Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Please tell me why I should care whether Joe Biden is declining mentally when President Donald Trump bottomed out morally long ago. I'm serious. I'd rather drink milk past its expiration date than arsenic.
It's an ugly tack, but familiar. As Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen observed, media coverage of President Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign included references to his apparent confusion, questions about his mental alertness and mentions of the prevalence of dementia and senility among people in their mid-to-late 70s. Reagan was then 73. Biden is 77 but would be 78 at his inauguration. If he's elected, Thiessen wrote, "He'll be older on the day he takes office than Reagan was on the day he left office. So, yes, his mental fitness is a legitimate issue."
However, two flawed candidates don't add up to a jump ball. At this point, gaffes and all, Biden is our only choice.
Biden's bumbling isn't the defining issue, not even close, and we shouldn't let Trump use it to do in 2020 what he did in 2016, which was to portray his opponent " then, Hillary Clinton " as so enormously unappealing and recklessly unacceptable that, to many Americans Trump looked ever so marginally better in comparison, which is to say that he looked endurable.
Put another way, Trump has to make himself just slightly less awful than everyone and everything else. He has to get a crucial number of voters who are either genuinely wavering, considering a third-party candidate or looking for an excuse to vote for him to say what many of them did four years ago: "The Democrats haven't given me any real choice. There are no good options."
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