No Ordinary Joe

Joe Biden, old and a bit scattered, but pleasant and well-meaning and open, who wants the nation to get back to being calm and sensible, with minimal shouting, is running for president as kind of an ordinary Joe – a decent man who’s not going to kick anyone in the face. He doesn’t sneer. He’s not out to humiliate anyone. He just wants to get things done – ordinary things – the useful things. There’s too much anger everywhere. And it’s getting worse. And it has to stop. And he’s not Donald Trump. He’s a decent man. He’s an ordinary Joe, which used to be a good thing and can become a good thing again. So vote for the ordinary Joe. Make America nice again. Make America decent again. Make America rather boring again. Joe Biden doesn’t stand a chance in this America. Donald Trump is too slick. Donald Trump is too nasty. Winners are both. America will choose a winner. Do the right thing? That’s for losers.

No ordinary Joe will ever defeat Donald Trump, but Trump can lose reelection if there’s another kind of Joe out there, and there is:

Former Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh predicted the GOP would lose big in 2020 if they choose to stick with President Trump as the party’s nominee, and said he blames himself for the commander in chief’s political rise.

“Trump’s unqualified. He’s unfit. He’s a child. He’s reckless. He’s erratic. He’s a narcissist,” Walsh said Monday on Morning Joe. “If he’s our nominee in 2020, the Republican Party is going to get spanked, because young people don’t like Trump. Women don’t like Trump and people who live in the suburbs don’t like Trump.”

And yes, he used to be an asshole supporting this jerk now in the White House, but now he knows better:

Walsh said the Tea Party and the GOP are to blame for Trump’s being vaulted into the White House and expressed sudden regret at his past political views because they helped the president attain power.

“Look, I think I’m partly responsible for Trump and that’s kind of a scary thing to say,” he said.

So this is a reverse Joe Biden. Walsh admits he used to be a racist jerk, a bigot, a liar, and all the rest, and says maybe he still is, but at least he knows better now:

Walsh continued to express personal shame for having voted for Trump and said his apology for his past views should be seen as a positive.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, this man’s never apologized for anything. So here I am in front of you this morning – yes, raising my hands. I helped put Trump in the White House,” he said.

“I’m ashamed of that. I feel terrible about that. I’m going to try to redeem myself about that. But most importantly, the country can’t let this guy get reelected. We’re being run right now by a child and that’s pretty damn scary.”

Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld have announced they are challenging Trump for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Neither will get anywhere with that, and Henry Olsen sees things this way:

Opponents of President Trump often say he should be tossed out of office because of his temperament and demeanor. Now Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, is primarying him with an unusual implicit slogan: Hold my beer.

In short, he’s offering Trumpism without Trump:

Walsh’s history of outrageous allegations and misstatements rivals Trump’s… Walsh has endorsed birtherism, alleged that former president Barack Obama is a Muslim, used racial slurs in tweets and on the air in his radio show, and once had a dispute over unpaid child-support payments with an ex-wife. In short, Walsh’s background is extremely similar, and in some ways identical, to that which purportedly is the reason Americans should toss Trump out.

And yes, that makes no sense:

No one actually believes Joe Walsh is going to defeat Donald Trump, least of all Walsh himself. The whole point of the endeavor is to weaken Trump among Republicans to make a Democratic victory in the fall more likely…

That is precisely the conundrum that millions of conservatives and Republicans have wrestled with for years. On one hand, many conservatives see Trump’s deficiencies quite clearly. On the other, the choices presented in the primary and the general election mean conservatives would have to abandon policy positions they care deeply about if they abandoned Trump. Those who wrestle with this on a daily basis are frequently criticized as racists and moral reprobates by anti-Trumpers from across the political spectrum. It’s not an easy position to be in.

Michael Tomasky agrees with that:

On the one hand, Walsh is obviously not going to win the Republican nomination for president. He served a mere one term in Congress. He may not raise much money and thus may not be able to run anything like a conventional campaign. More recently, however, he has been a Rottweiler biting Trump’s corpulent ass. I’m sure you’ve seen some of his tweets over the years. They’re vicious. So the guy ain’t afraid. And though he’s a pretty rabid right-winger, most of his tweets about Trump read as if they could have been written by anybody with politics more like mine – they’re almost entirely about what a lying, unprincipled hulk of condemned meat Trump is.

