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

WASHINGTON — Strange thing passing, but Joe Biden’s river of tears over his son Beau, who passed away on May 30, has turned into political hay. Deep into grief, Biden never sought that; it just so happened that way. You can hear chatter rising for him to jump into the primary fray again.

The path — if taken — is the one less travelled by.

The vice president broke the oldest rule for American men: Don’t show weakness. Men don’t cry. In a cultural shift, men from East to West love Biden more for saying frankly how sad he felt all summer. Sky-high praise has walked with Joe through the valley, as a chorus of pundits sing “Hail to the Chief” to the genial 72-year-old.

Yet praise for Biden now does a disservice to Hillary Clinton, who needs support from her allies. The long wait for Biden to decide “at the end of the summer” should be over.

Biden lives in a stately white house on the Naval Observatory grounds, but still covets the gleaming mansion downtown after 36 years in the Senate and seven years on this job.

Let’s be clear. The loquacious Biden, fondly known as a master of excess, has run for president twice and lost badly. He voted for the Iraq War and botched the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing, which flew into a furious folly. In the small state of Delaware, voters never punished him, because he’s so darn likeable.

But some are a bit daft about Joe on the most serious matter in the public square.

Howard Kurtz, media critic for Fox News, said Biden’s heart-to-heart about loss with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show was one of the most “remarkable moments” he’d ever seen on television.

Op-ed columnist David Brooks of The New York Times went further: he declared Biden’s revealing session with Colbert, the new host of The Late Show on CBS, is the very reason Biden should run. Brooks switched his position on Biden as a compelling presidential candidate based on a 15-minute conversation. He wrote, “His discussion of his own grief over his son Beau’s death was beautiful and genuine and revealed (his) golden heart. …” No word on his public record.

Brooks said it was a character “formation story” for public service. No, an adult son’s death is an autumnal sign that says it is time to move off the field. (Beau was 46.) It’s a generational passing. The father-son trope is as old as Homeric myth, and I think Homer would agree with me.

Clearly, the clamor is also about the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s “authenticity” — or lack thereof. Clinton puts up a good front and hates to say “sorry.” It took her years to ‘fess up about her Iraq War vote and months to apologize for her private email server.

But here the gender irony cuts deep. Biden’s emotional freedom does not hold true for women in our new age. Hillary Clinton could not speak of mourning a loss so freely without paying a price. If she did, she’d be the weak one, who wasn’t ready for high office. If she has not made herself vulnerable to voters (except for one choked-up moment in New Hampshire in 2008), maybe there’s a reason why.

Noted author Gail Sheehy observed in Politico that Clinton has undergone a shift of her own, with newfound confidence: “For the first time Hillary seems comfortable in her own skin — not just with her age but also with her gender.”

If Brooks seeks a “formation story” for Clinton — which he says she hasn’t presented well — try this.

Clinton belongs to the generation that lived and breathed the civil rights and women’s movements. The fruits of higher education, professional work and social leadership were theirs to claim. She was at the head of that generation, her Wellesley College class commencement speaker, from there going on to break every barrier and attend Yale Law School. She has meaningful ties to the Midwest, South and Northeast. She has prepared every day of her life for this last chance to be president, living in a glass house for all seasons — keeping her zest, mind, and spirit together.

Or something like that.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com.

Photo: U.S. vice president Joe Biden speaks on stage at an event to discuss the minimum wage at the Javits Convention Center in New York, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]