The Impeachment Kaleidoscope: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

If the Wikipedia account of Hunter Biden is at all accurate, the younger Biden’s primary profession since his 1996 law school graduation has arguably been exploiting (albeit legally) his father’s name and position. While any parent can have sympathy for another parent’s desire to see his/her child get ahead, one would have to lack the sense God gave a goose not to recognize that a Ukrainian company’s selection of the son of the Vice President of the United States as a board member – a son who I understand had no specific qualifications for the post – was, legal or not, a blatant attempt by Ukrainian interests to curry favor with the United States. The elder Biden should have quashed the overture. While I continue to support the former Vice President (pending any meaningful advance by other moderate Democratic candidates), the Bidens’ actions or inactions relating to Hunter Biden’s appointment have sullied Mr. Biden’s candidacy and lowered my estimation of him. Their behavior was (there is no better word for it) … swampy.

The players who are perhaps drawing the most wry amusement from the President’s imbroglio are Chinese President Xi Jinping and his aides. In the midst of sensitive trade negotiations, Mr. Trump has called upon Mr. Xi and his administration to investigate allegedly illegal activities by the Bidens in China. If the President believes that he can pressure the Chinese due to the disruptions our tariffs can create for their economy, I would suggest that he has grossly misjudged the level of his leverage. Mr. Xi, unlike Mr. Trump, is President for Life. He can politically withstand a downturn in his economy much better than Mr. Trump can. Even aside from the fact that it would only hurt long term Chinese foreign policy and financial interests if Americans became inflamed because of Chinese meddling in American domestic politics, why would the China want to help Mr. Trump? From China’s point of view, his mercuriality and inconsistency have unsettled its and the world economy. I suspect that the Chinese leadership concluded some time ago that any successor to Mr. Trump will be better to deal with than he is – even if the American is tough, s/he will almost certainly be more consistent.

The player with the “X” on his back is former New York, NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has obviously emerged as the central figure in the Trump Administration’s efforts to influence the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. While I have not researched the scope of a President’s Executive Privilege [I plan to read The United States v. Nixon in the near future ;)], I invite the savvy legal minds that read these pages to confirm or reject this premise: If Mr. Giuliani is subpoenaed to appear before Congress, his status as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer will not enable Mr. Trump to claim Attorney-Client privilege to limit Mr. Giuliani’s testimony about his discussions with Mr. Trump regarding the Ukrainian affair because there seems to be no legal claim or lawsuit between Mr. Trump and the Bidens related to Ukraine.  If Mr. Giuliani is himself facing criminal charges, he can obviously claim his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but may find himself facing a very difficult decision if offered broad immunity for his testimony about his Ukrainian-related communications with the President.

I mentioned in a recent post that we might have reached the end of what has arguably been a grace period our international adversaries have perhaps afforded Mr. Trump due to his emotional unpredictability tied to American military and financial might. As the impeachment proceedings obsess Mr. Trump, perhaps cause further erosion in his popular support, and probably cause him to become even more erratic, what could be the waning days of the Trump Presidency – i.e., before a President Pence would restore some sense of normalcy to American foreign policy – might be viewed as the best foreseeable window by Russia to secure its interests against Ukraine and NATO, by China to advance its positions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, by North Korea to leverage its military might to dominate the Korean Peninsula, and by the Taliban to overrun Afghanistan. Indeed, the President’s recent abrupt inexplicable withdrawal of our troops from the Syrian border so suddenly furthered Russian interests at the expense of our own as to make one ponder whether Mr. Putin hasn’t already decided that Mr. Trump’s value (perhaps merely as a Useful Idiot) is coming to an end.

My attempt to keep this post to a manageable length was, obviously, futile. I have left consideration of the person and some of the political aspects I find most intriguing in our impeachment saga to Part III, which I promise will bring this note to a merciful conclusion.

