The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

With President Trump raging like Shakespeare’s mad King Lear on the heath, it can be difficult for an entirely sane politician to get an audience. Assuming that is, that any psychologically normal person would insert himself or herself into the bizarre spectacle that will be the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Also assuming that Donald J. Trump is the GOP nominee, which appears less certain by the day. If he had any sense, Trump would accept an immunity deal and go back to laundering Russian mob money and pestering Playmates.

But that’s not going to happen.

Even so, the contrast between Trump’s mad tantrums and the mundane civility of the recent Democratic presidential debate couldn’t have been more striking. Somebody’s got to win the nomination, but a viewer could be pardoned wondering if anybody on that Ohio stage actually can. There was dispiriting air of unreality about the whole thing.

Like it or not, an American presidential election is a TV show, and the Democratic debate was a bad one. Did anybody not being paid actually sit through the whole three hours? It’s hard to imagine.

It’s trite to say that eleven candidates are almost twice as many as can stage an actual debate. But it does have the advantage of being true. Until the voting starts, there’s no way to winnow the field down to a reasonable size. So until then, confusion rules.

Then there’s the uncomfortable suspicion that none of the leading candidates appears especially convincing in the role. I see no Bill Clinton or Barack Obama; no brilliant political performer. Even if you’re favorably disposed toward former Vice president Joe Biden—as I am, partly because he reminds me of my late father—he’s appeared less than commanding. Supporters can’t help dreading his having “a mature moment” at the podium.

Verbal glitches have little to do with one’s intellectual capacity, but everything to do with voter perceptions. (Never mind that Trump appears on the edge of dementia; his cult-like followers literally cannot see it.) Having written that Biden’s too old to run for president, I haven’t really changed my mind.

But then it’s not my decision.

Then there’s Bernie Sanders. Putting aside his recent heart attack, Bernie’s even older than Biden. It’s tempting to leave it right there. True, he appeared as vigorous and stubborn as ever during the debate. His most passionate supporters appear dedicated to re-fighting the 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton, who’s actually not running.

Despite his earning roughly 12 million fewer votes than Clinton, many contend that Bernie was cheated. They foresee a mighty wave of working class voters that will sweep all before it, a fantasy that has tantalized what are now called “progressives” since 1917 or thereabouts.

Dream on, Bernie-crats. Back in 2016, Michelle Goldberg wrote a terrific Slate article headlined “This Is What a Republican Attack on Bernie Sanders Would Look Like.” Because Clinton never needed to go negative, few voters are aware of the depths to which Trump would be only too happy to sink. Suffice it to say that nobody who served as a presidential elector for the Trotskyite Socialist Worker’s party—which proclaimed “solidarity” with revolutionary Iran during the 1980 hostage crisis—will ever be elected president.

And there’s more, lots more. Not to mention some cringe-worthy writings about underage sex that Sanders would probably like to take back.

No matter. Elizabeth Warren has taken Bernie’s issues and pasted a smiley face on them. Sen. Warren appears to have a plan for everything except how to persuade any imaginable U.S. Congress to enact any of her brilliant ideas into law. As a political candidate, she makes a terrific Harvard professor. My own suspicion is that her support has peaked, and that after the actual voting starts Warren’s relative standing among the candidates can only decline.

Keep in mind that I’ve been wrong before.

Anyway, because nobody wanted to attack Joe Biden under present circumstances, it was Warren whom rival candidates questioned most sharply. She handled it badly. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the two Midwestern moderates in the race—the term “moderate” evidently signifying a Democrat who can count—wanted to know where Warren proposed to get the money and the votes for her “Medicare for All” proposal.

She had no answer, but promised one. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman pointed out that since Warren “has made policy seriousness a key aspect of her political persona, so her fogginess on health care really stands out.”

Klobuchar noted tartly that “the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done. And we can get this public option done.” Meaning that the votes for Obamacare reform are in sight, as they’re certainly not for Warren and Sanders’ single-payer scheme.

So can Warren supporters abide compromise? We shall see.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Dr. Mehmet Oz and Sean Hannity

Youtube Screenshot

Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity is priming his audience to see election fraud in any defeat for Dr. Mehmet Oz, his favored candidate who currently leads the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania with two percent of votes outstanding. If the fast-closing hedge funder Dave McCormick takes the lead and the Oz camp claims the election has been stolen, it could set up a potentially explosive proxy war with Hannity’s colleague Laura Ingraham, whose Fox program favors McCormick and has suggested he is likely to prevail when all the votes are counted.

The GOP primary was a chaotic slugfest that split Fox’s slate of pro-GOP hosts in an unusually public way. Hannity was Oz’s most prominent supporter, reportedly securing the support of former President Donald Trump and using his program to endorse the TV personality, give him a regular platform, and target the challenge from right-wing commentator and Fox & Friends regular Kathy Barnette. Ingraham, meanwhile, used her Fox program (which airs in the hour following Hannity’s) to promote McCormick, criticize Oz, and defend Barnette.

Keep reading... Show less
Youtube Screenshot

Overturning Roe v. Wade is very unpopular, yet another poll confirms. Nearly two out of three people, or 64 percent, told the NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll that Roe should not be overturned, including 62 percent of independents. The poll also includes some good news for Democrats.

According to the poll, the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Roe in the most extreme way is motivating Democratic voters more than Republicans: Sixty-six percent of Democrats say it makes them more likely to vote in November compared with 40 percent of Republicans. That echoes a recent NBC poll finding a larger rise in enthusiasm about voting among Democrats than Republicans.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}