The Way It Should Be

President-elect Joe Biden is acting presidential, handling the transition with aplomb, making all the right moves while not letting the clown show at the White House distract him from preparing to take office on January 20, 2021.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump shows no interest in actually doing the job of president despite attempting a coup to remain in power. He has given up on stemming the pandemic, even as cases soar, hospitalizations rise, and daily deaths surpass the number of those killed on 9/11. He remains disengaged even as experts predict worse to come. Though Trump refuses to govern, he does have time to videotape a 46-minute, lie-filled rant challenging the results of the “rigged” election while refusing to denounce the outrageous calls for violence by some of his more deranged supporters. Oh, and the not-presidential president has time for golf. 

It does not take a rocket scientist to determine who is acting presidential, showing the pubic the way conduct in the office ishould be, and who is not.

President-elect Joe Biden announcing some of the members of his team

Biden has been nearly flawless in his handling of the transition. He is putting together a team of White House advisers and Cabinet appointees that looks like America — with women and minorities designated for major roles — while satisfying the Democratic Party’s diverse ideological constituencies (though the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Transportation Secretary, as rumored, likely could set off a firestorm on the left). Biden has mixed new blood with seasoned veterans of government service, and his appointments indicate that he wants the government to work efficiently in meeting the needs of all citizens, no matter for whom individuals voted. 

The president-elect has refused to allow Trump to distract him from forming a government. Biden largely ignored Trump’s peevish refusal to permit government officials to meet with Biden’s transition team. He declined to sue to force Trump to permit legally required actions, such as turning over transition funds to the incoming administration and giving Biden aides access to government office space and equipment. The outgoing administration’s delay in providing national security briefings as well as its refusal to share information on plans to distribute vaccines, no doubt, has hampered Biden’s ability to prepare for his first day in office. But, other than calling Trump an “embarrassment,” Biden has refused to engage in a war of words with the petulant toddler in the White House. Biden, in other words, is acting like a statesman. 

Biden has indicated that, unlike Trump, he will actively engage the government in curbing the coronavirus pandemic. He has said he will not shut down the country, while stressing that imposing restrictions depends on local conditions. And, Biden refreshingly has urged everyone to wear a mask and socially distance. “Does anybody understand why a governor would turn this into a political statement?” Biden asked recently. ”It’s about patriotism.”

The president-elect with his new boot

The incoming president’s openness about his recent broken foot stands in stark contrast to the lack of transparency over Trump’s health shown by the current president and his doctors. This past weekend, Biden slipped while playing with his dog. The press was quickly informed that Biden was going to see an orthopedist and then told the results of a CT scan. The public still does not know why Trump made a surprise visit to the Walter Reed hospital over Thanksgiving, 2019.

Biden is in for some rough sledding in the months ahead. The Democrats lost a slew of seats in the House last month, and while they are still a majority in the lower chamber, the slimness of their edge likely will amplify divisions within the party. As for the Senate, if the Democratic candidates for Senate in Georgia do not win both seats, Majority leader Mitch McConnell will get to reprise the role he played as an obstructionist during the latter years of President Barack Obama’s tenure. Even if the Democrats win both seats, the 50-50 split between both parties will give outsized influence to moderate Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

President Donald Trump delivering a 46-minute diatribe on the recent election

As for now, however, Biden is pushing all the right buttons. His normality is a welcome relief from the endless lying, corruption, and incompetence of the Trump administration. Trump’s malevolence was on full display Wednesday in the release of what the president immodestly said “may be the most important speech I’ve ever made.” It was an astonishing compendium of baseless allegations of voter fraud mixed with outright lies about switched votes, discarded ballots, the dead voting, and Republican poll watchers denied access to both the voting and the tabulation.

Trump’s diatribe was as persuasive as the numerous attempts of his legal team to get election results overturned in the courts. So far, Trump’s lawsuits largely have been dismissed as lacking evidence of fraud and ridiculed as frivolous. Appellate Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote an opinion for a three-judge panel denying the Trump team’s suit contesting the Pennsylvania results. “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Bibas wrote. The president’s lawyers, like the president himself, frequently yell fraud, but when they step into court, they fail to present any evidence of election “rigging.” The reason is obvious: As Judge Bibas observed, Trump’s legal team has no evidence. It is one thing to lie to the public in a taped speech, as Trump did Wednesday, or in a press conference, as his lawyers have. It is another thing to lie in court.

Lying to remain president is what Trump will do up to Inauguration Day. The lies will continue after Trump is out of the White House as he tries to stay relevant and stoke the anger of his supporters (assuming, that is, he is not in jail). Trump’s unpresidential behavior is unique in the history of the office. His actions are unlike those of any of his forty-four predecessors. The public was reminded of that with the release last month of Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land. It is a door-stop of a book, but a joyous read because the former president is a superb writer. Long and detailed, but never tedious nor repetitious, Obama’s book reminds us of what “normal” means in the White House.

And, as President-elect Joe Biden is showing us during the transition, normal is what he will be as president. We can all breathe easier after January 21, 2021. It will be the way it should be.

Posted December 4, 2020

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