The Impeachment Kaleidoscope: Part I

Taken together, the Memorandum of the July 25, 2019, conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Whistleblower Complaint, which collectively provide details regarding efforts of Mr. Trump and his cohort to pressure Ukraine to investigate debunked claims related to former Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and a phantom email server allegedly linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are literally the most disturbing things I have ever read. I don’t understand any of the material facts set forth by the Whistleblower (a man or woman of extraordinary courage) to be substantively disputed. Even without White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s recent de facto admission that the Administration’s investigations demand was a “quid pro quo” for the transmission of Congressionally-approved American aid to Ukraine or Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor’s recent Congressional testimony, I submit that any objective observer acquainted with the context of events surrounding the Presidents’ conversation would consider Mr. Trump’s requests of Mr. Zelenskyy to be abuse of American resources in coercive pursuit of his own self-interest – and counter to our national interest in helping to secure Ukraine’s defenses against Russia. Until reading these documents, I had not been in favor of Congressional Impeachment-related proceedings; I felt that the effort was politically counterproductive for those seeking Mr. Trump’s 2020 defeat, was certain to invite divisive antagonism, and was, from an objective standpoint, almost certainly destined to fail.

Now, I don’t see how we can stand by in the face of such flagrant malfeasance.

The rest of these are ancillary thoughts:

Quite a while ago, I posted a note about conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s 1998 book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors:  The Case Against Bill Clinton.  When I bought the book I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that Ms. Coulter had asserted that the bar for impeachable behavior was pretty low.  Ms. Coulter argued persuasively (and for her, given our current state of affairs, ironically) that the Founding Fathers considered grounds for impeachment in the American system to be primarily related to a moral standard, not necessarily linked or limited to legally criminal behavior, and that the standard was simply that the official “behave amiss.” I recommend the volume as a well-researched resource on impeachment issues.

I am obviously no fan of Vice President Mike Pence. That said, and although Mr. Pence has, as I noted recently, continually had me searching for additional synonyms for the word, “sycophant,” I fervently hope that he is not implicated in the President’s untoward interactions with the Ukrainians or other malign activities. Given my view that straightforwardness, support of our institutions, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for all of our citizens as persons supersede justified sincerely-held policy disagreements, I would, given the current state of our Republic, be comfortable with Mr. Pence serving as president until January, 2021. Joe Biden has called Mr. Pence a “decent guy” and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called Mr. Pence “a super-nice guy.” Right now, what we most need is a President who doesn’t incite hate. Later, we as a people can decide whether he’s the right person to lead us into the future; at this point, the priority is to stabilize our ship, and Mr. Pence’s disposition is suited to do that.

The victims in this sordid drama for whom I have the utmost sympathy are Ukraine President Zelenskyy and the Ukranian people. They need America’s goodwill, financial and military assistance to withstand one of the world’s most powerful military forces. Given the President’s extortive overture, what does Mr. Zelenskyy do? Ukraine needs assistance now. If Mr. Zelenskyy he defies Mr. Trump, his country might not be there by January, 2021, when a Democrat might replace Mr. Trump. (One needs to look no further for an object lesson in Russian behavior than Crimea or the Turkish-Syrian border.) If he cooperates with the President, he will be labeled an American stooge by his domestic political rivals, undermined by Russia and Hungary, and run the risk that any Democrat that succeeds Mr. Trump might look less favorably on Ukraine. Mr. Trump’s despicable behavior has placed Mr. Zelenskyy squarely on the horns of an untenable dilemma.

The actors in this sordid drama for whom I have the most contempt are the President’s abetting Republican lickspittles. They know – they know – that he has compromised his office. And yet, for fear of their own careers, they – with the exception of U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney, whom I would now support for President if ever again given the opportunity – cravenly cower in the corner, hoping that this cup will pass them by.  (I’m ashamed that my state is represented by Sen. Ron Johnson.)  In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt asserts that loyalty to a group is a more prominent intuitive characteristic in our people who lean conservative/Republican. Clearly, a significant share of Congressional Republicans, and I fear many of the President’s rank-and-file followers, have morphed from being Americans into being Trumpers.

Partisan bias remains a two-way street. During the week of October 21, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe pressed Democratic U.S. DE Sen. Christopher Coons to admit that even if Hunter Biden’s appointment to the Ukrainian board was legal, Joe Biden’s failure to quash the appointment was bad judgment on the elder Biden’s part. (More on the Bidens in Part II of this note.) Mr. Coons refused to admit to the obvious. Although I have found Mr. Coons a knowledgeable voice on foreign policy and a measured commentator of Mr. Trump’s inappropriate behavior, his unwillingness to concede the obvious smacked of Republicans’ partisan defense of Mr. Trump.

