|Where is our Joe Welch speaking out over indecent behavior?|
Rudy Giuliani’s announced and then canceled trip to Ukraine to encourage that government to find dirt on Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s only surviving son, proved too obviously low for even Trump’s senior advisers – but only after pronounced criticism from both parties.
Trump immediately struck again in his now routine departure from normal behavior by injecting self-praising politics into a famous annual Fourth of July celebration, hoping to insert an “ain’t I great” speech into a nonpartisan patriotic moment.
Such antics brought to mind Joseph Welch, distinguished special counsel for the Army in 1954, who finally halted Sen. Joe McCarthy’s overwrought appeal to fear and innuendo by simply asking, “At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency?”
That is the only proper response to the machinations of Donald Trump, who so fears people think a foreign power helped get him elected that the first thing he wants to do against Biden in the 2020 campaign is get a foreign government to embarrass a family member and interfere in our election.
The Ukraine affair and the Fourth of July threat are tips of an iceberg that includes bizarre Tweet attacks on former employees, revocation of press credentials, contradicting his own staff and other uproars so typical of Trump’s modus operandi – to trot out something outrageous and see how much attention he gets from the media whether he does it or not.
These “no sense of decency” moments ought to catapult the American electorate into seeing how far from basic morality Trump is willing to stray. That the nation accepts this would confound the mild-mannered Welch – whose putdown of McCarthy drew national magazine covers -- and shows how far we have drifted from the traditional America Trump keeps talking about, though he clearly doesn’t know what it was. Welch was a touchstone, the sort we need again.
You don’t have to want Biden as president to realize Trump is counting on the media to magnify by repetition any weird action or political dirtiness he attempts, with Rudy as handmaiden.
It has already happened regarding Biden. The only reason most of the country now knows Trump’s nasty nickname for Biden – sleepy creepy Joe – is because news outlets, even MSNBC, repeated it hourly – sometimes in laughter but they repeated it nevertheless.
Trump is the president, the media argues, so every utterance has to be covered. But ratings concerns have clearly infected the networks. Obama’s controlled face never got half the airtime of the plastic-putty puss. There is no journalistic justification for how often his repetitious rally ramblings and predictable nastiness get airtime.
The media is mystified – stupefied – on how to handle someone so willing to be unconventional and even immoral out in the open, untouched by the normal control brake of shame. Since the Mueller report did not criminally nail him for his footsies with foreign powers, he figures footsie can continue. Anything not directly forbidden will rear up again.
|McCarthy (left) consulting with Roy Cohn|
during 1954 hearings.
In we can read facial language into videos from 65 years ago, Cohn was not happy with McCarthy’s ploy because he saw early – like the Ukraine fiasco – it could backfire into elevating McCarthy’s enemies. McCarthy’s overreach was much like Trump’s – he tried to embarrass Fred Fisher, a Welch assistant for a short time and a member of a Boston law firm who at Harvard joined the lawyers guild, which had been cleared by DOJ but labeled a ‘‘Communist front'' by the now notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities.
McCarthy’s violent stretch of the facts – trying to discredit Welch and the Army by reaching for any red paint he could find -- is parallel to the Ukraine trip and similar Trump outrages, sometimes against the advice of his modern day Cohns.
Biden’s older son, Beau, a rising political force, was stricken by brain cancer. The grief over his death is the main reason Joe Biden did not run in 2016, while many are certain he would have done better than Hillary Clinton in the states that turned out to be vital – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump seems to suspect that also and he is turning up the pressure that Biden himself forecast – “he’ll go after my family.”
Hunter, the younger son, has had a slightly troubled life, the kind the tabloids Trump loves might exploit -- a divorce, allegations of drug use, Page Six breathlessness when he dated Beau’s widow and now in Ukraine as board member of an oil company cleared of charges in the new, less Soviet friendly government.
What this has to do with Joe is minimal. Guiliani’s second advertised reason for talking up Ukraine, to get dope on Mueller and how the probe of Trump started, is equally delusional. But note how Trump reaches for foreign help when facing opponents like Hillary and Joe who have a valuable foreign reputation, the sort of reputation he doesn’t.
The liberal school of thought doesn’t believe – or want to believe -- Trump made it to the presidency in 2016 on his own hook and crook. It evokes in them a frightening view of anti-intellectual Americans. I have to remind myself that in Wisconsin, 1,405,284 people voted for him. (For number nerds, Hillary gathered 1,382,536 and would surely have won drawing a fair share of the third party candidates, as the spilled milk people will tell you.) My question today is simpler: Are those voters still there? Can the Trump voters stand by him now? It’s not just me asking. TV news crews are busy interviewing voters about shifts in opinion.
Yet something about his methods apparently appeals to a section of Americans, which suggests a segment of the public so upset by the establishment that they wanted a maverick, even if the maverick has now proven a con artist and destroyed our foreign reputation while clinging to a rich man’s view of an economy that hardly addresses the pocketbook issues.
I don’t know if Biden will be the voters’ final choice, though I have written about why he seems so appealing to voters and so scary to Trump.
I suspect that Trump gimmicks like the Ukraine – trying to destroy him by destroying his children -- will only increase Biden’s support. The election is about more than revealing Trump as a charlatan, but that’s a good start for angry voters. They are suffering under Trump’s foreign stumbles, refusal to act on climate change, undoing deals that were good in the first place – and simply pretending that just being in the office gives him a license to misbehave.
No, the election should be about the best ideas for government and what the public regards as the best ideas. The Biden appeal is predicated on a known quantity who can be moved to the left and is going to benefit from all the cheap shots Trump throws at him. He is too old-fashioned for some of the voters who wanted him in 2016 when he was 72 – and given two terms would have been a president at 80. But suddenly 76 feels too old out of the starting gate, though strangely you don’t hear the same sniping about 77 year old Bernie Sanders.
The progressives see strong younger presidential candidates out of the 20 or so running. One or two may still catch fire. The issue is whether the electorate feels the same necessity for speed and youthful vigor. It is too simplistic – as Kirsten Gillibrand proclaimed to the media -- that only Biden’s name recognition has him so far ahead. The non-hyphenated Democrats who make up the bulk of the vote are responding to more than name value.
Remember, in 2007, a year out from the contest, few voters even knew who Barack Obama was, but they measured him against the rest of the field.