Forest fires, Biden vs. Trump and more

Why Donald Trump should fear Joe Biden, how to prevent forest fires – if you’re not Smokey the Bear, what’s funny in Florida and the press vs. the White House. Perspectives in prose and pictures in this week’s Sunday Opinion pages for The Tribune.


Why Donald Trump should fear Joe Biden

Joe Biden is a gaffe-prone 75-year-old Washington veteran — who is exactly what Democrats need. The suburbs have turned against Republicans, but Donald Trump’s working-class base is still with him in a geographic and demographic stand-off that will — absent a game-changer — define the 2020 election.

The play for Democrats should be obvious: Make a serious appeal to Trump’s voters, take back the Blue Wall states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and win the presidency. In other words, go with Joe Biden or someone like him with a Midwestern or working-class sensibility (newly re-elected Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota come to mind).

His gruff manner, Catholic faith, Irish ethnic background, union-friendly politics and upbringing in Delaware via Pennsylvania make him as close as the contemporary national Democratic Party gets to a working-class match for the Great Lakes states that Trump stole from it in 2016. From this juncture, those states again look absolutely crucial. If the rest of the electoral map stays the same, Democrats need to win all three of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to take back the White House.

Even if they pick off 2016 red states Arizona and Georgia, they still need Michigan or Pennsylvania to get over 270. Conversely, it’s hard to see where Trump goes and wins new territory to make up for the loss of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Trump didn’t win those three states by much, by about 80,000 votes collectively. More than anything, he depended on running against a Democratic candidate who was unacceptable to working-class whites. Right now, it looks like he needs a repeat performance by the Democrats, and he may well get one. The Democrats don’t usually do old and familiar, at least not when they win.

The last three Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were fresh-faced newcomers on the national scene. And then, there are the party’s new obsessions. Class has been trumped by race and gender, and as a white male Biden is 0-2. Inequality is now less of a motivator than intersectionality, economic privilege less of a concern than white privilege.

This was a stumbling block for the class-obsessed Bernie Sanders last time, and would surely hamper Biden and Sherrod Brown in today’s even more fevered context. The Democrats are not set up to go with, in the derisive phrase, stale, pale and male. Perhaps they can find another Barack Obama-type candidate who lights up the base while having just enough draw for working-class whites.

There also is more than one way to win back the Blue Wall — higher black turnout could make the difference. But there’s a good chance that Democrats will get consumed by the hot-house dynamic of their nominating process, and select someone who, like those defeated progressive darlings of the midterms — Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum — is better suited to going down in a blaze of glory rather than winning over an increment of Trump voters.

If so, Joe Biden will be one of the few people in American history who could have won two straight presidential elections — in theory.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. (c) 2018 by King Features Synd., Inc.


The Dog-Eat-Dog World of Washington politics today

I’m always amazed that the Washington types I consider to be such jerks are completely different when I run into them at a dog park. They’re actually pleasant to be around. Our canine kids certainly are a good influence.

I find it interesting that President Donald Trump and his family don’t have any puppies, not even the ones that most politicians trot out for warm and fuzzy photo ops or campaign ads. But not Trump, maybe because he doesn’t do warm and fuzzy. Or perhaps it’s because he’s a major-league germaphobe and is worried about rabies.

Come to think of it, though, given some of the personalities in his administration, that’s probably not it. There’s some question about whether Harry Truman actually said it or not, but it’s still worth noting: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Donald Trump is no Harry Truman, to put it mildly. In addition, he clearly doesn’t care about having friends in Washington, or for that matter, anywhere beyond the rallies where crowds howl their approval nonstop, no matter how he foams at the mouth. He’s foaming a lot lately, growling constantly about how he can’t control the media packs no matter how he tries to intimidate them.

Even pulling a White House pass from that hot dog Jim Acosta didn’t cause Acosta or anybody else to cower. And when he tried his alpha act in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, who previously had tried to be friendly, seemed determined to prove that he is not Trump’s “poodle.” For those who don’t remember, that was the scornful label attached to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, because he was perceived to support anything President Bill Clinton would do.

Not this time around. In fact, Macron seemed to go out of his way to embarrass The Donald, particularly when in front of several world leaders he challenged Trump’s embrace of the loaded term “nationalist.” “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” said Macron through a translator. “By saying ‘our interests first, who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.”

That was the French president marking his territory, if you get my drift. So, another trip overseas, another embarrassment. But finally President Trump was safely ensconced in his home kennel. Back in the day, he used to be quite the horndog, at least according to his PR. But these days, instead of sniffing whatevers, he tweets: “The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”

Take that, Macron! Now the president can start taking a bite out of the high levels of his administration, dumping all those who have displeased him. We can expect more than two more years of this, as “Bulldog” Trump (many think he looks like one) wavers between snarling and whimpering as he hounds everyone who raises a leg against him.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2018 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.




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