Walsh, then, is onto something. More than a few Republicans know that Trump is unqualified and unfit and a child and reckless and erratic and a narcissist. They may be forced to do something about that. Walsh makes his case, but Donald Trump helps him out.

There was that final press conference in Biarritz. The G7 summit was over. Donald Trump did his best impression of a lying unprincipled hulk of condemned meat. The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey tells the tale:

For many minutes on Monday, President Trump stood on foreign soil at the close of the Group of Seven summit here and trashed his predecessor. He bragged about his personal properties from the presidential podium and suggested that he will hold next year’s G-7 gathering at his Doral golf course in Florida, which has “incredible” conference rooms and “magnificent” bungalows.

And he defended both Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, suggesting that the Russian strongman deserves an invite to future G-7 summits and that the North Korean dictator is an honorable man who will not let Trump down.

Joe Walsh must have been smiling, because Trump was thorough and seemed quite mad:

He attacked former president Barack Obama’s intellect while defending Putin for annexing part of Crimea – a move that drove Russia’s expulsion from what was then called the G-8. To many world leaders, Putin’s move was illegal and had nothing to do with Obama. To Trump, it showed that his predecessor was a sucker and that criticizing him (along with former vice president “Sleepy Joe” Biden, in Trump’s words) was fair banter. He veered into a similar diatribe on Obama not enforcing a “red line” in Syria, though he was not queried on the topic.

“President Putin outsmarted President Obama,” Trump said, calling it “very embarrassing” for Obama. The realpolitik of the world, he said, meant Russia should be in the room at future summits. And he said he would like to invite Putin next year to his golf course, claiming without evidence that other leaders agreed with his predilection – even as they said otherwise.

He was on another planet, one where black folks were out to get him:

Asked why he continued to falsely blame Obama for the annexation of Crimea, as he did almost a dozen times Monday, the president suggested that he knew the black journalist asking the question, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News, had an ulterior motive. “I know you like President Obama,” he said, without saying how he knew that.

All he knows is that all black people stick together and they’re all out to get him, every damned one of them, and then there was China:

Trump admitted no blunder in his escalating trade fight with China, even as his flummoxing moves have rattled the markets and his own aides.

In four days, Trump imposed new tariffs on China, called the country’s president an “enemy,” admitted “second thoughts” on the escalating trade war, reversed course hours later to say he only wished he had raised the tariffs higher, and then vowed a deal would be coming soon – because China wants one desperately, in the president’s telling. Doesn’t that make it harder, a reporter asked, to make a deal?

“Sorry, it’s how I negotiate,” he said. “It’s been very successful over the years.”

It has? There were the four bankruptcies, and now he has a bit of explaining to do:

His assertion that China is itching to strike a compromise has been contradicted by multiple reports and Chinese officials. When Fox News reporter John Roberts expressed skepticism, Trump forged ahead by saying the Chinese had been working behind the scenes.

Trump claimed to have gotten two phone calls on Sunday night from high-ranking Chinese officials seeking to negotiate a trade deal. “High-level calls,” he said.

Chinese government officials said Monday that they were unaware of any such calls. When Trump asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to back him up, Mnuchin would only say there had been “communication,” avoiding the word “call.” The treasury secretary quickly interjected again Monday afternoon to add “communications.”

The boss is lying. Cover for him. That was Mnuchin’s job. And then there was Iran:

Trump suggested that within weeks he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “Now, is that based on fact or based on gut? It’s based on gut,” he said. He added: “Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t. I say it all the time about everything.”

Although he said French President Emmanuel Macron asked his permission to invite Iran’s foreign minister to the G-7, Macron said that he simply “informed” Trump in advance of his plan and that it was Macron’s idea alone.

Okay. He doesn’t plan. What will happen will happen, unless it doesn’t happen – he’ll take what comes – but there’s that other matter. Macron, France, any other EU or NATO nation, would not dare make any move or dare to do anything at all, without asking Donald Trump for permission. They know they have to ask daddy. They’re just kids. Macron called bullshit on that – nicely. He did what he did. Trump ain’t his daddy.

And the rest was just as odd:

At length, Trump boasted about his private properties. Trump refused to divest, unlike many of his predecessors, and has profited from an influx of Republican fundraisers and other political events. Questioned about the propriety of profiting from next year’s summit of world leaders, he batted down any concern.

