Sunday, May 19, 2024

Biden Can Do Something at the Debates That Trump Never Could. (Patti Davis, The New York Times)

To puerile partisans, I would say, "show a little class."  I was once verbally assailed by the secretary to longtime corrupt Anderson County School Supt. PAUL EUGENE BOSTIC, JR.,( a Central Appalachian School Dictator of the sort that Harry Caudill wrote in Night Comes to the Cumberlands)  I responded to the louche lady, "show a little class."  School Dictator PAUL EUGENE BOSTIC, JR. responded, "how can anyone from New Jersey talk about class?"  From The New York Times:

Biden Can Do Something at the Debates That Trump Never Could

A black-and-white closeup of a hands on a podium bearing the presidential seal.
Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times

Ms. Davis is the author of “Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory and the America We Once Knew.”

In 1960, I sat on the living room floor in front of a black-and-white television and watched one of the presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. It wasn’t my preferred programming, but my parents were watching it and communicated to me that this was sort of a homework assignment, as in, “this is how democracy works.” I was nearly 8. I remember fidgeting with the shag carpet, wondering how long this was going to go on, yet also taking in the fact that the two men on the screen opposed each other, probably didn’t like each other, but were being unfailingly polite in their disagreements. My takeaway was: This is how adults are supposed to behave.

Twenty years later, in 1980, I watched my father, Ronald Reagan, debate Jimmy Carter. There was the moment when then President Carter decisively (but politely) criticized my father for his opposition to Medicare. My father smiled, cocked his head and said, “There you go again.” He went on to explain that though he had opposed one bill, he had favored another that he thought would have offered better health care. What was memorable was the way he did it — without anger, without sarcasm or meanness, but instead with humor. Shrugging off the criticism and gently, easily setting the record straight came across as a stark contrast to Mr. Carter’s solemn demeanor. In that moment, I think, he won the debate, showing Americans, some of whom had questions about his temperament, that he was unflappable.

Cut to 2000, when George W. Bush and Al Gore debated. There was a moment in the third debate when Mr. Bush was speaking and Mr. Gore crossed the stage and got way too close to his opponent. Mr. Gore basically invaded his space, but Mr. Bush just turned, gave him a friendly nod of his head and smiled. He may as well have said, “Howdy.” Mr. Gore may have scored more points on substance, but people remembered that moment. They remembered the guy who exuded a coolheaded likability in the tense environment of a debate.

Many of us still recall when people in the political arena were expected to meet a base-line level of dignity, when candidates presented themselves as adults who understood the value of civility — because, they thought and we all generally believed, that’s what voters wanted and expected. But sadly, there are more and more Americans who regard maturity, sportsmanship and most of all civility in politics as elitist, phony hallmarks of an establishment that doesn’t talk or act like regular people. As a result, some politicians think of campaigning as another version of an M.M.A. fight. There was a time when presidents gave State of the Union addresses without being heckled by the elected representatives sitting in the audience. There was a time when candidates debated one another without interrupting and insulting. There was a time when Republican presidents and Democratic speakers of the House spoke to one another like Americans in the same boat together and tried to solve problems in a give-and-take. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

It’s true that not everything in the past was clean and respectful. Politics has always involved some insults and name-calling. But there was a huge change in 2016. Donald Trump pulled the cork out of the bottle, made cruelty mainstream and was rewarded for it. A disabled reporter was mocked; Republican rivals (and their relatives) were smeared; crowds of people, when Hillary Clinton’s name was invoked, chanted, “Lock her up!” And the man who gave permission for all of it was sworn in as president.

So who are we as a country? Do we revere democratic principles and know that in order to uphold those principles, civil discourse is vital? Or have we become so enamored of down-and-dirty fighting that we can’t seem to get out of the mud pit?

President Biden has an opportunity to reclaim what was once a prominent characteristic of American politics in his upcoming debates with Donald Trump, but he isn’t off to a great start. His invitation to debate included the sarcastic taunt “Well, make my day, pal.” Hearing a president imitate Clint Eastwood rubbed me the wrong way. Later I realized my father had used that line, too. It wasn’t his finest moment, either.

So how about standing on a ledge above the mud pit? Mr. Biden is effusive in his optimism about America and all this country is and can be. He has a chance to set an example for the nation. Obviously, Mr. Trump is not going to be civil on the debate stage. He doesn’t know how. But the president of the United States should refuse to be baited into sloshing around in mud, too. How hard can it be to rise above a man who just recently praised “the late, great Hannibal Lecter” as though he were a real — and admirable — person? It shouldn’t be that difficult to ignore Mr. Trump’s taunts, his insults, his interruptions, and choose dignity instead. If Mr. Biden has one overarching goal in his debate with Mr. Trump next month, it’s to remind voters that he is and will be the adult in the room, and that he will preserve the country’s dignity.

Because civility in this country is plummeting, on the streets, in businesses, on social media and pretty much everywhere else. Wouldn’t it be helpful if the person holding the highest office in the land gave us a concrete example of what it means to comport ourselves with dignity and restraint?

Patti Davis is the author of “Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory and the America We Once Knew.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Biden should mention his 40,000 lies and 91 felony charges... along with his narcissistic sociopathy since they like to call Biden "Dementia Joe." If Biden is demented then Trump is a psychotic psychopath. Still his dumbass still thinks he won the 2020 election so he's delusional. He should plead insanity to his crime spree.