Wake Me When It’s 2020

I’m capable of paying attention to a finite number of things at any given point in time.  And right now, the 2020 presidential race is not even close to making that list.

scottball_beto-orourke_alamo-music-hall_campaign_election_senate_11-4-2018-5-1170x782I see stories like this one — “Beto O’Rourke plans ‘reintroduction’ as 2020 buzz fizzles” — or this one — “Florida takes shape as Joe Biden’s firewall” — and I happily skip over them without a second thought or a guilty conscience.  And it’s not just stories about “Beto” or “Joe” I’m not reading:  I’ll also gladly pass on stories about how “Mayor Pete” is being received by big-money donors in Hollywood, or whether Amy Klobuchar’s campaign is gaining any traction, or how Bernie Sanders is doing in tracking polls in New Hampshire.  I’m not going to read any stories about how any of the candidates are doing on fundraising, or whether they are lining up “super-delegates,” or any inside baseball/horse race analysis pieces, either.

There are people who are political junkies, and I’m not one of them.  At this point, the 2020 election is so far away, and there are so many Democratic candidates vying for the nomination, that I really can’t spend time analyzing their positions or trying to figure out their qualifications or capabilities.  With the number of officially declared Democratic candidates at around two dozen, trying to do any meaningful candidate-by-candidate evaluation is an overwhelming task.  So at this point, I’m fine with allowing the political junkies to carry the ball and do whatever they do to let the field be winnowed down to a manageable number.  Whether the winnowing occurs because of fizzled “buzz,” fundraising efforts, or tracking polls, or super-delegates, I don’t care — just don’t expect me to pay any attention until we’ve got a narrower field that consists of people who might actually have a reasonable chance to win the nomination.

In short, wake me when it’s 2020.

How Old Is “Too Old”?

This week former Vice President Joe Biden formally declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  He joins a very crowded field of politicians vying for the chance to square off against President Donald Trump in 2020.

bernie-and-joe-like-donald-trumpJoe Biden is 76 years old.  He was born on November 20, 1942; if he were to be elected, he would be 77 on Election Day, and 78 when he takes office.  Bernie Sanders, who is another candidate for the Democratic nomination, is 77 years old and, being born on September 8, 1941, would be 79 on Election Day in 2020.  If either of those candidates won, they would easily set a new record for the oldest person to be newly elected to the presidency — a record now held by the current occupant of the White House, who was a mere 70 when he was inaugurated.  (The oldest President to be elected, period, was Ronald Reagan, who was 73 when he won reelection in a landslide in 1984 — a record that would be obliterated if the 2020 race turned out to be either Trump-Biden or Trump-Sanders.)

There have been some old Presidents in American history — some good, some not so much — and clearly people’s perceptions of what it means to be old in our current day are changing.  As average life spans increase and medical care, diet, fitness, and general attention to health improve, some people argue that aging is really all about a state of mind, and “60 is the new 40.”  And no doubt Biden and Sanders will produce medical reports that show that they are healthy, active, vibrant, and ready to handle the demands of an incredibly taxing job.

Still, Biden and Sanders are really pushing the presidential age envelope into uncharted territory.  How will people react when, as Election Day nears, they really ponder the prospect of an 80-year-old President?  No doubt people will be looking carefully at all three of the septuagenarians — Trump, Biden, and Sanders — for signs of age-related physical feebleness and mental slippage.  Age is something that can’t be hidden, and one serious memory glitch during a debate could be all she wrote for a candidacy.

I don’t think it is improperly ageist to wonder about how age affects fitness for the Oval Office.  In 2020, we may be answering the question:  “How old is too old?”

