Michael J. Stern, Opinion columnist Published 1:58 p.m. ET Aug. 19, 2020 | Updated 7:08 a.m. ET Aug. 20, 2020
Biden did not seize the Democratic nomination based on his mental dexterity. He is the nominee because voters trust him to be the opposite of Trump.
Lets be honest about Joe Biden.
Sometimes he exaggerates events, like when he said he was arrested in South Africa while trying to visit imprisoned anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Turns out he was onlybriefly "detained."
Sometimes he misspeaks, like when he said if elected president he would appoint the first Black woman senator.
And sometimes he says things that appear untethered to logic, proprietyand rational thought, like referencing his hairy legs during a campaign rally.
Knowing all of this, I look forward to casting my presidential ballot for Biden in 75 days. Because in addition to these less than ideal qualities, Biden has an inherent decency, was an effective co-pilot during Barack Obamas successful presidencyand is well-suited to heal the polarizing woundsgripping this country.
But some Democrats are withholding their enthusiastic support for Biden because he is a centristwho does notendorsedefunding the police,unlimited free college and eliminating private health insurance.And some onTeam Blueare judgingtheir candidates character through the same unforgiving lens.
In sharp contrast, Republicans have abandoned broad purity tests in exchange for a handful of must-haves.Never mind that the GOP is dumping clean water and air laws in favor of corporate pollution.What matters to them is Supreme Court justices, abortion, a walland the ability to refuse wedding cakes to gays.And theres no agonizing at the ticket counter over the moral character of their candidates. They gladly pay the overweight baggage fee to ensure their agenda reaches its destination.
This means that bragging about sexually assaulting women, botching the effort to protect Americans from a deadly virusand getting impeached havelittle effect on most Republicans voting calculations. They havecircled the wagons and are stronger for it.
Meanwhile, as the GOP ignoresitsown dirty laundry, its propaganda machine is masterful atlobbing scandal bombs into Democratic territory. Whether its Hillary Clintons emails or Sen. Elizabeth Warrens Native American heritage, they know how to make the dog chase its tail to the point of exhaustion.
Bidens you aint black gaffe earlier this year caused less offense to most African Americans than to white Republican pundits who feigned outrage on behalf of a community they are not interested in courtingbut are working hard to alienate from Democrats.
Jill and Joe Biden on Aug. 18, 2020.(Photo: Democratic National Convention via AP)
So far, congressional Republicans have worked hard to tar Biden with an unfounded allegation that he used his position as vice president to further his sons business interests as a board member of a Ukrainian gas company.And any minute now, Attorney General William Barrs inquiry into those who initiated the Russia investigationis likely to be deployed as a smear campaign against Obama, and Biden by proxy.
But the most insidious GOP attack on Biden alleges that his mental cognition is failing, making him unfit to hold the presidency. In an interview with Fox News last month, Donald Trump said Biden could not pass a senility test. Republican operative and author Ann Coulter said Biden has "senile dementia." And a pro-Trump super PAC has run a TV ad suggesting that Biden has lost his mind.
During my 25 years litigating for the Department of Justice, one of the most important lessons I learned is this:You will lose if you try to convince a jury that a weakness in your case does not exist.Voters are the jurors in the upcoming election, and Democrats need to stop trying to convince them that Bidens blunders, like saying hes running for the United States Senate, are due to his childhood stutter.
Biden has been a gaffe machine for decades.But yes, maybe his mental acuity is not what it once was. We must acknowledge this possibility and accept it, or every future slip will lead to endless hand-wringing.
The case for Joe Biden: Trump makes politics excitingbut terrifying. Democrats bore,but they govern.
Biden did not seize the Democratic nomination based on his mental dexterity.If Democrats wanted someone who could draft a 300-page Ph.D. dissertation over the course of a weekend, after a Friday night of binge drinking and with one arm tied behind his back, they would have selected former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
Biden is the Democratic nominee because voters know he willnot:solicit foreign assistance in American elections;exchange love letters with dictators;cripple the U.S. Postal Serviceto suppress votes;make hush money payoffs to porn stars.
And, Biden is the Democratic nominee because voters know hewill:appoint Supreme Court justices who will protect civil rights; work across the aisle to ensure all Americans have health care; cut tax breaks for billionaires; recognize that the First Amendment is as important as the Second; push for reasonable gun control; work to slow climate change; restaff the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so itcan effectively respond to a viral pandemic; appoint competent Cabinet members; listen to them when they speak truth to power.
Former GOP state chair: I never expected the Democratic convention to inspire me
Biden will also bring back the human empathy that has been achingly missing from the White House since Jan. 20, 2017.Biden buried his first wife and young daughter, and then his grown son.Sorrows map is tattooed on Joe Bidens heart.And its scars are big enough to embrace the agony and anger in a time whennearly 173,000lives have been stolen by a malevolent twist of viral RNA.
The former vice president represents the worn tire groove that promises to pull us back on the road, after DJT seizure syndrome sent us careening into the trees. This must be the theme that drives the Democratic campaign.
No one candidate can be everything to everyone, and allowing Republicans to dictate the terms of Democratic debate will send us down a rabbit hole from which there is no escape.
We must learn to say no. Noto watching Republicans prop up the rot that is their chosen leader while egging on infightingabout Bidens verbal slips or his sons job.
And Democrats need to accept that they can no longer protect both American democracy and the moral high ground.When Republicans raise Hunter Biden, Democrats need to go all in on the nepotism and graft buoying the bank accounts of Trumps offspring and son-in-law.
When Republicans attack Bidens mental competence, Democrats need to deploy their own Trump blooper reel. From windmills causing cancer, to injecting disinfectants, to calling Apple CEO Tim Cook Tim Appleto nonsensical speech like a kidney has a very special place in the heart, the well of Trump blunders is deep.
And Republicans must pay a price every time they clutch their pearls over a minor Biden misstatement.Trump has filled a Pinocchio barrel with more than 20,000 false and misleading claims. Lets use them. Political tit for tat isnt pretty, but it is effective.
Authoritarian threat: Sanders is the MVP of the Democratic convention. We have to save our democracy from Trump.
Most important, the Democratic nominee is chosen and we need to accept that he is the only alternative to Trump. As Sen. Bernie Sanders told Democratson the first night of theirconvention, primary disappointment and ego need to be put aside. Every protest vote, or failure to vote, inches Trump closer to four more years.
When I bought my house, it needed a new roof, plumbingand foundation repair.The seller insisted I sign a contract taking it as is, meaning with its flaws.I love that house, and its the best investment I ever made.
If Republicans can respond to the abject corruption of their leader with thats Trump being Trump, we should be able to accept Bidens innocuous foibles with thats Joe being Joe.
Given the alternative, Ill take Joe Biden any day of the week. And Ill take Joe as is.
Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors,was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow himonTwitter: @MichaelJStern1
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