Benjamin Franklin noted in his Autobiography: “[As a young man] I grew convinc’d that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life, and I form’d … resolutions … to practice them ever while I lived [Emphasis Mr. Franklin’s].”

Clearly, few national politicians of either stripe are now drawing lessons from Mr. Franklin. The next segment of this note will appear in Part II.

On Substantive Doubts about Elizabeth Warren: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

Disposition. U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren clearly is – and makes no bones about being – feisty. Some of her supporters consider it among her greatest strengths. I don’t. As noted above, most pundits predict that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate and that U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell will retain his seat in 2020 and maintain his post as Senate Majority Leader in 2021. Every day of a Warren Administration will feature a blood feud between self-righteous ideologues. Her manner will provide Mr. McConnell the perfect foil to roil the conservative Republican base and trouble centrists. Say what you will about the despicable manner in which Mr. McConnell has performed his Senate leadership role – and I’ve said plenty in these posts, and thought more in terms not suitable for these pages — one of the few things that the vast majority of Americans agree upon: we are weary – indeed, exhausted – from all the fighting. I consider the toxic hyper-partisanship engulfing us to be by far our most pressing national problem. We need to quiet our differences, not further inflame them. We need healing if we are to ever move forward. Although Ms. Warren’s ascendency to the presidency would be an improvement by at least providing us a Chief Executive that respects our institutions and the rule of law, I fear that her natural combativeness will only exacerbate our rabid climate and give the nation a case of whiplash as she attempts to abruptly steer us from the alt-right to the avid-left. (Before I get assailed as sexist for expressing misgivings about an “uppity woman,” I will offer that my preferred candidate for the presidency remains U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who, unlike Ms. Warren, projects resolve without inciting undue antagonism in her adversaries.)

Finally: Attitude. “We need to … put economic and political power back in the hands of the people [Again, my underscore].” The Washington Post recently ran a piece, to which a link is provided below, that actually prompted me to write this note. It describes Ms. Warren’s answer when asked at a LGBTQ forum how she would respond to a voter whose faith teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. I agree with the reactions reported in the Post that her response was sufficient to alienate some men, some people of faith, and some holding even moderate conservative tendencies. It exhibited – for someone who constantly touts her rearing in Oklahoma — a lack of understanding of and disdain – indeed, bordering on contempt — for the sincere sentiments of at least a third and perhaps as many as half of “the people” she claims that she wishes to serve. The account of Ms. Warren’s remarks reminded me – even before I had read far enough to see the article’s allusions to them – of former President Obama’s disparagement of those of our people who “cling to guns or religion” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s labeling many of Mr. Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” This is not the way to lead a citizenry that is – if one will excuse the jibe – as diverse as we are. Robert Galston wrote in his book, Anti-Pluralism:

“…[I]n May, 2016, candidate Donald Trump [declared] … ‘The only important thing is the unification of the people, [because] the other people don’t mean anything.’ There we have it: the people (that is, the real people) against the other people who are somehow outside and alien.”

I ask: how different, really, is the attitude Ms. Warren exhibited in her forum response from that of Mr. Trump? Does she intend to be inclusive – or exclusive? Is she seeking to lead all of our people – or only her version of “the people,” in the same way that Mr. Trump has made plain that he only wishes to lead his version of “the people”?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/warrens-same-sex-marriage-quip-captures-what-some-find-exciting–and-others-distressing–about-her/2019/10/11/f3e15a14-ec34-11e9-85c0-85a098e47b37_story.html

The more closely I have examined Sen. Warren, the more firmly I would suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden – despite the egregiously obtuse peccadillos involving his son — is not only the best handicapping choice against Mr. Trump among the Democratic frontrunners; given the seemingly imminent demise of Ms. Klobuchar’s candidacy, Mr. Biden is also by far the most qualified of the Democratic candidates to assume the presidency. I hope that for the future of our nation, he has it within him to show it.