Old-School Joe

Joe Biden is an “old school” politician.  First elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972 — that’s almost 50 years ago, folks — he traces his roots to a different political era.  Joe Biden has been involved in politics at the national level for longer than just about anyone you can think of, and certainly longer than anyone else who might be a serious candidate for President in 2020.

screen_shot_2019-04-02_at_10.23.19_pm_0It’s pretty clear that Joe Biden is what you might call a “hands-on” politician, the kind who likes the handshakes and arm around the shoulder photos and ropeline grappling with admirers.  That’s why you can find countless photos of Joe Biden in physical contact with somebody — some of whom look happy about it, and some of whom look very uncomfortable — and why some of the people who are attempting to explain his current predicament say things like “he hugs everybody.”  It’s a political style that was commonplace in decades past, when some politicians believed that the personal touch and laying of hands was a way to establish a memorable connection with voters and establish power relationships with other politicians.  The backslaps and shoulder grabs were also a way to allow the politician to remain the center of attention, even when someone else was getting an award or making a speech.  Such politicians embodied the old comment about the politician who so craved attention that he wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

When you’ve been playing the political games for as long as Joe Biden has, perhaps you lose touch with prevailing views, and perhaps you lose a good sense of the line between an appropriate contact and creepy, personal-space-invading behavior.  No one, male or female, is going to object to handshakes, or a backslap or tap on the shoulder.  But grabbing the upper arms or shoulders of a woman to pull her close, smelling and kissing the hair of a woman, and leaning in so that your face is inches away clearly cross the line into more intimate contact and should be reserved for close friends and colleagues.  The fact that Joe Biden was routinely engaging in such conduct with complete strangers, from biker women in diners to political candidates at rallies to the wives of people appointed to federal jobs, shows that he simply didn’t — and perhaps still doesn’t — understand what are long-standing, and commonly accepted, social boundaries.

Joe Biden’s old-school roots may help to explain his behavior toward women, but they don’t excuse them.  Part of being an effective politician is having sensitivity to what is going on, and how society — and standards and boundaries — are changing.  Joe Biden apparently lacks that quality.  His clutching and space-invading behavior with women is creepy and a real problem, but in my view the fact that he apparently didn’t understand that until now raises deeper concerns about him.

Presidential Debates, Just Around The Corner

In case you haven’t had your fill of politics already, with an important election only a few weeks away and political stories of one kind or another dominating every newscast, here’s some encouraging news — the first Democratic presidential candidate debates for the 2020 election are just around the corner.

t1larg-debate-stage-empty-t1largPolitico is reporting that the first debates will probably occur in the spring of 2019, months before the first primaries and caucuses, and a full year and a half before the 2020 election.  And even though that seems ridiculously early to non-political types like me, it’s apparently causing all of the would-be candidates to ramp up their activities now.  It’s expected that there will be a lot of people who will be vying for the chance to square off against President Trump in 2020 — more people, in fact, that can reasonably fit on one debate stage.  And if sheet numbers mean there will be two debate stages and two sets of debaters, all of the candidates want to be sure that they appear on the stage that includes all of the perceived “real contenders,” and are not relegated to the “everybody else” stage.  So everybody who is contemplating throwing their hat in the ring is out there raising money, hiring staff, visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, and trying to make news and start showing up in the polls.

Who are the “real contenders” for the Democrats?  According to the Politico article, only one person — a Congressman named John Delaney, who I’ve never even heard of — has formally declared his candidacy at this point.  Among the people who reportedly are considering a bid are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.  Some people think Hillary Clinton might run, or Michael Bloomberg, and no doubt there are mayors, governors, other senators and representatives, and corporate figures who may launch campaigns.  If only a few of these folks actually run, you’ve already got a pretty crowded stage.

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the point of gearing up for another presidential election already, but politics being what it is, I am sure that there are a lot of Democrats out there thinking very seriously about running for President.  Why not?  After all, if Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination and actually get elected, just about anything is possible.  So why not take a shot — and do whatever you can to make sure that you get onto the coveted “contenders” stage?

No Go Joe

Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he won’t be running for President. His declaration of non-candidacy ended months of speculation, as well as the hope in some quarters that he might enter the race for the Democratic nomination as an alternative to Hillary Clinton.  Although Biden and his family apparently had decided they could commit to a campaign, after months of mourning the recent death of his son, he concluded that they simply did not have enough time to launch a successful bid.

