Thursday, December 14, 2023

Clear, Present, and Ignored Danger



As President, Gerald R. Ford did the near impossible- he liberated Poland. Or if you prefer, he was a quarter century ahead of his time. At the second presidential debate in 1976, with incumbent Gerald Ford in his bid for a full term gaining on challenger Jimmy Carter

Ford was asked about the 1975 Helsinki Accords, an attempt to improve relations between the Communist Eastern Bloc and the Western democracies that was unpopular with many Americans of Eastern European descent.

What Ford meant to say: We don’t officially accept or diplomatically recognize Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

What Ford actually said: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under the Ford administration.’’

Evidently, the awkward, but tactically useful, term "misspoke" was not yet in vogue because

The questioner, Max Frankel of The New York Times, appeared unable to believe his ears. He gave Ford a chance to reverse himself: "Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence?"

Ford dug in deeper. "I don't believe that the Romanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union."

Oh, dear. By the time the news sunk into voters' consciousness the next day, it was clear that Mr. Ford had made a terrible mistake. It was a time before so much information and misinformation was available on social media and one major gaffe could have a determining impact on an election.

In September of 1974, President Ford had made the decision, a major error both in policy and politics, to pardon former President Richard Nixon. Then debating Jimmy Carter, he liberated Poland prematurely and further sowed the seeds of his defeat in November of 1976..

President Biden is particularly prone to similar unforced errors, such as when

visiting a wind tower producer in Colorado on November 29, Biden appeared to confuse Chinese President Xi Jinping with Xiaoping, who ruled the country between 1978 and 1989.

He said: "I've said this to Deng Xiaoping in the Himalayas, and I've said this to every world leader: It's never, never, never been a good bet to bet against the American people." According to The South China Morning Post, the White House transcript was later edited to Xi Jinping, but this didn't stop the original footage being widely shared on Chinese social media.

No one cares about what the President calls the prime Butcher of Beijing or with whom Joe Biden confuses him. However, at an event at the White House on December 11 celebrating Chanukah

Addressing attendees Biden said: "But we know this year's Hanukkah's different. It's been 65 years since the deadliest day of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. 65 years." Biden appeared to be trying to say it was 65 days since the attack, which would have been accurate.

The president went on to make clear he had been referring to Hamas' mass assault on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, which killed 1,200 people and saw another 240 taken to Gaza as hostages. He continued: "After October 7, my father, a father, returned to his kibbutz to salvage what was left of his home. What was left was rubble and ruin."


Joe Biden's father has been deceased for over twenty years. And mistaking 65 days for 65 years- twice- is the kind of material late-night comedians would kill for. 

Joe Biden's re-election prospects are not only imperiled, but are gradually becoming a longshot. However,  

Michael Dukakis, a qualified and decent individual (already a problem there) was harmed by the silly photo of him riding around in a tank during the 1988 presidential campaign. When minor, superficial incidents occur during debate, they may have an even greater effect on elections. Gerald Ford inexplicably denying Soviet domination of Eastern Europe;  incumbent President George HW Bush "glancing impatiently at his watch" in 1992; the sighs, interpreted as "petulant," of Al Gore in 2000; Richard Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow in 1960.

The same fate may befall President Biden. Nonetheless, a clearly pleased veteran Democratic strategist, Karen Finney, has remarked “When you had people who were trying to test the waters” for a presidential bid, “the party rose up and made it clear to those individuals — who were mostly white men — that to disrespect the vice president would not be well received by women and people of color within the party. They got a little bit of a smack in the face.”

That was not only a statement- it was also a warning. Joe Biden is liable to say something absurd, as he did a few days ago, and be forever ridiculed by Republican politicians, comedians, pundits, social media “influencers,” even legitimate journalists, and lose the next presidential election decisively. But not to worry: at least “women and people of color within the party” will have the satisfaction of knowing they were not disrespected en route to Donald Trump becoming the 47th President of the United States of America.

 

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