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‘Clear and inescapable’: The choice between Trump and Biden

Columnist Peggy Noonan’s decision to go full-metal-jacket for Joe Biden in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday opens a new flank in the Democratic assault on the incumbent president. As one would expect from a scrupulous professional, Ms. Noonan has not taken up the cudgels in the most furious, disreputable tactics of the anti-Trump resistance these past four years. 

She did not explicitly buy into the Russia-Trump collusion fraud, was not a cheerleader for impeachment over unimpeachable activities and, as far as I observed, never touched the nonsense about the Logan Act, the Emoluments Clause or invocation of the 25th Amendment. She favored impeachment without suggesting whether President Trump should be convicted and removed. 

The one area where a reader could note that she had gone over to the barricades of Trump’s enemies was in her condemnation of his initially dismissive attitude to the coronavirus. This is something of an embarrassment for the president, but there was a widespread practice at the outset — including by such figures as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — to underrate the potential danger of the illness and to shore up public morale against initial panic. Of course, Democrats quickly abandoned that position when they saw the possibilities that a prolonged shutdown and an economic depression might enable them to snatch the election from the jaws of defeat, where it was before the onset of the illness.

Noonan has not been militantly hostile to most of Trump’s policies. She is, after all, a Reagan Republican and no great friend, politically speaking, of most Democrats. While she never gave Trump much credit for anything, she did not dispute his economic success, renunciation of the Paris climate and Iranian nuclear agreements, renegotiation of trade deals, building the wall on the southern border, identifying China’s threat or helping to conciliate Israel and a number of Arab powers. Her objections to Trump have been almost entirely to his garish personality and awkward administrative style, punctuated by endless indiscretions, frequent changes of personnel and fierce (if often humorous) disputes with former close colleagues. 

Noonan might agree with many of Trump’s policies but she is unable to abide him as a person, especially in the great office he holds. With her latest column she elaborates on the evolution of her views, moving from an attack on Trump as a person to a formidable defense of Joe Biden as a plausible president. It is not an easy sell. 

In her imagined letter from an Obama-Biden administration ambassador to the Democratic nominee, Noonan likens him to George H.W. Bush in dealing with an implicitly unjust allegation that he is not “strong.” She commends Biden for being strong in his condemnation of Trump, “that malignancy metastasizing in the Oval” (an uncharacteristically ungracious reflection — no U.S. president should be referred to in such terms) but says his further adventures in projection of strength had “an air of snottiness” and were “clueless.” She reassures Biden that he need not appear strong to progressives, who, she assures him, “are playing for 2024 and it’s better for them if you lose.” And she lightly reproaches him for saying he would have another lockdown and, instead, urges the merits of acknowledging that the country has to “rejoin life” and get back to work. She urges Biden to be explicit about what he will do to help, as necessary, to reform the police and to make a substantial statement about improving race relations.    

With this counsel, Noonan reveals the utter vacuity of the Biden candidacy and the extent to which her own aversion to Trump has conveyed her into a fantasyland. Biden lacks strength because he is, in Trump’s word, “weak.” He has never in his public career held a consistent position in the face of significant opposition. He was going to be gentle with the candidacy of Judge Robert Bork for the Supreme Court in 1987 but then savaged Bork to get in step with then-Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D-Mass.). He holds himself out as a pillar of the Roman Catholic Church who doesn’t wish to impose his views upon anyone, yet he favors compelling the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholic institutions to pay the contraceptive and abortion expenses of those in their care or employ.

As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote, Biden was wrong on every single national security issue in the past 40 years. More recently, Biden accused Trump of xenophobia when Trump suspended direct flights from virus-stricken China at the end of January. 

Thus, Biden is a weathervane. He has no opinions that aren’t written in evaporating ink; he has faced in every direction on every issue. You can’t fashion a leader out of an animated marshmallow.

Noonan is right about the cynicism of progressives and their disdain for Biden, but they have identified their chief objective to be Trump’s defeat, which means they will do all they can to elect Biden. The official Democrats and their informal allies of convenience among urban guerrillas cannot be separated that easily. The urban mobs got a pass right through the Democratic convention as “peaceful protesters,” and are unofficially confirming the Democratic claim that all of this violence will subside if only “President Chaos” is replaced by Noonan’s strong, amiable chum, Joe Biden. If Democrats are victorious, they will be greatly indebted to the urban guerrillas, who will not take long to collect on the IOU from that Faustian bargain. 

We might also remember that, when Biden ran for president in 1988, he plagiarized from British opposition leader Neil Kinnock and from Robert Kennedy; he lied about his university performance and how many degrees he had earned. 

Dislike of Donald Trump is not hard to understand but, in these circumstances, and given what his administration has achieved in the face of unprecedented, unconstitutional harassment, responsible and intelligent commentators should not be trying to fluff-up a tapped-out retread as a Lincolnesque statesman — and a puppet of Alinskyite handlers on top of a Marxist platform, making common cause with street mobs — as a respectable candidate for the White House. Now that we are into the election’s home-stretch, responsible Americans should surmount stylistic infelicities and consider their own and the nation’s interest. Donald Trump is a strange cat, but he is an accomplished leader; Joe Biden is a vague and compromised journeyman. The choice is clear and inescapable.

Conrad Black is an essayist, former newspaper publisher, and author of ten books, including three on Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Follow him on Twitter @ConradMBlack.

Tags 2020 presidential election Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Nancy Pelosi Peggy Noonan Presidency of Donald Trump

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