I’m not quite sure why so many were urging Biden to run in the first place.  After all, he’s sought the Democratic nomination on multiple occasions in the past, without making much of a mark.  I suspect that the “second-string quarterback syndrome” was at play.  Any football fan knows that when the first-string QB is struggling, the back-up’s popularity skyrockets — because he’s not out on the field getting sacked and throwing picks.  With Hillary Clinton’s ever-shifting  approach to questions about her private email server, and Bernie Sanders widely seen as unelectable, Biden seemed like a viable alternative.

It’s interesting that so many people who were urging Biden to run, and so many pundits who wrote favorably of that possibility, focused on Biden’s enjoyment of campaigning, as opposed to his capabilities, judgment, decision-making, and other qualities that would come into play if he actually were elected.  The pro-Joe stories always seemed to strike the tone that Joe came across as a good guy who loved to press the flesh and eat corn dogs with the little guys out on the hustings.  Gaffe-prone, to be sure, but an ever-smiling, two-fisted Happy Warrior who could be friends with those across the aisle and whose politics were agreeable to the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic Party.

Of course, those articles drew a favorable contrast between Old Joe and Hillary Clinton, who is widely depicted as wooden, contrived, and joyless in her campaign appearances and willing to endure them only because they are a necessary path to her ultimate goal.  And Biden’s speech yesterday struck some of those same tones.  Without mentioning Clinton by name, he criticized those who characterized Republicans as “enemies” — as Clinton did in the recent Democratic candidate debate — rather than as “opponents.”

So now “Middle-Class Joe” is out, and Hillary remains in.  Today she’ll testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi about her role in the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador and other Americans, and her public assertions in the aftermath of the attack.  With Biden out of the race, her performance today will get more attention than ever.

Joe Or No Joe

With the calendar turning to August, it’s officially the silly season in American politics.  On the Republican side, a loudmouthed, self-promoting, angry anti-politician is leading in the polls, and 10 of 17 declared presidential candidates will crowd onto the stage to have a “debate” on Thursday.  And on the Democratic side, politicos and pundits are talking seriously about drafting Joe Biden to throw his hat in the ring.

Wait a second . . . Joe Biden?  72-year-old, two-time also-ran, vice president Joe Biden?

Evidently so.  There’s apparently concern in some Democratic quarters about Hillary Clinton being damaged goods.  Her trustworthiness numbers aren’t good — whether it is because of her State Department email server fiasco, or because everything she does and says seems so carefully scripted and calibrated, or for some other reason — and she hasn’t exactly been lighting it up on the campaign trail.  In fact, there seems to be a lot more excitement about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist who has been drawing big crowds in the early decision states.  So while Hillary has raised tons of money and signed up legions of heavyweight staffers and fundraisers, people are beginning to wonder whether her nomination is as inevitable and certain as, say, Ed Muskie in 1972.

But if you think Hillary Clinton may not be the best candidate to carry the Democratic banner, where do you turn?  America isn’t likely to elect a 70-something socialist, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley doesn’t exactly have people buzzing.  Most of the leading Democratic politicians on the national scene don’t seem especially keen to take on the Clinton political machine.  That leaves good old Joe.  He’s been on the national Democratic scene forever, he’s a known commodity, and although he’s been a gaffe machine in his prior races he’s one of those pols who seems to love being on the campaign trail — whereas Hillary Clinton seems to consider it to be a painful hassle.

I have no idea whether Joe Biden will end up running — he’s just lost his son to cancer, but once the presidential bug bites it’s hard to shake the obsessive lure of the Oval Office.  What’s more interesting to me is that the national Democratic bench seems so shallow — and, with the exception of O’Malley, so long in the tooth.  Why aren’t the party bigwigs talking about Democratic governors (other than California’s Jerry Brown, who is 77), or Senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown?  Why aren’t more up-and-coming Ds willing to risk a long-shot run, like Bill Clinton did in 1992?

Political Poor-Mouthing

In the past few weeks we’ve witnessed two of the principal presumed contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, pointedly talking about their purportedly humble economic circumstances.

Clinton, who with her husband Bill is worth tens of millions of dollars, first said that she and the former President were “dead broke” when they left the White House.  She was immediately ridiculed for that comment, and since then has tried to explain that, even though they are millionaires many times over and make tens of thousands of dollars each time they give a speech, they struggled earlier in life and pay “ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off.”

Biden, on the other hand, said people shouldn’t hold it against him that he isn’t rich.  He says he doesn’t own a single stock or bond, and has no savings account.  Of course, fact checkers quickly determined that his disclosure forms show that, in 2013 at least, he had one savings account and two checking accounts, and his wife holds certificates of deposit and investments in several different mutual funds.  Biden concedes that he has a “great pension” — achieved from being a Senator for decades — and makes a “good salary.”  (As VP, Biden earns $227,500 per year and gets lots of freebies.)

Clinton and Biden obviously think they need to make such statements to enhance their electability — which is why we are treated to the spectacle of two people who make far more than the vast majority of Americans, and who live lifestyles that exceed what most people dream of, consciously downplaying their success.  The history of poor-mouthing it by American politicians is a rich one.  During the 1800s, candidates touted their often exaggerated log-cabin roots, and in the early 20th century Horatio Alger tales were popular.  More recently, the elections of Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush seemed to take the wealth issue off the table.  Apparently not!

These days, the poor-mouth strategy seems more likely to set a politician up for a fall rather than winning votes; both Clinton and Biden have been chided for their implausible recent remarks.  But let’s set aside issues of truthfulness, candor, and awareness of how normal people live — why would you want to vote for someone who hasn’t been successful and responsible about their finances?  And if Joe Biden in fact doesn’t have a savings account or own any stocks or bonds after decades of receiving the hefty salaries of U.S. Senator and Vice President, what the heck has he been doing with all that money for all those years?  Most of us working stiffs have been scrimping and savings for decades in a responsible attempt to have a decent retirement.  I guess old Joe doesn’t need to worry about that with his “great pension,” eh?

Not Ready For 2016

When I opened a news website this morning I saw a story about Joe Biden making a campaign trip to Iowa.  When I saw a picture of him flashing a Cheshire cat grin as he posed with a child for a picture and read about his “2016 themes,” I groaned and briefly contemplated hurling myself off the nearest overpass.

I’m not ready for 2016.  I’m really not — and I don’t think the country is, either.  But political reporters can’t resist this stuff.  We’re still more than three years from the next election, and already you can find the campaign speculation stories out there, lurking out there like a blobfish, ready to surface at any time and cause us all to emit howls of rage and disgust.  Don’t count out Rand PaulHillary Clinton’s got a big decision to make as she weighs whether to throw her hat in the ringWhat’s Chris Christie going to do?

All of this inside-the-Beltway speculation may be loads of fun for the pundits and politicos, but it’s depressing for those of us out in the heartland.  Why?  There are several reasons.  First, we know that, when elections are on the horizon and the political posturing begins in earnest, nothing gets done.  And right now, we don’t need politicians who are focused on the next election, we need politicians who are focused on trying to figure out how to fix the economy so that people can get back to work.  It’s astonishing that the grim economic record of the past few years don’t get more meaningful attention, but our political leaders are adept at manufacturing distractions from the difficult problems at hand — and ridiculously premature election speculation is just another distraction.

Second, we already have a President.  When the next election becomes a focus, the existing President automatically becomes a lame duck.  We don’t need a lame duck, we need a President.  I’m no huge fan of President Obama, but I think three years of lame duck drift would be disastrous for our country.

Finally, the 2016 stories are disturbing because they expose the unfortunate lack of mature, capable leadership in our country.  Are people seriously considering Joe Biden for President?  Or Rand Paul?  Or Ted Cruz?  How many governors and senators command your confidence these days?  Look out at the presumed fields in the Republican and Democratic primaries and see if you can avoid an involuntary shudder.

So please, do me a favor.  Shut up about 2016 for a few years, will you?

The F Word

Some time ago a friend gave me The F Word by Jesse Sheidlower.  Published by the Oxford University Press, of all places, the book is both a history of the Queen Mother of Curses and a dictionary of its many uses.  It’s a fascinating read.

