Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Empathy Trumped

Newt Gingrich makes a legitimate point about President Joe Biden, then turns reality on its head.

Well, maybe the President has insufficient understanding of natural disasters. It is debatable whether he should have flown to Maui sooner than he did. His mere presence would have contributed little to actual relief efforts but, if nothing else, was politically tone-deaf.  Biden has not yet visited East Palestine, an error not only in politics but also in policy. There are issues, which he is reluctant to discuss, with the train derailment aside from climate change, and with the Maui disaster, beyond being an "act of God."

Moreover, Biden probably has less understanding of either of those situations than did President Trump about the danger posed by SARS-CoV-2, inasmuch as

President Donald Trump acknowledged the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic in a February interview with journalist Bob Woodward and acknowledged downplaying the threat in an interview a month later, according to an account of Woodward's new book.

“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic," Trump said in a March 19 call with Woodward, according to an audio clip posted Wednesday on The Washington Post's website. The newspaper obtained a copy of the book, "Rage," which is scheduled to be released next week.

In the same interview, Trump acknowledged that the disease was more deadly than he previously thought.

"Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. But just today, and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older," Trump said, according to an audio clip, and then added, "young people, too, plenty of young people."

And while then-President Trump on 38 conditions stated that SARS-CoV-2 would "go away" or "disappear" or was on its way to disappearing, 1,099,066 residents of the USA died from it on his watch. Much of that was tragic, thus unavoidable, and much of it was because the President knew and understood the danger of Covid-19 and was (generously speaking)  unconcerned.

In a portion of Gingrich's comments not included in the snippet above, the ex-congressman remarked  "He is out of touch with reality. How can you stand in Lahaina surrounded by death and talk about your '67 Corvette? 

This illustrates the absurdity of Gingrich's charge that Joe Biden "literally has no empathy for the human beings around him." The President had told of being in Washington, DC fifteen years earlier when "Lightning struck at home, on a little lake that's outside of our home—not a lake, a big pond,—and hit a wire that came up underneath our home into the heating ducts and air conditioning ducts. To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my '67 Corvette, and my cat."

It didn't come off well because the President seemed to be trivializing the devastating wildfires. Yet, he was describing how the memory of the lightning surrounding his home personalized to him the catastrophe in Hawaii.  It was not lack of empathy, but if anything, a misplaced emphasis on empathy.

We can see that at work in the controversy surrounding Biden's son, Hunter. Hunter was an alcoholic, is or was a drug addict, and appears to be a rapacious, even corrupt businessman. He rationalized his affairwith the widow of his late brother as "the idea that we could keep Beau alive by being together- that by loving each other we somehow could love him back into existence." That is some might powerful malarkey.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden has stuck with his surviving son, who if not a public figure would in times past have been dismissed as a "bad seed."  In April, amid congressional and criminal investigations into overseas business dealings, Hunter was permitted to join the President of the United States of America, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces when actually called into service, on a trip to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. (As Biden himself would put it, "not a joke!")

On behalf of an out-of-touch Administration, a spokesman blew it off with  "Historically, family members of presidents and first ladies have frequently joined them during international travel,. Current practices are consistent with those used by prior administrations."

Most prior presidents did not have a son or a daughter quite like Hunter. The fierce, even blind, loyalty of Joe Biden to his son reflects a stunning empathy, not absence of empathy. It represents also a reckless disregard of political reality and, arguably, of a President's duty to the nation he alone heads.

Joseph Robinette Biden is a family man and father- of a 53-year-old man. Astoundingly empathetic, he owes an overwhelming responsibility to the most powerful nation on earth. Empathy is admirable- in a President, leadership is far more important.

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