, by defeating Donald Trump for president in 2020 and then by wisely making room for others to carry that torch.

But just in case you’re wondering, if you are at the top of the ticket, I will enthusiastically vote for you.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP