Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 presidential bid this week with a video. He looked into the camera and talked about the torch-wielding white supremacists of Charlottesville, Virginia, with an opening argument that aimed to leap over his primary opponents, across the generation gap, straight at President Trump. “We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” he said.
He’s older, he’s white, he’s straight, he’s a guy – but in a Democratic field that “looks like a Benetton ad,” don’t hold that against him, said Republican Ana Navarro. “Joe Biden brings a lot to the table. He is everything Trump is not. He knows policy. He is a uniter. He calls for our better angels. He is empathetic and draws on his own grief to console and encourage others through theirs. He laughs easily. He is decent.”
And the main thing? “He is normal.” Right now, Navarro said, “‘normal’ sounds really good to me.”
David Gergen, James Piltch and Blythe Riggan weren’t so sure of Biden’s chances, after watching five of his opponents appear in Monday’s marathon of town halls on CNN. “His chief opponents are more formidable than they may have appeared in the early going, and the generational gap within the field may well work in favor of the younger candidates.”
One of those opponents, Elizabeth Warren, is the star who may eclipse another high-flying Biden rival, Bernie Sanders, wrote Jess McIntosh.
Scott Jennings saw in the five-candidate evening “socialism on parade.” As he watched, “I imagined my taxes going up. I imagined my guns and pickup truck being confiscated by the Green New Deal police. I imagined Donald Trump being impeached. I imagined Bernie Sanders ordering his bros to pick me up by the ankles and shake the change from my pockets.”
Biden’s pluses and minuses
Joe Biden’s move to invoke Charlottesville was smart, wrote Dean Obeidallah. “I can assure the 2020 candidates that Trump’s demonization of communities, from blacks to Latinos to the disabled to transgender Americans to my own – Muslim Americans,” is very much on the minds of the progressive base.
Susan Crabtree, in RealClearPolitics, took a look at bad things people say about Biden – he’s handsy, he bullied Anita Hill, he opposed desegregation, he’s a gaffe machine – and wondered whether Trump may have actually softened the ground for him.
“In the era of Donald J. Trump, with his freewheeling rallies and over-the-top combative Twitter jabs, authenticity reigns supreme over more scripted, polished pols,” she wrote. “What amounted to weaknesses in Biden’s previous presidential campaigns could emerge as strengths.”
But Matthew Yglesias, in Vox, foresaw a Hillary Clinton problem. Biden may be likable enough, but he will still face “extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. … Americans like outsiders and fresh faces, not veteran insiders who bear the scars of every political controversy of the past two generations.”
Prepare to die, Game of Thrones characters
Tonight on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Gene Seymour warned, “we’re prepared to have our guts wrenched and hearts broken.” Someone is going to die, naturally. Who will it be? Seymour hates to spoil it, but “if you insist on some idle, haphazard speculation, you’ve come to the right place.” We won’t give his educated guesses away – but Brienne of Tarth? Grey Worm? Gendry? Watch your back. (HBO is a subsidiary of WarnerMedia, which owns CNN).
Last week, of course, brought an altogether different shocker for Thrones fans: Arya, a young assassin, a character they’ve known since she was 11, lost her virginity. Some viewers balked. Double standard, wrote Holly Thomas: She is 18 now – why shouldn’t she get on top? “A young woman claiming her sexuality apparently still challenged some viewers,” Thomas wrote. “For young female audiences who are too often fed a diet of nerves and submission around first-time sex however, Arya’s approach marks a welcome shift toward sexual autonomy.”
Mueller report: Now what?
As Democrats tangled over what to do in the wake of Attorney General William Barr’s release of the (redacted) Mueller report, Hillary Clinton weighed in with an op-ed for The Washington Post. Robert Mueller’s report is “a road map” for both parties, she wrote. “Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment,” and look to Watergate for precedents. “We have to get this right,” she wrote.
Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig dug in on reader questions about the report, among them, “How could the White House be given access to the report before Congress?” Honig’s answer: It was legal and a “baldly political act” reflecting “Barr’s political solicitude of Trump.” Shanlon Wu, also a former federal prosecutor, lamented Mueller’s obstruction of justice punt. A misplaced sense of modesty was the culprit, Wu surmised: “A decision to announce that the President of the United States had committed a crime but would not be charged would have placed him front and center at one of the most controversial decisions of the modern political era. I think Mueller did not want that to be his legacy.”
What explains rich-kid terrorists
A week after suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches and hotels killed and wounded hundreds, authorities there urged people to worship at home. As police searched for conspirators, Peter Bergen asked: “Why would well-educated, upper-middle-class folks with seemingly everything to live for blow themselves up and kill so many innocents?” Terrorism is often an endeavor of the privileged, he wrote. Osama Bin Laden, the “underwear bomber,” the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, to name just a few, came from money.
Frida Ghitis, recounting her travels in Sri Lanka, warned that the attacks could revive deadly ethnic and religious tensions in a place that has grown welcoming to tourists. Decisive action to root out terrorists is needed, “but let’s hope cool thinking prevails. Sri Lanka’s peace is fragile,” she cautioned. “Fanatics intent on sparking unrest, on boosting recruitment and weakening the state like nothing more than to see the state make life worse for their potential supporters.”
