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American Mediocrity

Watching President Joe Biden debate former President Donald Trump was a master class in American mediocrity.
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June 30, 2024
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There is a certain kind of person for whom “The West Wing” was dramatic television at its finest. It featured sharp, brainy, political dialogue with a cast walking around the White House outwitting one another—not outdoing the other’s wits, but simply being wittier.

The President was a former professor and Nobel Prize-winning economist. Naturally, he was a Democrat. “The West Wing” catered to coastal elites in the same way that “Roseanne” and “My Name Is Earl” were beloved by the working class in red states—or, at least, that’s how Ivy Leaguers assessed the demographics.

After last week’s presidential debate, one plot conceit from “The West Wing” is worth recalling, one that nearly capsized the fictional Bartlet administration: during the campaign, Jed Bartlet failed to disclose that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When the story went public, his staff, who still believed the right man occupied the Oval Office, realized that in getting him there, they may have perpetrated a fraud on the public.

Watching President Joe Biden debate former President Donald Trump was a master class in American mediocrity. But substance aside, one can’t help but wonder whether Biden’s West Wing was thinking about that other “West Wing.” After all, the Biden administration prides itself on its progressive, democratic bona fides. They aspire to the better angels of that show, even though they fall miserably short of those loftier standards.

But like “The West Wing,” Biden loyalists engaged in a cover-up. The public discovered what it had long suspected: Joe Biden’s mental acuity is not up to the task; he is most decidedly not, as many assured us, “as sharp as a tack.” The leader of the free world and the commander-in-chief with the most advanced weapons simply looks lost. When some of us drew this conclusion long ago, we were accused of engaging in ageism or cruel partisanship.

Americans, as of late, have been exposed to a lot of representations that ended up not being true: Russia’s interference with our presidential election was not tied to the Trump campaign; the coronavirus was made in China and far too much of what scientists told us, apparently, had no science to support it; the laptop did, in fact, belong to Hunter Biden, and its contents might have affected the outcome of the election; Hunter’s father spent the 2020 presidential campaign holed up in the basement of his house, and once in the White House, held few press conferences, for a very good reason—the real Joe Biden would have shown himself to be far less presidential than it was claimed Donald Trump was.

We all know what happened. The hatred of Donald Trump among half the country was so great, all kinds of allowances were made to ensure that Trump was denied a second term. And it wasn’t just Democrats and Never Trumpers who had joined forces, but also the mainstream media, Hollywood, think tanks, and universities—they were all in the tank.

The ferocity of those efforts continued for the next four years, which explains all those court cases against Trump and the cover-up of Biden’s incapacity. If Trump had not declared his candidacy, those cases would never have been filed. The threat that Trump presented also accounts for the country’s disastrous plunge to the political left. In order to defeat Trump, Biden made a Faustian bargain with people who had never heard of Goethe but were simply mad about Marx.

In order to defeat Trump, Biden made a Faustian bargain with people who had never heard of Goethe but were simply mad about Marx.

Biden ran as a moderate but was beholden to the progressives in the Squad, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the LGBTQ pronoun police. Why else would this administration have exaggerated the nonexistent threat from white supremacy and “systemic racism,” ignored street-wide criminality, left the door wide open on the southern border, turned gender fluidity into a moral crusade, and done virtually nothing to address, and arrest, the sweeping hordes of antisemites who have spent the past nine months hunting down Jews and maligning Israel’s war on terror?

Now that doubts about a second term for Biden are being openly discussed, someone from the Democratic Party should acknowledge, truthfully, how we got here. That might, actually, win back some votes.

Now that doubts about a second term for Biden are being openly discussed, someone from the Democratic Party should acknowledge, truthfully, how we got here. That might, actually, win back some votes.

Trump may have won the debate, but it was not his finest hour, either. He had an opportunity to attract college-educated moderates—i.e., “West Wing” watchers—especially given Biden’s appalling performance. Who knows: Never Trumpers might have come around and said, “Never say never.”

But Trump is hopelessly hooked on his base, a maestro in front of the cheap seats. He repeats the same words over and over again instead of demonstrating a true mastery of the facts that manifest America’s dismal decline. He somehow failed to specifically mention the eight illegal migrants with connections to ISIS-K who were only recently apprehended, and the hundreds more who are still on the loose.

People from “mental institutions” are the least of our problems.

And he sidestepped the one question that could have most separated himself from Biden’s poisonous progressive caucus: “Would you agree to a Palestinian state in order to bring peace to Gaza?”

In case you are reading this, President Trump, and should the question ever present itself again, here is your answer:

“Of course not. I don’t believe in rewarding people whose elected representatives started a war by beheading babies and gang-raping teenagers. America does not endorse barbarism, especially if perpetrated against a longstanding ally.

“Quite honestly, the Palestinians have failed to demonstrate any interest in nation-building. They have a talent for blowing things up, but statesmen never arise from such a skill set. They could have had a state decades ago, but it would have required them to live beside Jews. Palestinians insist on practicing apartheid, not Israelis. Instead of pandering to people who hate America while living in Michigan, the Biden administration should be setting the record straight as to what Israel is, and what Palestinians are not.

“And, one more thing, speaking as a grandfather of Jewish children: The Biden administration’s gross negligence in allowing violent antisemitism to worsen is a colossal failure of leadership. And because it endangers my own family, I am taking it personally.”

Biden’s own children have married Jews, and he has Jewish grandchildren. Yet, he doesn’t seem all that worried about their safety in a nation that protects masked antisemites calling for a “global intifada!”

Trump is leading in the polls. But that answer might have sealed his victory against such an addled and unprincipled West Wing.


Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself,” and his forthcoming book is titled, “Beyond Proportionality: Is Israel Fighting a Just War in Gaza?”

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