“I don’t want to make money,” he said. “I don’t care about making money.”

His resort in Miami, he said, would make a terrific locale for the G-7 because of its bungalows, proximity to the airport, large ballrooms and substantial parking.

“Biggest ballrooms in Florida,” he said.

He offered an unproven claim, as he has done before, that the presidency has cost him $3 billion to $5 billion.

He has a standard answer to questions about these numbers he throws around. What, are you calling me a liar? And then he walks out.

And then things got even odder:

He then moved on to praise his golf courses in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Seeming to change course, he moved into a soliloquy about the nomenclature of Europe.

“What’s England? What’s happening with England? They don’t use it too much anymore,” Trump says he told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It’s Britain or the UK or England. It depends on what you’re talking about. He doesn’t like that. But no one knew why he brought that up, or why he said this:

He described both Iran and North Korea in terms of their real estate potential, saying the countries would want to deal with Trump because they sit on valuable, or gentrifying, properties.

“A location that’s a little rough neighborhood,” he said of Iran, in the middle of the war-torn Middle East. “But eventually it’s going to be a beautiful neighborhood.”

He showed no concern that the North Korean dictator had violated U.N. resolutions by firing missiles, instead saying that Kim would not personally disappoint Trump. In a long-winded answer, Trump nodded to his wife, Melania, and claimed she had gotten to know Kim Jong-un very well.

The White House later acknowledged that Kim and the U.S. first lady have never met.

Ah well, he was just talking, because he likes to talk, and all this ended with this:

Even as he spent several days on Twitter decrying the “Fake and Disgusting News,” he seemed much more enthusiastic once Macron left the stage and he was able to hold forth alone.

“You can’t say I don’t give you access,” he said.

This is a child, and Jonathan Chait notes the serious stuff:

Five years ago, Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine and stole a chunk of its territory, the first redrawing of an international border since World War II. As punishment, Russia was expelled from the G-8, a blow to Vladimir Putin’s prestige. President Trump spent this year’s G-7 summit, as he had the previous one, pleading for the Russian dictator to be readmitted.

In a press conference, Trump testified that, before his capricious expulsion, Putin was a loved and valued member of the elite group. “I heard he was a great member of the G8… People feel very much like me, many people.”

What people, where? But he has his own version of reality:

Crimea was sort of taken away from President Obama. Not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. … President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him. Right. It was very embarrassing to him and he wanted Russia to be out of the, what was called the G8, and that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin. He was outsmarted. President Putin outsmarted President Obama.

What? Chait tries to make sense of this:

Just how Putin outsmarted Obama, Trump did not say. When a big country invades a smaller neighbor, the only certain way to reverse the invasion is to go to war. Obviously Trump is not saying Obama should have invaded Russia. Short of going to war, the only options for stopping a military invasion are to impose diplomatic pressure (such as expelling Russia from the G-8) and economic pressure (as such sanctions).

And that’s what Obama did, which drives Trump crazy:

Of course, Trump has set out to reverse those punishments, making his attempt to shift blame to Obama especially Orwellian. Obama is the one who imposed consequences for Russia’s invasion that might at least discourage further encroachments. Trump is the one working to undo those punishments, allowing Putin to reap the rewards of the invasion at no cost, and possibly to grab more territory if he desires. It is a completely Orwellian spectacle for the president working to undo the response to Russia’s attack blame the president who helped impose it for the invasion itself.

Ah, but that’s only logic talking, and Chait concedes that something else might be going on:

It is possible Trump is using this bizarre argument to sell his base on his Russophillic policy – using Obama as a bogeyman allows him to distract from the fact he’s acting as sidekick to a foreign enemy. It’s also possible Putin presented this argument to Trump, who harbors his own obsessive hatred and envy for Obama, and actually believes it.

Remarkably, Trump’s performance behind closed doors managed to go even farther in pleading Putin’s case.

The Washington Post covered that:

At the Biarritz summit, Trump punctuated almost every public appearance with his desire to bring Putin to the meeting in the future.

Other leaders knew the push was coming, although some advisers said they did not expect he would bring it up so forcefully. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who has little sympathy for Russia, tried to head it off even before Trump touched down in Biarritz.

“One year ago, in Canada, President Trump suggested re-inviting Russia to the G-7, stating openly that Crimea’s annexation by Russia was partially justified. And that we should accept this fact. Under no condition can we agree with this logic,” Tusk told reporters on Saturday.