IMG_3084The origin of the f word is muddled by urban legend.  It’s not an acronym (sorry, Van Halen!) nor does it have anything to do with the French taunting English archers by encouraging them to pluck their yew bows.  Instead, the word is related to terms found in German, Dutch, Swedish, and Flemish with meanings like “to strike,” to “move back and forth,” and “to cheat.”  Although the precise source of the word is shrouded in the mists of time, it entered the English language (pun intended) in the fifteenth century.  It immediately became taboo — and also replaced the Middle English vulgarity for sexual intercourse, which was “swive.”  Powerless against the curtness and bluntness of the f word, “swive” fell into total disuse.  The f word went on to become the most obscene word in the English language, banned during the Victorian era and the most reviled of the “seven dirty words” George Carlin addressed.  Recently, as barriers to indecent speech have fallen and even Vice Presidents have lapsed into regrettable coarseness when congratulating Presidents, the use of the word in American society has become much more common.

The F Word provides an exhaustive listing of the many different uses of the f word.  As someone who tries to avoid casual obscenity — and fails utterly when referees make a bad call against my team in a big game — I was amazed by the broad utility of the word.  In addition to adding emphasis by being dropped, in its gerund form, into various parts of sentences (consider the different meanings conveyed by the question “When are you going to move your car?” if the f word is placed before “when,” “going,” “move,” and “car”) the word has been used to convey hundreds of different connotations, always with that shocking edge.

As the dictionary component of The F Word demonstrates, the versatility of this vulgar word is astonishing.  How many other words have been combined with “bum” to refer to a remote location, “cluster” to denote a disorganized mess, “flying” to signify a minimal amount, “holy” to indicate surprise, and “off” to tell someone to get away?  And, of course, those are only a few of the inventive applications of this powerful word.

The F Word is worth reading.  Just be sure to keep it away from your teenagers.

I’m Not Going To Vote For “Fighters” Anymore

I’ve got friends who occupy just about every niche along the political spectrum.  For once, almost everyone seems to be united in one thought:  we all agree that the recent “fiscal cliff” scenario, and the hash house legislation that “resolved” it, are an infuriating embarrassment for our country.  Everyone seems to recognize that the hastily brokered bill, with its special deals for well-heeled special interests, just illustrates how bad things have gotten in Washington, D.C.

Why has this happened?  There are a lot of reasons, of course, but I think one significant cause is that we’ve changed how we think about our political leaders and what they should be doing.  What attributes are featured in political ads these days?  Democrat or Republican, the candidate is always portrayed as a “fighter” who will “fight” for his constituents in opposing unnamed forces of evil.  Important qualities like thoughtfulness, cool deliberation, and attention to detail are ignored.  When was the last time you saw a candidate in a political ad sitting and reading something?  Instead, they’re always out, talking, talking, talking to groups, and vigorously gesturing as they are doing so.

We need legislators who understand the true importance of their role and who have pride in their legislative bodies and in their offices.  We need people who recognize that laws that will govern the affairs of more than 300 million Americans have to be carefully considered and can’t be cobbled together in a back room huddle of Joe Biden and a few congressional leaders.

In reality, too, most of the “fighters” who currently hold office really are sheep.  They listen to how their party leadership tells them to vote, and then they do it, even if it means they don’t even read whatever last-minute, lobbied-up deal they are voting on.  Can you imagine the Lincolns and Clays and Websters of the past — or any legislator with an ounce of self-respect, for that matter — accepting these legislative practices, which have now become so routine?  A real fighter for our system would refuse to participate in such shenanigans.

I’m not going to vote for phony “fighters” any more.  In fact, I’ll make this pledge:  candidates whose commercials extoll their qualities as “fighters” will be automatically disqualified from further consideration.  Our country badly needs reasoned solutions, not more pointless name-calling and legislative brawls undertaken in the name of “fighting” for constituents.  We need readers and thinkers, not “fighters.”  “Fighters” look for fights; readers and thinkers look for solutions — and solutions is what we really need.

A Last Dispatch From Battleground Ohio

The soldier, winded and hunched, ran the last few yards before leaping into the Foxhole that had been dug behind the carcass of Big Bird.  “Sergeant Jones, I’ve got bad news,” he said.  “I think we’ve lost Nesser.”

