Harsh Your Mellow Monday: Biden Our Time, Isolated, And A Greek Tragedy of Fried Cheese
[HM1] Once More, With Feeling, Or Something
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders met up in what is the eleventh and, thankfully, last of the scheduled Democratic Primary debates.
It wasn’t a triumph.
In the moment Joe Biden clearly “won” the debate, but it is an open question how much that is worth. The one gear, one note Bernie Sanders mostly stuck to his standard routine and didn’t really press the former VP other than an exchange on Social Security, which we will get to in a moment. By not falling over and managing to talk for his half of the two hour debate the talking heads and chattering class will be able to extol how well Joe Biden did.
They aren’t entirely wrong. Part of the problem with folks — both on the right and Sanders supporters on the left — flooding social media with “Joe has dementia” hot takes is setting expectations so low that not drooling on himself comes off as a win. Biden still goes through E to get from A to B on his answers but he is a far cry from that. The even-older Bernie Sanders spending an entire answer talking about Ebola when he means Coronavirus, only to laugh it off at the end as having “Ebola on the brain” just further blunts such criticisms.
At the same time, Joe still hasn’t been pushed like he will be on a stage with Donald Trump. Bernie refused to hit the former VP hard on anything other than votes from 20 years ago that nobody but the hardest of hardcore politicos care about. All through this primary, there was no appetite for attacking Ol’ Uncle Joe, and candidates like Kamala Harris and Julian Castro who did saw it hurt themselves more than dent Joe. Bernie’s inability to have any speed outside of rage curmudgeon doesn’t help, letting Joe Biden “C’mon man” and “Give me a break” his way out of the very slight discomfort of Bernie’s half-hearted attacks.
But that should be worrisome for Team Blue. Bernie was going out of his way to go easy on Joe, pitching not even softballs but more like teed-up opportunities — such as giving him a policy out on some of his controversial Senate votes — and time and time again steering the conversation into policy discussions instead of any frontal assaults against the soon-to-be nominee.
Trump will have no such qualms. The man who made the quip “you’d be in jail” while standing beside Hillary Clinton on a stage is not going to try to get into deep policy discussions, or old voting records, or big sweeping ideas. He will get nasty, and personal, and be unrelenting. The question is no longer who the nominee will be, but there are plenty of questions as to how that nominee will hold up on stage when pushed, really pushed, by someone who has zero cares to give, and will do whatever it takes rhetorically to maintain their office. Biden’s reaction if Trump really digs into gaffes, mistakes, and other issues from Biden’s nearly 50 years of public service will go a long way in determining his success as a candidate. How he handles the president, and his supporters, personally attacking him and his family is something he better practice.
The policy parts of the social security portion of the debate will make the rounds on social media and campaign ads, but the issue at hand isn’t lying about past positions. Joe Biden not being honest is not a revelation to anyone with the ability to read. What is concerning is when Bernie hit him with it, you could see Joe Biden trying to reset his mental computer to avoid saying something he knew he couldn’t say out loud, failing to find an answer, and went with a lie followed by his laugh-it-off routine. Bernie let it go once the subject got changed to votes he himself isn’t particularly proud of, but the moment is telling. Joe the dyed-in-the-wool politician has habits on a debate stage, habits where his prep work of current positions clash with his half a century of record. There will be moments when those things cannot be reconciled in real time at game speed by the current Biden 3.0 system. Thus, you get what happened last night, and you can bet that clip will make it into the Trump Team’s pre-gaming for the general election debates. Thinking you are going to out lie Donald Trump is not sound strategery.
Might want to work on that, Team Blue. Democrats would be foolish to count on coronavirus, the economy, and a past-his-prime Joe Biden just winning the presidency by default ’cause he showed up. You have a few months to prepare. Use them.
[HM2] Governmental Stress Test
Earlier last week, while doing my own planning ahead for the realities of how the coronavirus was changing things around us, my father made a comment that proved accurate:
“Once they close one, they have to close everything. Nobody want’s to be the one that didn’t close and wind up on the news with their picture on the graphic and statistics underneath.”
We were talking about schools specifically — something his 35+ years of being an educator serving as teacher, coach, principal, and other roles is well-versed in — but it applies elsewhere. Now as governors in a growing list of states close schools, ban large gatherings, and otherwise take steps to enforce the “social distancing” health officials are pleading for, the decision making at all levels of government from local to federal is being highlighted for all to see.
We should pay careful attention to it.
President Trump and his response is garnering most of the attention from cable news and social media sources, which is to be expected. Polarizing as ever and in the midst of a presidential election campaign, the man who became president in no small part by dominating all media and bending it to center around him is even more under the microscope than usual. Presidential politics is the spectator sport of choice for a vast swath of folks, even though they point to the importance of the issues at hand as a denial to the accusation that is what they are doing. The issues are important, but yelling at Washington from your phone or keyboard does little to affect it.
Local government, however, should be a focus for all of us in such times as these because they should be, and often are, more responsive to immediate pressure. Responsible citizens should pay very close attention to how their local and state elected officials handle this real life stress test to our systems of government and functions of public institutions, and when the crisis is passed, adjust accordingly. Many will be following the herd, but the how and why and the ways they do things ought to be marked for the next time those same folks run for office, or insist on tax increases or bond levies, or advocate for this or that policy.
Representative democracy is a participation-required system. Especially in a crisis, we should be watching carefully how those representatives, from school boards to the presidency, handle themselves in our stead. There should be plenty to discuss when the current storm passes on who weathered it best.
[HM3] Honestly, how can you screw up fried cheese?
I love me some fried cheese. Cheese sticks are for me culinarily what Prometheus bringing fire to humanity was to the Greeks. Except with ranch.
So this happened:
I roll into my local Hardee’s (That’s Carl Jr.’s East Coast for you left coast folks) while getting the youngins’ their “I don’t feel like cooking” breakfast. On the menu was advertised “Big Fried Cheese” both in a burger format and, since this was breakfast, the BFC modulation on the breakfast Frisco sandwich seemed promising, so I went with it.
I’m expecting gooey-cheesey-goodness along with the toasted sourdough, egg, and bacon.
What I got was over-processed rubber, a testing of my surgically modified gag reflex, and a strong inclination to reconsider all my life choices involving fried food.
It was that bad. It tasted of the government issued cheese of my Appalachian youth, but over fried, over processed, and just all kinds of wrong. The concept of a disc of cheese could have been brilliant, but the execution was a disaster of epicurean proportion. Much like the Greek tragedies, the real action happened off stage, in some factory where the wrong mix of cheese and breading was assembled for mass distribution, and what played out in my local drive-through was simply the punishment of the culinary gods for half-assed execution of what should have been a great product.
Shame on you Carl the Younger. Shame on you.
Maybe just bring back the fried chicken next time you want to get all edgy.
[HM4] Please Don’t Kill Grandma For Giggles
We can have a discuss as to where the line between prudence and panic is, but don’t be the person who learns the hard lesson Rudy Gobert learned.
It doesn’t cost you anything to wash your hands, practice a bit of decorum, and not lose all personal bearing over a virus. The folks most vulnerable, the elderly and those with underlying conditions, don’t get what NBA players have: medical teams that are instantly available with unlimited resources.
We should accept his apology, but more importantly learn the lesson. The time for jokes is after something passes and over-preparedness mitigated the crisis. We make Y2K jokes now, but that is because the problem was fixed so we get to laugh about it later. Save the jokes for later. The elderly person you love who doesn’t get sick will laugh with you about it then. In the meantime, wash your hands and don’t be a jerk about it.