“When Russia was invited to the G-7 for the first time, it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights,” Tusk added. “Is there anyone among us who can say with full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?”

Donald Tusk did not mention Barack Obama in there at all, and then there was that dinner:

The leaders sat down Saturday evening for their first joint meeting – a dinner of Basque specialties at the foot of the landmark lighthouse of Biarritz. The meal started normally, with a discussion of the fires in the Amazon. It moved on to containing Iran’s nuclear threat. But it went off the rails when Trump blasted leaders for not including Russia.

Most of them said this was just like having Putin himself in the room:

Having such a forceful advocate for an authoritarian leader inside the room of democracies profoundly shaped the overall tone of the summit, one senior official said.

“The consequence is the same as if one of the participants is a dictator,” the official said.

One of the participants was, or maybe not. Charles Blow argues that this is something else:

For Donald Trump, all is personal.

And in his view, he is not the executive of the company. He is the embodiment of the country. He runs the country the way he ran his business, as the curating and promotion of his personal brand.

The people who support him are customers – people to be sold a vision and a dream. The people who criticize or oppose him threaten the brand and must be dealt with.

For Trump, everything is image-based and rooted in the appearance of personal relationships. When the Danish prime minister rebuffed his overture about buying Greenland, calling the idea “absurd,” Trump threw a tantrum and canceled his visit to Denmark.

That’s not a dictator, that’s a man-child:

Everything in Trump’s view is about whether someone is nice or nasty to him. It’s not about the country at all. It’s not about historical precedent or value of continuity.

His dislike of his predecessors – Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even Jimmy Carter – is personal, not rooted in policy. He has a particular obsession with Obama, and has set about to undo everything Obama had done.

It’s petty and small and beneath the presidency, much like Trump himself.

And that’s dangerous:

Trump hated North Korea’s Kim Jong-un before he loved him. Kim has played Trump like a fiddle. Kim has baited Trump into two summits, where Trump got nothing and Kim got a priceless public relations moment. Kim can just send Trump love letters and do what he wants and surrender nothing. In Trump’s paradigm of the personal, Kim likes him and is his friend.

Vladimir Putin is also exploiting Trump’s personal need to be liked – his weak man’s desire to be admired by strong men. Trump has a deep and mysterious affection for Putin. Yes, Putin helped to get him elected, but I’m not sure even that explains the way Trump genuflects for him.

Everyone around Trump knows his weakness: He is a bottomless pit of emotional need, someone who desperately wants friends but doesn’t have the emotional quotient to know how to make and keep them. So, they flatter him and inflate him.

And that’s where Blow says we are now:

Trump is a slave to his emotions, and this impulse is doing great harm to the nation, both internally and on the world stage. I’m not sure that damage is irreparable. Our democracy, though fragile in many ways, has proved remarkably durable in others. But there is no doubt that the damage Trump is doing is deep and will take time and effort to undo.

And that may be beyond the power of Joe Biden, the Ordinary Joe, to undo, even if he becomes the next president, somehow. Joe Walsh, the guy as nasty as Trump but now sorry about that, but still just as nasty, but at least not crazy, can undo nothing at all.

And there’s this cultural reference:

“Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” is a song composed by Harold Arlen, with lyrics written by Yip Harburg, written for the 1943 film musical Cabin in the Sky, recorded by the MGM Studio Orchestra and sung by Ethel Waters. The song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1943 but lost out to “You’ll Never Know.”

It’s sentimental. Sometimes an ordinary Joe is all anyone really needs to be happy. Maybe that’s Joe Biden. But you’ll never know. And of course, four years earlier, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg wrote “Over the Rainbow” for another MGM musical. There is that land where everything is just fine, over the rainbow, somewhere or other.

That’s nice, but we have Donald Trump.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to No Ordinary Joe

  1. dick bernard says:

    For many years, anyone anywhere near Trumps orbit has known exactly what they were getting – a con man. This includes those smitten by The Apprentice and sho followed him from the time he walked down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015, and announced for President. But we like excitement, it seems. He’d be a good pitchman at our Minnesota State Fair now in progress; up in the grandstand selling a wonder product which doesn’t work when you get it home and with a worthless warranty. No matter. He was entertaining. We got what we deserved, and it will be hard to find anyone who proudly voted for him.

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