Yesterday, former President Barack Obama made a triumphant return to the campaign trail for his former Veep, forever friend and 2020 Presidential candidate: Joe Biden. Needless to say, my PTSD flares from his doing the same for Hillary in 2016 were real but I digress. It was the most animated, I believe, I have ever seen the former President, outside of a White House Correspondents Dinner which, by all accounts, triggered Donald Trumps damaged personality to seek the Presidency and, one could reasonably argue, one of the most important gigs on planet Earth.
The sheer weight and responsibility of it would make any reasonably responsible and thoughtful person come off of their lunch and decide fairly quickly that they are not intelligent, learned, thoughtful, responsible, or, a combination of all of the above enough to apply for the job. But not dear old Donnie. No, his fragile ego being poked by Barack Hussein Obama, as he calls him was enough to make him think, ‘I’m going to take his job and I’m going to do it better because I am me and there is no simply no one better than me.’.
He seemed to pause not at all to consider whether he had the temperament, wherewithal, moral compass and dignity to handle the awesome responsibility of the Presidency. Apparently, a large portion of the electorate didn’t consider those things either because, popular vote or not, he had enough wind at his back to carry him to the Presidency. My how far we have fallen since our Joe the Plumber for President days which by now seem positively quaint. The thing is though plumbers should…..plumb. And politicans should do politics. Since when did being the thing become a bad thing when that is the thing you are applying to do? Last time I checked surgeons need to be surgeons and pilots need to be able to pilot.
Sarah Palin changed that narrative though and powerfully and forcefully unleashed the notion that simply anyone could apply for the highest and most powerful position in the land. Even a hockey Mom from Alaska who’s only distinction from a pitbull was the presence of lipstick. At the time — in the age of innocence of campaign season 2008 — it seemed like a joke. Excellent fodder for Tina Fey to cement her status in pop culture iconography lol! Sarah doesn’t read ha! Who cares! She can see Russia from her house — good one Sarah! Her family gets arrested on a semi regular basis! You see she told you she was one of us!
And Sarah, was, like many American families. She was the embodiment of ‘one of us’ and that’s not necessarily a bad thing owing to the fact that we are all humans at the end of the day. But, it’s a really, really bad thing when ‘one of us’ is seeking to be President or, in her case, Vice President. It is because not many of ‘us’, are suited to the job. Many of us lack the wisdom, experience and character to handle some of the tallest orders ever. It doesn’t make us bad people, it would just make us really bad and wholly incompetent Presidents.
I fancy myself a decent person, reasonably intelligent and of a good character and intellect but I’m no Hillary. I’m no Abe. I’m no…..well, I’m not really any of those guys owing to the limits of my intellect and my frailties as a person and those people each have frailties too; every single one of them. They also have skill sets and experiences that would suggest they apply for the job of the Presidency whereas my skill set suggests I stay home and write about those seeking the job of President. See, every life has its place.
And it’s fine. It’s all good. I possess enough insight and self-awareness (also good skills) to realize I shouldn’t apply to be President or a surgeon or an accountant or anything too measurement based or Science’y or linearly logic’y at all really and those are really good things to know. Sure my applying for those jobs might be ‘possible’ in the Oprah sense of the word possible but they’d also be really, really, really bad ideas and the knowing of that saves me and others from countless perilous situations. But, enough about my benefits and shortcomings as, again, I digress.
However, it needs to be said that insight, self-awareness and reflection are critical when not just applying for the Presidency but, also, and most importantly when trying to be a person of solid character and foundation and Donald Trump with his malignant personality and narcissism is in possession of exactly zero of those critical human skills. He is not smart (who ignores Science and gets metrics from their own head in a deadly pandemic? I’ll take Narcissus for one billion Alex), he is not deep, he is not reflective, he is not a good businessman or scholar or intellectual. He is not a deep thinker and, it turns out, the man who characterizes himself as a #verystablegenius is neither stable or a genius. At the bottom of it all, and most importantly though, he is an awful, terrible, soul-crushingly bad human. This is no better demonstrated than in the documentary “Unfit” created by The Lincoln Project. It’s worth the $0.99 rental fee so long as you have a strong stomach and a bottle of wine on hand.
While a deep character or psychological analysis of Trump has been done and does not need to be done again here now, he has laid bare that even if all of the other characteristics — intellect, intelligence, soberness, rational thought and so on — where intact, he lacks the basic decency, moral fiber and character to oversee a nation as vast, diverse and different from him. Donald Trump can only survive in an echo chamber rife with deference and sycophants. His GOP has handed these things to him. His Administration has handed these things to him. His supporters who think they too could probably be President handed these things to him. The rest of the electorate now needs to take these things away.
As it turns out, Sarah Palin and her ilk were only half wrong as Donald Trump has proven that literally anyone can be President. Where they were wrong, horribly and fatally wrong, was that just anyone should be President. Not everyone, especially Donald John Trump, should be President. Barack Hussein Obama: yes. DJT: no. The degradation of the importance of having a good solid education, an understanding of the world at large and the wisdom and capacity to do politics right has been slowly eroded in our cultural lives. So have the values of character, the values of being human. And out of everything Obama touched on yesterday — and he hit every single note from COVID, to Obamacare, to taxes, to the nickname Fox News would have given him had he, like DJT, possessed a Chinese bank account, “Beijing Barry — the most resonant points he made were about character, decency and the values that belong to all humans.
The craziness that trails Donald Trump; the scandals, the lies, the amorality are dizzying and impossible to keep up with. What Obama managed to do though was to touch on that which remains constantly terrible and that is Trump’s exceedingly awful temperament and his absolutely and undeniably bankrupt character. Trump has perfected a strategy that has carried him his whole life and, ultimately, to the Presidency. He lives to crush, to denigrate, to humiliate and to divide. Trump does this by stoking the fires of xenophobia, racism and misogyny. He sows doubt, including in the free press, so that, by his own admission, when they write negative things about him no one will believe them. He erodes institutions and lives he was sworn to protect. He is of a bankrupt character and out of everything else that is on the ballot — justice, fairness, equality — that lack of character is the single most important thing because it guides and shapes literally everything else.
In 2016, Obama engaged in a call and response when he was out campaigning for Hillary. He called “fired up” to which the response from those in attendance was to be “ready to go”. And some were ready to go but not enough. Those who stayed home were fired up and ready to…..huh? What? Allowing Donald the call of man, woman, person and the response of camera, tv. Oh yes, very stable genius.
Well, America cannot afford the call of fired up and a ho-hum response this time. The world cannot afford that this time. Joe Biden says “we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation” and he is not wrong. The most important things on the ballot this season are soul, character, decency, humanity. So anyone who does not wish to see those things get crushed better get fired up and ready to go. And this time they damn well better do it.