Dammit!  What happened, Private Ujay?”

“He was trying to weave through that field of empty chairs when he was knocked down by a fusillade of negative TV ads.  He wasn’t wearing his ear plugs or a gas mask, and he started retching after hearing about the President’s economic record.  The last I saw of him, he was being dragged away by a team of pollsters to participate in a focus group.”

What the hell!  I’ve told everyone that they need to keep the masks on, because the noise and poisonous messages are more than any man can bear.

“He said he wanted to breathe free and watch the Buckeyes game on TV, sir.”

Well, there’s no saving the poor bastard now,” Sergeant Jones said.  She peered over Big Bird’s soiled yellow feathers, scanning the terrain.  “Get down!” she barked, as a fusillade of binders full of women rained down.

“I’ve got more bad news, sir,” Ujay reported.  “Some of the members of the platoon are saying there’s nothing to worry about and no need to get ready for the next attack.”

Blast!  Didn’t they watch that first presidential debate and see what happens when you start to take things for granted?

Another soldier appeared and saluted.  “Message from Captain Duhamel, sir.  He says the Bain Capital Brigade is approaching from the east.  He thinks they’re hoping to outsource us all to China.”

Thanks for the warning, Private Jeff — but we all know that those briefcase-carrying Bain bastards are ruthless.  They’ll stop at nothing once they’ve decided to downsize.”  The sergeant paused for a moment.  “Well, we know that we don’t have enough horses and bayonets to make a stand here.  Time to move out.

“But Sarge — if we move we’ll lose the cover we’ve got here in this Foxhole.”

You didn’t build that, Mack!  Now move!

The bedraggled platoon scrambled out of the Foxhole, past the hulk of Big Bird.  Nearby, hordes of “ground game” campaign workers were dragging reluctant Ohioans to the polls for a final day of early voting.  A black motorcade barreled past, hurling campaign literature about a five-point plan at passersby trying to dodge the Obama volunteers talking about how a 7.9 percent unemployment rate means the economy is on the road to recovery.  A crowd of “campaign surrogates” traded punches on a street corner, and a phalanx of Jeeps carrying members of the 47 Percent Regiment were advancing from the west.  Overhead, the voices of pundits filled the air, raining invective and talking points on the few remaining civilians not under cover.  And Bill Clinton and David Axelrod were spinning like tops, knocking people down as Joe Biden’s Cheshire Cat grin blinded the soldiers and his maniacal laugh echoed off the downtown office buildings.

“My God!  It’s carnage,” Private Ujay shouted, as he ran after Sergeant Jones.  “We’ll never survive this, never!”

Yes we will,” Sergeant Jones bellowed.  “We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.  It’s what you get when you live in Battleground Ohio.”

Listening To The Veep Debate On The Radio

Yesterday, on our drive home, we listened to the C-SPAN rebroadcast of the vice presidential debate.  Being up north and out of TV broadcast range, we hadn’t seen the debate live or heard any of the post-debate spin.

It was odd to hear a political debate rather than to see it, as if we had been hurled 50 years back in time to 1960.  And, as legend says was the case for the first Kennedy-Nixon debate that year, the visual TV medium apparently created a different perception of the Biden-Ryan debate than did the aural radio experience.  Because we were just listening, we didn’t see Vice President Biden’s facial expressions and physical gestures that have been the subject of so much talk.

We could, however, hear the Vice President’s chuckles, ejaculations, and interruptions.  At times the cross-talk made it impossible to understand what anyone was saying.  I’m not sure politicians fully appreciate how annoying it is when they try to talk over each other, whether it’s during a debate or on a Sunday morning talk show.  It’s not persuasive, either; instead, the interjections make it seem like you believe you can’t afford to let your opponent finish his point.  That seems more like weakness than vigorous advocacy.  When lawyers present an oral argument, they argue their case, listen to their opponent’s position, and then present a rebuttal — without interruptions or attempts to monopolize the microphone.  Why can’t politicians show the same courtesy?