On Substantive Doubts about Elizabeth Warren: Part I

Although impressions abound about Impeachment initiatives against President Trump, this week’s Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate has shifted my reflection more immediately to the candidacy of U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which pundits tell us is surging. All that read these pages are aware that I have serious handicapping reservations about Sen. Warren’s prospects in a general election contest against President Trump; I fear that the President will be able to engender sufficient alarm about her among his wavering 2016 supporters that, taken together with Ms. Warren’s relatively tepid support in the African American community, will enable him to duplicate his narrow 2016 Electoral College victory. Enough has been said here about that; but as Ms. Warren has reportedly begun edging past former Vice President Joe Biden, substantive factors about her are giving me perhaps even greater pause. Notwithstanding what follows: if Sen. Warren secures the Democratic presidential nomination and is running against Mr. Trump, she can rest assured of my vote; she doesn’t appear prone to the President’s character failings or likely to perpetuate his destructive malfeasance. Further, if she is running against a President Mike Pence, she will receive my vote; she has demonstrated strong will and independence throughout her career while Mr. Pence has exhausted my Thesaurus over the last couple of years as I’ve looked for ever-more blog-appropriate synonyms for the word, “sycophant.”

That said, I have deep reservations about her ability to successfully execute the presidency. The very introduction to the Senator’s campaign home page provides hints for my concerns:

“Elizabeth has a lot of plans, but they’re really one simple plan: We need to tackle the corruption in Washington that makes our government work for the wealthy and well-connected, but kicks dirt on everyone else, and put economic and political power back in the hands of the people [My underscore].”

Foreign Policy. I consider the highest responsibility of the President of the United States to safeguard us against foreign enemies. The President must conduct a foreign policy that reassures our allies and checks the unwarranted advances of our adversaries. These are perilous times – made more so by Mr. Trump’s boorishness, ignorance, and incompetence; the horrific tragedy unfolding in Syria as this is typed screams for a steady and knowledgeable steward for U.S. foreign relations. Even so, there is not a word about foreign relations in Ms. Warren’s introductory declaration. She appears to look at our international relations through her domestic prism, stating on her foreign policy page (consisting essentially of progressive slogans) that Washington’s foreign policy serves the “wealthy and well-connected” and calling for an end to “the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.” She pledges to bring our troops home, but displays no understanding of the difficulties of achieving such a withdrawal without regional cataclysm and potential consequent risk to American and allied lives. Her pledge in the second debate not to use our nuclear arsenal in a first strike capacity amounts, in my view, to presidential malpractice. She cries for cuts in “our bloated defense budget,” and calls for a greater reliance on diplomacy; but although we need to ensure that our defense dollars are spent wisely, such railing is somewhat akin to Mr. Trump’s complaints about what he claims are insufficient alliance contributions by our NATO partners. She seems oblivious to the fact that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are investing heavily in military and cyber capabilities and that these and other adversaries are responsive to diplomacy backed by strength, not by moral outrage or a “Pretty Please.”

Fiscal Responsibility. Interestingly, while calling our defense budget “unsustainable” (which it probably is; that’s why we need to nurture – not destroy — worldwide alliances to maintain an international balance supporting our interests), Sen. Warren is advocating for (1) a trillion-plus dollar federal expenditure to support free public college and student loan debt forgiveness and (2) what will amount to tens of trillions more for Medicare-for-All. While I support adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, our current budget realities make these sweeping initiatives as fiscally unsustainable as the Republicans’ chronic obsession with tax cuts. I went into law because I couldn’t do numbers, but it’s clear even to me that we do not have enough rich people and big corporations that we can tax enough to support these programs.

Practicality. “Elizabeth has a lot of plans …” She sure does. Even if Democrats gain control of both Houses of Congress – an outcome that few pundits predict, and one made even less likely if Ms. Warren is the Democratic candidate – she won’t command sufficient support in Congress for the progressive agenda she is proposing; many Americans (including me, and the Democrats representing swing states and districts that are desirous of keeping their seats) will be looking to Congress to check her most progressive impulses. Democrats will appear extreme, out of touch, and inept in the same manner as Republicans did in 2017-18, when they controlled both houses and despite years of haranguing still weren’t able (thankfully) to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In an effort to keep these posts to at least a somewhat manageable length, what remains of this note will appear in Part II.

