House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joe Biden may have spent their lives rising to power within the Democratic Party, but clearly somewhere back in their early days they were absent for Politics 101. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, was obviously sitting attentively in the front of the classroom, probably with his father and predecessor, Mario, the late three-term chief executive of the Empire State, serving as professor.
Far worse than letting a serious crisis go to waste, per Democrat hatchet man Rahm Emanuel’s infamous maxim, is to be seen as exploiting a global emergency for the sake of petty politics. On CNN on Sunday, Pelosi did just that, charging that President Donald Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic is costing American lives, and talking up an eventual congressional probe.
She also this week actually used the most famous line from the Watergate hearings: “What did he know and when did he know it?” Pelosi asked, echoing the late Sen. Howard Baker, the Republican who signaled that President Richard Nixon’s own party was not going to be able to protect him.
And Pelosi compared Trump to Nero, the corrupt first century emperor who allowed Rome to burn – if he didn’t actually instigate the fire – then blamed Christians: “As the president fiddles, people are dying,” she charged.
So, shortly after orchestrating a failed, entirely partisan attempt to remove this president from office, Washington’s highest-ranking Democrat is once again speaking the language of impeachment. Except for dyed-in-the-wool grassroots party loyalists and, to their left, full-on Trump haters, this is sure to be received as the crassest brand of political opportunism.
Apparently, even the collective struggle against an unprecedented worldwide catastrophe likely to cost hundreds of thousands of lives is not enough to motivate Pelosi to withhold – even temporarily – the venom aimed at this president.
Meanwhile, in what might be interpreted as an April fool, Biden proposed to phone the White House and offer Trump his advice on how to handle the national response to coronavirus. The counsel would presumably come from what White House aides have called Biden’s “bunker” in the basement of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, from which he has been sending out video addresses and answering interviewers’ questions. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters he would take Biden’s call personally, calling him “a nice guy.”
The presumptive Democratic Party nominee can’t have it both ways, though, having called Trump “the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency” and said he’s guilty of “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering” when it comes to fighting the virus. Just days ago, Biden accused Trump of “conspiracy mongering” which “from our president is among the most reckless and ignorant moves he has made during this crisis, and there have been many. Lives hang in the balance.”
Biden – like the 2020 presidential sweepstakes itself – has been relegated to sideshow status, unthinkable bad luck for someone seeking the presidency.
Picture Joe Biden Taking That 3 a.m. Call
When Barack Obama seriously threatened Hillary Clinton’s supposed cakewalk to their party’s 2008 presidential nomination, she ran her now-famous “3 a.m. call” ad. “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,” it said in ominous tones, “but there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world” and America needs as president “someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”
It was an attempt to spotlight Obama’s inexperience (which didn’t work with a Democrat base pining for socialism and social revolution, not the party establishment personified by the Clintons). But in Biden’s case, being awakened at 3 a.m. might make it even harder for him to communicate in coherent sentences.
As I&I’s Andrew Malcolm pointed out in his most recent McClatchy column, “the teleprompter breaks down just as the man who wants access to the nuclear launch codes was going to explain why he sincerely wants to be president. Turns out, without a script, Biden couldn’t really say. Here’s what the candidate told the nation the other day when that happened: ‘And, uh, and, and in addition to that, uh, and in addition to that, we have to, uh, make sure that we, uh, we are in a position that we are, well, lemme, lemme go to a second thing. I’ve spoken enough on that.’”
Contrast Pelosi and Biden with Cuomo, who is on the front lines of one of the most COVID-19-infested places on the planet. Granted, Cuomo has criticized Trump’s management, but in a nuts-and-bolts fashion. He hasn’t called his national leadership a failed enterprise.
“I am not engaging the president in politics,” Cuomo said earlier this week when asked at his daily press conference. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership … Forget the politics; we have a national crisis.
“There is no red and blue; it’s red, white and blue. Let’s get over it and lead by example.”
It is unimaginable that Pelosi would ever bring herself to express such sentiment, reminiscent of President George W. Bush and congressional Democratic leaders embracing one another when he addressed Congress after 9/11. And for Joe Biden – so far removed from the action – to take this conciliatory tack would run counter to his campaign’s fundamental message that Trump is unpresidential, a menace to be shunned.
However well Cuomo is handling the disaster taking place more severely in New York than perhaps anywhere – and New Yorkers say he is handling it very well indeed – the fact remains that he, as a hypothetically drafted opponent to Trump this coming Election Day, to most Americans would, in his person, be the decidedly left-leaning Empire State. That didn’t work very well when Republican Rudy Giuliani, “America’s mayor,” ran in 2008.
The New York State of Mind is simply not very attractive as a way of life, or when it comes to public policy, in the eyes of most of this country. Especially when that way of life vastly exacerbated, needlessly, the virus’ ravaging effects. And Cuomo is the furthest-left governor in New York history.
If Democrats are going to be humiliated this November, as seems likely, it will surely be better for them, amidst the rubble, to be armed with a page of talking points of excuses. So bet on them sticking with Biden.
— Written by Thomas McArdle