The Village of Punditry is decorated like a child’s party. But the balloons, instead of saying “Happy Birthday” are instead stamped with the word, “Trial” and have the picture of Vice President Joe Biden.
May I have a pin, please?
If anyone out there believes Biden is a great American and should be president, then by all means let them try to persuade him to run.
But, if the chicken-hearted Democrats out there want him to run because of fears about Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, as represented by this latest Washington Post story then they are not only making a big mistake, they are handing Republicans a victory they don’t deserve.
The best way to explain the situation is to look at a classic American comic strip, Peanuts, which is still republished in original form (not new cartoons) even though its creator, Charles Schulz, passed away 15 years ago.
One of the most famous gags in the strip came every fall, when mean little Lucy would tee up a football and beg poor old Charlie Brown to kick it. Here’s an animated version. Go ahead and watch, it only takes a minute and a half. I’ll wait.
There, now we see that Lucy pulled the ball away from Charlie Brown again, and he landed flat on his back… again. It always happens like that. So let’s look at the lessons here, and why a Biden campaign would be a big mistake.
Lessons from Lucy – 1
In this parable, the Republicans are Lucy. They are forever putting down footballs, knowing what kind of response they will get. For purposes of this analogy, the “football” is the unprovoked, inaccurate, continually repeated attack. The latest iteration is the Clinton use of private email.
This issue has nothing to do with her email. Nobody cared about Clinton’s email until she ran for president. Clinton said as much at a campaign rally. She should dispense with the formalities of her Oct. 22 appearance before the House “Benghazi” Committee and say that to the Republicans’ faces during the hearing.
It didn’t start there, of course. It started with the unfortunate incidents in Benghazi. But after a raft of reports and investigations, including from House Committees with Republican majorities, cleared Clinton, Republicans moved on to the issue of her email after establishing yet another committee and spending more government money to “investigate” further.
It should be clear to anyone paying attention that Clinton did nothing wrong. She followed every law and protocol that was in place when she was Secretary of State. She did what others in similar and other offices have done.
Republicans have actually conducted business from non-governmental accounts and erased millions of emails. There was no howling about that from outraged Republicans.
Never mind about what she “should have known” or “could have known.” None of that matters. The Republicans have continually leaked information, much of which has proven to be false and misleading.
Just as Lucy puts down the football every fall, the Republicans start in with the attacks. It’s what they do.
How far back do you want to go? Investigations of a crappy little land deal ended up in an impeachment. Al Gore, one of the most honest, forthright and intelligent people you would ever meet, ended up portrayed as a congenital liar. John Kerry, a decorated war hero, had his war record challenged. There’s a verb for that now, “Swiftboating.” Never mind that the charges were false. They were repeated and repeated until people accepted them.
If the Republicans are Lucy, who is Charlie Brown? The Democrats, that’s who. They play right into the hands of the GOP attack dogs by quivering in their boots and not looking at the big picture. Of course, Clinton’s favorable are down.
Anyone’s would be, given the unceasing attacks from Republicans in Congress, 17 GOP presidential candidates, Republican “strategists” who appear on talk shows and, of course, the entire Fox network.
Democrats who want Biden to run because Clinton’s numbers are down are surrendering to the attack mode of the Republicans. If Biden runs, then Republicans get a victory they don’t deserve. Their all-out oppo attack will have succeeded.
If Biden runs, it will take about three days, at most, for every “gaffe” he has ever made to be dredged up, with reminders of his past failed presidential runs and his plagiarism from the 1988 campaign. The attacks on Clinton won’t stop. The attacks on Biden will start.
Instead, Democrats should change the game, particularly the wealthy ones, who are worried about Clinton’s popularity but still back her. They should put their money into either Clinton’s campaign or, even better, into a SuperPAC that would some attack ads of their own, calling out the Republicans’ game.
Lessons from Lucy – 2
There’s another way to look at this sad state of affairs. Republicans will continue to be Lucy, but Charlie Brown will instead be a representation for the Village political pundits and reporters, those folks who thrive on inside gossip, on “access,” and on keeping a story alive, regardless of the value.
I understand the mentality of those who write the Clinton stories. They see that football and want to kick it. They want the big story. They want to be the ones who take down the biggest target, and that’s Hillary Clinton. That’s how careers are made. Not by explaining crucial policy choices, but by getting the goods on somebody. In search of “fairness,” they take the Republican leaks, even though they are one-sided, out of context and incomplete and even though they have been misled by the same sources before.
They can end up embarrassed, but carry on anyway.
Let’s go back to Kerry for a minute. The press got all wound up on the questions of what side of what river he was on during Christmas 1968, and whether his wounds were sufficiently severe to warrant a medal.
They completely overlooked the fact that he volunteered for Vietnam (as did Gore, as a military journalist) even though George Bush couldn’t be bothered to show up for reserve duty on an Air Force base in Alabama.
When “60 Minutes” did a damning report on Bush’s service, the Republican counter-attack was so ferocious that CBS totally caved. The media got all caught up in typefaces and other minutiae, forgetting the interviews in the piece that substantiated the story.
Today, the reporters are chasing their tails into irrelevance again, with stories about the email controversy minutiae that have nothing to do with anything. They track down little software companies. They fall for Congressional leaks of documents they don’t see.
They want to kick that football because that’s what they always do. They will regret it in a year or so, and see how they were misled, because that’s what always happens. Meanwhile, the press will flail away and land on its back, again.
The press can change the game, too, if they want. This is where Bernie Sanders (bet you thought I forgot about him) is right. Someone dug up an essay he had written in 1972, misinterpreted it and tried to make an issue of it.
Sanders didn’t bite. He has told off reporters for asking questions about nonsense and ignoring the real debates that should be going on – not about 43-year-old essays or email but about how the middle class has disappeared.
The political press should listen and not be drawn into artificial “scandals” and “disputes” promoted by campaign operatives. Don’t run up to the football. Walk away.
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