Debate Ruminations

What I’ve found most intriguing about the most recent Democratic debate is the post-debate analysis: how visceral and individual our respective reactions are. In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist, argues that our moral judgements are governed primarily by our emotions (he prefers the term, “intuitions”), that our powers of strategic reasoning are ancillary, and that we primarily employ our reasoning to rationalize our intuitions’ sentiments. His arguments are seemingly relevant to the way we assess candidates.

Since the debate ended, I’ve heard Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski comment upon how “presidential” U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren looked; although I believe that Sen. Warren had a good night, I don’t think she looks at all presidential. Yamiche Alcindor, the African American female PBS White House Correspondent of whom we, devoted PBS NewsHour watchers, have become quite fond, has indicated that she believes U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris had a strong performance; I thought Sen. Harris had some clever shots, but did nothing special. (Before I get railed upon for being sexist or racist, I would submit that we all have a tendency to appreciate that with which we identify – there was never a candidate that my father, otherwise a vehement rock-ribbed Republican, ever supported as passionately as Democrat John F. Kennedy, an Irish Catholic.)

Although U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Ms. Harris, and former U.S. TX Rep. Beto O’Rourke were all fairly good, I will join the chorus opining that since each of the frontrunners at least held their own, the three-hour marathon won’t materially alter the polls. Sens. Klobuchar and Booker have nowhere to go; to me Mr. Buttigieg’s weakness is that while he, like Presidents Kennedy and Barack Obama, is more cerebral than emotive, he lacks those worthies’ capacity to stir passions; Ms. Harris’ best moments again appeared planned and scripted, leaving one again concerned as to how she would handle President Trump, the master of the unexpected; and Mr. O’Rourke was impressive, but his aggressive positions on gun control (with which I completely agree) seemingly foreclose any meaningful chance to win a Texas U.S. Senate seat after his campaign inevitably folds.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has apparently decided that he wants to get into the lottery business.

U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, clearly physically under the weather, was a little too predictable and curmudgeonly, but if he loses support, it will probably go to one of the other frontrunners.

Whether motivated to withhold attacks on Mr. Biden by a Democratic team spirit or a desire to start softening her somewhat feisty image in preparation for the general election campaign, Ms. Warren maintained a positive demeanor throughout the evening. She fostered the tone that all of the Democratic candidates want what’s best for this country. Nothing occurred that would dampen the prospect of a Biden-Warren ticket (a notion that finds favor with a number of readers of these pages). She stands to be the primary beneficiary if Mr. Sanders loses supporters. She was the most responsible for making it a good night for the Democratic campaign against Mr. Trump.

Being mindful of my own predilections ;), I thought Mr. Biden had a very strong night. He was significantly more energized than in either of the first two debates. While staying above the belt, he took Ms. Warren to task for the cost of her Medicare-for-All plan right at the outset (before we, tiring at the length of this spectacle, found our minds wandering). While he got muddled a couple of times during the evening, he exhibited flashes demonstrating his foreign policy knowledge and experience: “I confronted [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro”; that Afghanistan “cannot be put together” since it is “three different countries [referring to the Pakistani-controlled east and presumably the areas respectively under the influence of the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Ghani government].” His closing, in which he talked about overcoming the deaths of his first wife, daughter, and more recently, one of his sons, was the single most authentic and effective answer of the night.

I’ve saved to the end of this note my reference to former HUD Director Julian Castro’s tawdry attacks on Mr. Biden. Taken together with my consideration of Mr. Haidt’s hypothesis that our intuitions generally govern our reasoning powers, the reactions to Mr. Castro’s salvos have given me a different perspective on how Mr. Biden might fare in any debate with Mr. Trump. When Mr. Castro pointedly and repeatedly (and incorrectly) challenged Mr. Biden’s memory, his ageist implication was sufficiently naked that the audience audibly recoiled and TLOML – no particular fan of Mr. Biden, and one (unlike her spouse) not given to vocalization during these kinds of events — spontaneously emitted an epithet about Mr. Castro that was decidedly … well, let’s just say … uncomplimentary 😉 . It brought to mind Mr. Biden’s strongest suit: We like him. Even if we have concerns that he may not still possess all of the faculties he once had … we like him. And furthermore, that in the past, we liked Franklin Roosevelt although he was patrician, we liked Harry Truman although he was common, we liked Dwight Eisenhower although (before his reelection) he was evidently physically frail, we liked Ronald Reagan although he was a bit diminished, we liked Bill Clinton although he was smarmy, and we liked Barack Obama although he was out of touch with working people.

