Until Monday evening, the media froth about incomplete, inconsistent, and/or misleading information being provided by the Trump Administration about President Trump’s Coronavirus condition and treatment struck me as unhelpful harrumphing. My reaction, despite my deep antipathy toward Mr. Trump’s promiscuous lying, was that at times, Presidents lie about their health; it is sometimes actually necessary for national security or to avoid panic. There are many examples: Grover Cleveland’s surgically-removed cancerous upper jaw (emphatically denied at the time); Woodrow Wilson’s undisclosed debilitating 1919 stroke (rendering Mrs. Wilson the nation’s de facto President for over a year); Franklin Roosevelt’s (undisclosed) congestive heart failure during the last stages of World War II; John Kennedy’s Addison’s Disease (a potentially dangerous condition, vigorously denied at the time); and the extremely critical nature of Ronald Reagan’s condition (hidden at the time) in the hours immediately after he was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.
Now, to Monday night. Momentarily put aside that the President and his cohort suffer from COVID due to his hubris and callous disregard. At 74, overweight, appearing to suffer from COVID’s adverse pulmonary effects and perhaps other secondary indicia, he presumably remains an ill man. Nonetheless, by taking an aggressive regime of drugs, putting on his orange makeup, getting on his feet and into suit and tie, and walking unaided from the Walter Reed Hospital entrance to Marine One and from the helicopter up the stairs to the White House residence, he showed a level of sheer determination to keep fighting – to not give up on the election or himself – that indicates that the Biden Campaign had best keep fighting, because Mr. Trump will never quit.
Two other comments about Monday night, which I offer hesitatingly only because I dislike stating the glaringly obvious. Mr. Trump’s tweets and video graphed comments, “Don’t be afraid of Covid [sic]. Don’t let it dominate your life,” while transparently intended to further his own political interest and cheered by his rabid base, are, first and foremost, both patently monstrous given their potential to cause his supporters to risk severe illness or death and shockingly oblivious to the losses suffered by millions of Americans due to the virus. Second, in an election that will be decided by the moderate middle, the Biden Campaign, while it should not underestimate Mr. Trump’s will, can take heart from his colossal political stupidity. I suspect that our 4-year-old grandson is able to recognize (our 3-year-old grandson may be a bit too young) that it is absurd for the President to urge Americans not to be afraid of a disease that has killed over 200,000 of us in seven months.
In the Trump alternate universe in which we are currently trapped, weeks become months; it is hard to believe that the President’s grotesque debate performance occurred only a week ago. I expressed concern in an earlier note that Mr. Trump’s COVID diagnosis might arrest the accelerating voter sentiment toward former Vice President Joe Biden that had appeared in the 48 hours following the debate; at least as of today, those fears appear to have been unfounded. If FiveThirtyEight.com’s numbers are credible, Mr. Biden’s lead has notably widened during the past week in all six swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; the race is a dead heat in Ohio. Which brings us to tonight’s debate.
Over the past several years, these pages have disparaged Vice President Mike Pence – or if you prefer, Vice President Pantywaist, Milquetoast Mike, His Sycophancy, or His Somnolency — differently, but almost as consistently, as they have President Trump. At the same time, Mr. Biden chose U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris to run with him on the Democratic ticket not only because of her gender and ethnicity, but because she projected to be a strong fighter in an election expected to be a ferociously contentious contest. I have seen various on-air liberal activists urging Sen. Harris to “take it to” Mr. Pence tonight. I couldn’t disagree any more strongly. To use a boxing reference, if I was in Ms. Harris’ corner, I’d be advising: “Stay away from this guy. He’s dangerous. Four years ago, Tim Kaine thought Pence would be an easy mark, and Pence destroyed him – simply by looking like a sane restraint on Trump. His reassuring Hoosier debate performance may have eked out the tiny 2016 margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There’s nothing you can throw at him that he hasn’t seen. As every good trial lawyer knows: when the judge is clearly preparing to rule in your favor, stay out of the way. Take a cue from Joe: You don’t need to win this bout to win the election; you simply need not to lose it.”
Given the age of the two presidential candidates, the voters will be looking at Mr. Pence and Ms. Harris as potential Presidents. Ms. Harris needs to maintain a calm demeanor; reject any attempt to label herself, or those around Mr. Biden, as radical leftists (including credible explanations for the discrepancies between her more-liberal presidential campaign positions and Mr. Biden’s); decry violence in the streets by right and left; point out the President’s and Mr. Pence’s many misstatements and missteps on the Coronavirus, and that the President has shut down negotiations on a Coronavirus relief package that would aid millions of Americans (or not?); take the easy shot that the President is urging Americans not to be afraid of a virus that has claimed over 200,000 Americans; emphasize the damage that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s elevation to the Supreme Court could do to health care; duck any questions about packing the Supreme Court if Judge Barrett is confirmed by the Republican Senate, while lamenting the Republicans’ unfairness in proceeding with Ms. Barrett’s nomination after refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland; be ready on foreign policy, where after four years in office Mr. Pence is more deeply versed; maintain a tone of disappointment, not stridence, in criticizing Messrs. Trump and Pence; and get off the stage.
Tonight, we’ll see. Stay safe.