Other than the irksome disruptions, incidentally, I thought the debate seemed evenly matched.  Biden showed more passion, Ryan showed more precision, but each side got through their talking points and sounded their themes.  My radio review would score the vice-presidential debate a toss-up.

This Election, Ohio Truly Is The Heart Of It All

Ohio used to call itself “the heart of it all,” because of the state’s purported heart-like shape and central location.  This presidential election, Ohio truly seems to be the heart of it all.

You can’t walk around downtown Columbus without hearing about a political event.  This afternoon, Florida Senator Marco Rubio gave a speech at the Ohio Statehouse for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.  President Obama showed up a bit later for his own event in German Village.  I was working at my desk when I heard the distinctive sound of a presidential motorcade rolling past, with sirens blaring and deep klaxon-like horns barking. The President stopped at the hotel a block from my office, where the street was blocked off by police cars and motorcycles and those huge black Secret Service SUVs.

Hey, Mr. President!  Could you keep it down the next time you come to town?  I’m trying to wrap up a conference call here!

Some polls have indicated that the President has a growing lead in Ohio.  If that is true — and I’m a bit skeptical of polls — I’m not seeing it.  More importantly, the campaigns certainly aren’t acting that way.  I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of President Obama and Mitt Romney, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, and their high-profile surrogates, here in the heart of it all.  From all appearances, President Obama and Mitt Romney are going to be fighting tooth and nail up until Election Day to try to win the Buckeye State.

The Onion And Biker Joe

The Onion — America’s great humor newspaper — just can’t stay ahead of our zany Vice President, Joe Biden.

Ever since President Obama was elected, The Onion has been running stories lampooning the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency as a kind of amiable, dim-witted Everyman.  Some of The Onion‘s classic headlines for these stories have included Joe Biden Shows Up To Inauguration With Ponytail, Joe Biden Introduces Trio Of Sexy Bodyguards, Biden Unveils New Health Initiative To Make U.S. Women Hotter, and, most recently, Joe Biden Hitchhikes To Democratic National Convention — among many others.  The articles feature absurd story lines and hilarious, obviously Photoshopped images.

But try as they might, The Onion just can’t match the antics of our real Veep.  This was demonstrated again today when the Associated Press carried a story about Joe Biden’s antics with a biker gal in the Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio.  The accompanying photo shows a grinning Biden cozying up to the biker gal with his face right behind her ear.   On either side of the happy couple are two obviously irritated biker dudes who look like they would like nothing better than to punch Biker Joe’s lights out.

Do you think The Onion ever entertained the idea of an article called Joe Biden Gets Into Brawl Over Woman In Biker Bar but rejected it as too far-fetched?

An Awful Juxtaposition On Jobs

Last night, Vice President Biden spoke about an incident where his father had to leave home to find a new job, but reassured his young son that everything was going to be fine.  “For the rest of our lives, my sister and my brothers — for the rest of our lives, my dad never failed to remind us that a job is about a lot more than a paycheck,” Biden said.  “It is about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community.  It’s about being able to look your child in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK,’ and mean it and know it’s true.”

I think Biden is right — jobs are about self-worth, pride, and much more than a paycheck.  That is why today’s very bleak jobs report numbers are such a devastating blow for President Obama.  Only 96,000 new non-farm jobs were created in August, and the already poor jobs numbers for June and July were revised downward.  Even worse, 368,000 people who had been looking for a job stopped looking, and the total number of people in the workforce dropped to its lowest level in 31 years.  The unemployment rate fell slightly, to 8.1 percent, but only because of the huge number of people who have stopped looking for a job.

Consider:  368,000 people — more than enough to fill Ohio Stadium three times — have just stopped looking for work.  Those people won’t know the dignity, respect, and sense of community that a job can bring, and they won’t be able to confidently reassure their worried young children that everything will be okay.

Last night, President Obama and Vice President Biden sought to reassure us that things will get better through their efforts.  This latest jobs report makes those efforts to reassure seem empty and baseless — to those unfortunate folks who have given up, and to the rest of us who have been praying for an economic rebound.  If anything, the devastating and depressing jobs report says that things are going from bad to worse.