When in the first debate, U.S. CA Rep. Eric Swalwell overtly attacked Mr. Biden because of his age, the immediate reaction was: That’s the kind of shot Trump would take. When despite disclaimers Ms. Harris implied in the first debate that Mr. Biden was a racist by raising Mr. Biden’s decades-old comments on busing, the reaction after the dust settled was: That was unfair. When Mr. Castro clumsily raised Mr. Biden’s age, the thought flashed: That’s Trump. Mr. Swalwell’s candidacy is gone. Mr. Castro’s candidacy is effectively dead. Ms. Harris’ candidacy hasn’t recovered.

So I would pose this about Mr. Biden’s ability to stand up against Mr. Trump in a debate: if Mr. Biden handles himself as well as he did in the last two debates, and Mr. Trump can’t resist attacking him in Trumpian fashion, the President will be playing into the Democrat’s hands. Drawing upon Mr. Haidt’s premises, enough of us may rationalize away Mr. Biden’s wobbles to enable him to win the debates and the presidency … because we like him.

On the September Democratic Debate

From the jumble of candidates we needed to consider in the summer’s Democratic Presidential Candidate debates, it seems that from a handicapping standpoint, the party has winnowed down to meaningful contenders surprisingly quickly. Before we get to the middle of the stage:

Absent will be a number of candidates that are more qualified for the presidency than several that will appear, including a couple who also would have made more formidable opponents for President Trump. That said, the Democratic National Committee’s rules were well known, and each candidate needed to devise a strategy to gain the party’s backing to run against Mr. Trump. It appears that the absentees aren’t getting that done. At the same time, several may be attractive Vice Presidential nominee alternatives depending upon which candidate the party ultimately anoints.

Three second tier candidates may still entertain dreams that they can capture the nomination. U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar may believe that if she turns in a bravura debate performance and former Vice President Joe Biden seriously falters, moderates will coalesce around her candidacy. South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg may believe that he can reenergize his candidacy if he can create a debate “moment” in which he displays empathy about the plight of African Americans in this country sufficient to soften that community’s (in my view, misplaced) reservations about him. U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris may believe that with a few well-timed salvos such as she launched in the first debate, she can catapult herself back into the top tier of candidates.

If required to bet on the possibility of any of these happening or that Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will at some point this season throw a “Hail Mary” pass to win a game in its last seconds … my money would be on Mr. Rodgers.

One might muse that if they are being realistic, U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker and former HUD Director Julian Castro have recognized that their best prospects appear to be a Vice Presidential nomination (or in Mr. Castro’s case, a substantial role in a future Democratic administration that will provide a springboard for future Texas or national campaigns). We’ll be able to determine from their performances whether they are.

Former U.S. TX Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Businessman Andrew Yang are presumably appearing Thursday night because, like Richard Gere’s Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman … they’ve got nowhere else to go.