The banishing of Kate Smith
Gene Seymour responded to the news that Kate Smith was suddenly persona non grata in sports arenas for singing racist songs in the ’30s. “History, however mortifying, demeaning or sickening,” cannot be changed, he wrote, after the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers decided to stop playing Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” at games because of ugliness in her old catalog. The Flyers also removed a statue of her outside their arena. Fine, said Seymour, but “instead of sweeping such anachronistic, paternalistic claptrap under the proverbial rug,” shouldn’t we be waging a more meaningful struggle against racism, like “eliminating disparities in housing, opportunities and everyday treatment under the law?”
As he heads into a tough re-election bid, with Democrats nipping at his heels over his tax returns, allegations from the Mueller report and more, Donald Trump may not be able to take a second term for granted. Here’s an idea, wrote Arick Wierson: Trade in Vice President Mike Pence for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Advantages abound, he argued: “Trump would make history by selecting a woman of color with a deep political resumé and foreign policy gravitas – making it the most diverse ticket in the history of the GOP.” It would deliver the “ultimate coup de grace” to Democrats’ 2020 hopes.
Alice Stewart, the former communications director for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, had some advice of her own – for the 20 Democrats candidates. It’s great to play to the base on core progressive issues such as Medicare for All and clean energy, but remember: Dems “need a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in the general election, which may involve appealing more overtly to centrists.” Be civil (polls say voters overwhelmingly want that) and “never, I mean never, eat a corn dog in front of the media at the Iowa State Fair. Just Google that last one – you’ll understand.”
Other smart takes on politics today:
Julian Zelizer: Trump’s stonewalling of Congress is a constitutional crisis.
John Avlon: Andrew Cuomo asked 35 questions. I have some answers.
Meghan and Harry
The royal baby watch is heating up, but there’s another reason Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were all over the British tabloids. The couple is reportedly considering moving to Africa after Baby Sussex is born. Don’t do it, pleaded a British professor, Kehinde Andrews, citing the ugly echoes of colonialism. The couple would “not be representing modern multiracial couples everywhere, but the colonial institution that is the British monarchy.”
The couple made the British press even shirtier by announcing that they were having their baby at home and skipping the traditional post-birth public viewing. But Kara Alaimo fumed in their defense. “As a new mom, I’m outraged by all the outrage,” she wrote. “It’s deplorable to expect Meghan to get all dressed up after delivering a baby so she can be viewed by others, instead of focusing on her own needs and those of her family.”
Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir differed – with darts. “Is it too awful to suggest that perhaps they also need time to art-direct the first tasteful monochrome photoshoot of Baby Sussex swaddled in Soho House cashmere and then upload it to their Instagram account?”
Citizenship question could change 2024 elections
The Supreme Court heard arguments on the Trump administration’s request to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. “The result could be devastating for political representation,” wrote Joshua A. Douglas, costing states with large minority populations congressional seats and reducing their Electoral College clout starting in 2024. “A citizenship question that undercounts states with heavy concentrations of noncitizens in urban areas would dilute the influence of more populous states even more.”
Back in the 2000s, Stephen Moore lamented in the National Review: “Is there no area in life where men can take vacation from women?” Moore, the former Wall Street Journal editorial board member and former CNN contributor, is President Trump’s choice for the Federal Reserve Board (another candidate, Herman Cain, backed out amid concern over earlier allegations of sexual harassment). Moore’s comments about women, surfaced by CNN’s KFile, were made in jest, he insists. Roxanne Jones wasn’t buying it. “Please,” she wrote. “America needs a vacation from men like Moore. It’s time to stop branding these type of men successful leaders. Stop electing them. Stop promoting them. Time for media to stop hiring them, excusing their misogyny while professing to respect women. The hate speech of the Trump mini-mes isn’t funny. It never was.”
Rape as a tool of war
The UN Security Council this week passed a resolution to help survivors of wartime sexual violence – but only after weakening it under pressure from the Trump administration, which objected to its sections about providing sexual and reproductive health resources to victims. Jill Filipovic was outraged. “How shameful that the American government is in league with some of the world’s worst human rights abusers in asserting that, in the name of ‘life,’ we won’t help the world’s most vulnerable rape victims recover.”
“Shrill” flips the script on “fat” and “millennial”
“Fat. F-a-t. FAT. Roll the word around in your mouth until you can comfortably accept that fat is a truthful adjective devoid of intention,” wrote Sarah Conley. She was speaking of the effort by fat-acceptance activists to reclaim the word. A Hulu show, “Shrill,” and its star, Aidy Bryant, do just that. “We fall in love with her because for many of us, we finally see ourselves fully represented on screen,” Conley wrote. “‘Shrill’ is a much-needed love letter to loving your body, standing up for yourself, and the power of community. For once, it feels like we’re actually winning.”
Hey, Meathead: Archie Bunker is back
Depending on your politics, Archie Bunker was either a retrograde racist or he was a righteous white man who, in 1970s America, “spoke to the anxieties of countless working- and middle-class families across the country,” wrote L. Benjamin Rolsky. Whoever Archie was, he’s back. The impresario Norman Lear is reviving the “All in the Family” character for a TV special. It’s a tricky needle to thread, said Rolsky: The old show was satirical comedy, but “satire only works if its audiences understand it as such. Otherwise, satire can often cultivate the very thing it seeks to examine critically, such as bigotry and racism.”
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