Friday, December 20, 2019

Bad Question, Bad Responses

At the presidential debate Thursday night in Los Angeles, Judy Woodruff demonstrated that she must never be the co-host of a candidates' debate. However, the responses to her question did reveal that no Democratic candidate knows what it will take to defeat Donald Trump, and that is even more disturbing than Woodruff's question.

It started out badly when the PBS anchorperson stated  "We are coming to the end of our time. A lot of hands up, we apologize for that." That should have been our first clue to what would ensue- if many hands were up, the individuals with the hands up should have been called upon. They might have said something interesting, provocative, or revealing. Evidently, that was forbidden because Woodruff continued "But in the spirit of the season...."

No, again. We can bask in the spirit of the season by communing with family and friends, worshiping, or- more likely- spending money we don't have for gifts people don't need because other people are doing the sam thing. In Los Angeles, for one night, it was a debate to help determine who would succeed the third President ever to be impeached. But she had to go on:

I'd like to ask each one of you, is there someone else among these candidates that you would -- you have two options, one, a candidate from whom you would ask forgiveness for something maybe that was said tonight or another time, or -- or a candidate to whom you would like to give a gift. And I'm going to start with you, Mr. Yang.

Or perhaps they all could have gathered in a circle, held hands, and sang "Kumbaya."  If PBS needed to fill more time, it could have allowed more candidates to respond as they wished to other questions, such as the that immediately preceding- on health care- about which Woodruff had noted "a lot of hands up"(but too damn bad). Alternatively, one of the hosts might have wanted to ask about such arcane subjects as transportation, housing, education, criminal justice reform, privatization, or the financial system. Just a thought.

But that doesn't let the candidates off the hook.  Asking a stupid, inane question, Judy Woodruff served them up a hanging curve ball.

In normal times, asking a politician if there is something they said for which they'd like to "ask forgiveness" is a gift, and a big one at that. Better: in the age of Trump, if the politician can't lift that one out of the park, it suggests that he or she- in this case, both- is not ready for prime-time. The previous night- not last year, last month, or even last week-

"Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty," Trump told the crowd, noting that he'd ordered flags lowered after her husband died. John Dingell had been the longest serving member of Congress, serving for 59 years.

Trump said he gave Dingell an "A-plus" memorial.

"I gave him everything. I don't want anything. I don't need anything for anything," Trump said. "She calls me up: 'It's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.' I said, 'That's OK, don't worry about it.'

"Maybe he's looking up, I don't know. I don't know. Maybe," Trump said to loud laughs and groans. "But let's assume he's looking down."

The President thus demonstrated that he is at once extraordinarily needy and possessing the  unique sense of entitlement and exquisite sensitivity characteristic of the politically correct, which conservatives love to hate (or pretend to).

Nonetheless, you are thinking "but that thing about John Dingell being in hell."   These guys and gals want to replace Donald Trump; and are asked whether they "would ask forgiveness for something maybe that was said tonight or another time..."

The pivot is so obvious it could have been performed by a sixth grader.  Consider that the President of the United States of America has just suggested that a public figure- the husband of a living, breathing woman who can (and has) defended herself- now is in hell.

Of course, Christian rightists will not object to Trump's comment, primarily because they don't object to anything the President does or says.  Democrats already have lost their vote. Yet, they will not be offended if a Democrat points out what evangelicals already know: your destination after death is not the decision of Donald Trump or of any human being, but of God.

It should have been easy. Point out that the question- better yet, the questioner- is out-of-touch for asking whether any Democrat has anything to apologize for when President Trump has ruthlessly attacked individuals, political opponents, former allies, law enforcement, religious people, almost anyone. And John Dingell.

And then the zinger: declare that you yourself ask for forgiveness. Frequently, in prayer. To God, to whom forgiveness is due. The commentariat will love that finally (as their members see it) a Democrat embraces "faith," and faith that is not sectarian.  Mildly religious people, or people who wish they could claim religious faith, would love it. Agnostics (and maybe atheists) will have little problem, figuring everyone prays for something sometime- and what is God, anyway?

To be elected President, the nominee has to defeat the incumbent. That should be obvious. However,  the candidates on Wednesday night failed to emphasize that in contrast to him, they are decent, honorable individuals who would not consign another human being- a child of God- to hell. They were served up something juicy- and they took a pass.

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