As someone who fervently hopes for the defeat of Mr. Trump because of his disregard for truth, his assaults on the freedom of speech, his enemies, and our institutions, his misogyny, racism, and xenophobia, his erraticism, his self-aggrandizement, and his greed much more than due to his substantive policies (although I strongly disagree with virtually all of them, policies can always be modified; tarnished principles are rarely retrieved), I am becoming ever more deeply concerned that Democrats are taking their eyes off the ball. Although I will be warily assessing how Mr. Biden responds to jibes and how much vitality he exhibits, and will appreciate U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders as a loveable, predictable, curmudgeonly Lion in Winter, my primary focus on Thursday night will be on the approach and attitude taken by U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Warren’s summer advance has been impressive. That said, in New Hampshire this past weekend, to an apparently enthusiastic response from NH Democratic Party activists, Ms. Warren declared, in part, as follows: “There is a lot at stake. And people are scared [presumably, that someone too far left will cause moderates to vote for Mr. Trump in 2020]. But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in because we’re scared. And we can’t ask other people to vote for someone we don’t believe in.” Dangerous words – words the sound more like someone intent on winning the nomination than in Democrats capturing the White House. Words that Republicans will use to attempt to depress progressive turnout if Mr. Biden wins the nomination. Ms. Warren obviously truly believes that the progressive agenda is the best way forward for this country and – of extreme concern, whether it is or not – that enough of our voters spread across enough of our pivotal Electoral College states agree with her. I fear that Ms. Warren may be developing a misimpression similar to that to which Mr. Trump fell subject during the 2018 campaign: projecting the enthusiasm she sees among zealots at her rallies upon the public as a whole. Although I admire Ms. Warren’s ability and zeal, the pictures of two former Democratic presidential nominees appear in my mind when I watch her: Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern.

One of the ironies of the campaign is that in a culture that celebrates the young, the iPhone, tattoos, 5G, Snapchat, purple hair, streaming, and WhatsApp, we seem most likely at this point to be placing our future from 2021 to 2025 in the hands of one of four quarrelling septuagenarians. (Clearly, I remain in mourning over Ms. Klobuchar’s and Mr. Buttigieg’s declines despite being close to 70 myself.) At the same time, I am hoping that because of their relatively advanced ages, all three Democratic frontrunners will keep in mind that any Democratic candidate’s victory over Mr. Trump is more important than winning the Democratic nomination. Will they strike the tone that all three want what’s best for this country, but that their approaches are different – i.e., frame their exchanges as good faith policy disagreements? Or do they attack each other and provide fodder for the Republicans to use in the fall against the eventual nominee?

The Effect of the Biden Candidacy

Commenting on the last post, someone very close to me, whom I consider an insightful critic of public affairs (except, of course, when he and I disagree 😉 ], has soured on former Vice President Joe Biden; he considers Mr. Biden (my use of sports vernacular to convey his sentiments) too old and too slow to either beat President Trump or serve as president through 2024. No fan of Mr. Trump, he is instead becoming more enthusiastic about U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

From a handicapping standpoint, I continue to have (in blog speak) grave misgivings about Sen. Warren’s ability to defeat the President in the pivotal swing states; in street talk: I don’t think she can do it. (My apologies to U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders’ adherents; although my gut tells me that at least in Wisconsin, he would fare relatively better against Mr. Trump than Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders appears to be wilting under Ms. Warren’s advance). At the same time, our friend’s concerns have caused me to ponder whether Mr. Biden, by entering the race, may be bringing about the result that he sought to avoid – Mr. Trump’s reelection – by having taken all the air out of the other Democratic moderates’ candidacies.  Given the dynamics of the race, it’s no longer “early.” U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be barely on the stage in the next Democratic presidential candidate debate, while other moderate candidates who might have garnered support in Mr. Biden’s absence – U.S. CO Sen. Michael Bennet, MT Gov. Steve Bullock, and former U.S. MA Rep. John Delaney – haven’t qualified; while I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong, I will venture that without a presence on the debate stage, their candidacies are effectively over.

Mr. Biden’s candidacy has pre-empted a healthy debate among moderates – and muddied that between moderates and progressives – that perhaps would have sustained greater rigor had he not entered the fray. Those of us that fervently wish for Mr. Trump’s defeat but fear that a decisive segment of independent voters might recoil from an overtly progressive agenda must seemingly now rely upon the hope that Mr. Biden’s candidacy doesn’t falter; if it does, we could be left only with Democratic candidates that may be little more than fodder in critical states under the Republican 2020 campaign assault.

Tonight, a good share of us will put aside matters of state to focus on how the Green and Gold perform against the Bears; but in little more than a year, Wisconsinites could, for good or ill, very likely be crucial in determining our nation’s future path. I hope Democratic voters across the country keep us in mind as they render their support for presidential hopefuls during the upcoming primary season.