Doing the Presidential limbo: the bar keeps getting lower. Every candidate we elect manages to make his predecessor look good.
Some of those reading this may be old enough to recall Being There; the 1979 comedy about a simpleton who has led a decidedly sheltered life who, through a series of mischances, becomes president. The film is a speculation; what if we selected someone who was grotesquely unfit for the task to be our national leader?
Now we may be about to do it in reality.
It’s taken us some time to decline to this point, though. At some point back in Bush Junior’s administration, I formulated the theory that beginning with George Bush Senior, every President we’ve chosen has managed to be worse than his predecessor.
Bush Senior himself was a perfectly commendable individual; he volunteered for service in World War Two, flew fifty eight combat missions as a carrier pilot, and won the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, he rose through the political ranks, working hard and at least apparently balancing the competing demands of integrity, loyalty, and expediency. Eventually, he became president, and while not the most inspiring leader we’ve ever had, managed to perform respectably.
Even some of the reasons Bush failed to win reelection speak well of him. He refused to grovel to Israel to the Lobby’s complete satisfaction, and he felt that the recession that broke out in 1992 was a minor blip, and would pass of itself without any action on his part. He turned out to be right, but not until after he had already lost. Perhaps he could be said to have joined the ranks of those who, like Grover Cleveland did, could have died saying, ‘I have tried so hard to do right.’
He was a good man, and we have done worse. Indeed, since then we have done worse. Bill Clinton was undoubtedly an able politician, but where Bush at least tried to do right, Clinton proved utterly cynical, apparently judging the wisdom and morality of each action he took solely by its effect on his popularity polls. He was the great follower, and we drifted. It is difficult to name one initiative Clinton undertook that owed anything to anything but calculations of political self-interest.
However, he was at least more astute than Bush Junior — who struck me as a frat boy who somehow wound up in the White House. He always seemed to have this expression of mild perplexity mingled with a certain lack of concern; as if he wasn’t sure exactly what was going on but didn’t care much in any case. Certainly he was manipulated into the catastrophic Iraq war easily enough, and spectacularly mismanaged that. If Clinton didn’t do America much good, at least he didn’t do it a great deal of harm. Bush Junior couldn’t even say that. Aside from the damage to ourselves — and to Iraq — wrought by his conduct of that impressively unnecessary war, he inaugurated the chain of ever-increasing deficits that have continued to this day; incredibly, the federal government now spends literally twice as much as it takes in. Don’t try that at home, folks.
But it got worse still. Then came Obama the weak; one of nature’s state assemblymen, elevated to the White House by the color of his skin. He always fatally compromised, always backed down in the face of firm opposition, and always betrayed those who trusted him. It was during his administration that I came to realize that weakness can be functionally equivalent to evil; that even with the best of intentions, people can do harm simply through their cowardice. To take one example, Obama literally incited a popular revolution in Egypt, then, when it transpired that Israel did not approve, stood by as Israel and Saudi Arabia organized a brutal coup that led to the deaths of many of those who had been foolish enough to allow Obama’s words to lead them into rebellion.
Bush Junior had at least had the strength of his inclinations, even if one couldn’t precisely credit him with convictions. Obama couldn’t even say that much for himself. Presumably we have had presidents who have been moral cowards before — but never has it been so visible as it was with Obama.
But all these were head and shoulders above Trump; I voted for him, and will vote for him again, but Bloomberg’s description of him as a ‘carnival barking clown’ was all too accurate. The man simply has no business being President. His sole merit always was that he was better than the alternatives; he was better than his rivals for the Republican nomination in 2016, better than Hillary Clinton — and now he’s better than Joe Biden.
Incredibly, Biden actually manages to set a new low. You’d think that by this point, that would be impossible, but no. The below is pretty typical:
The man is literally senile; he is so far gone he cannot even put together a coherent sentence unless it’s on the teleprompter.
As my daughter put it, he might be capable of living by himself; he’s reached the point where somebody should check on him once a week, but he should be alright as far as going to the bathroom and using the microwave.
But President? Really? We literally might as well elect a dog.
This is how low we’ve sunk. We may fail to even choose a functional adult for President.