One Democrat candidate after another has entered the 2020 presidential race, and, it grieves me to say, one after another has been found lacking in one respect or another.
Elizabeth Warren falsely claimed to be Native American and isn’t likable. Cory “I am Spartacus” Booker is a showboat. Kirsten Gillibrand turned her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association into an “F.” Amy Klobuchar is the worst boss on Capitol Hill. As a prosecutor, Kamala Harris betrayed African-Americans by supporting harsh treatment of criminals.
Revelations such as these raise serious doubts about the fitness of these candidates for the grave responsibilities that go with the nation’s highest office. Yes, they do. And I’m El Chapo.
None of these failings, alleged or real, would have been disqualifying even in those innocent days when Gary Hart had to withdraw for apparently cheating on his wife. During the intervening period, the public’s expectations have steadily declined.
So it is refreshing to see that in the era of Donald Trump, minor foibles can still elicit somber chin-stroking by CNN pundits. It suggests that some candidates will be held to recognizable standards when it comes to their conduct and policies.
The alleged sins of these candidates do not exactly shatter precedent. Warren is no Cherokee, but Lyndon Johnson’s great-great-grandfather didn’t die at the Alamo. Not likable? It was a rare voter who wanted to have a beer with Richard Nixon.
When it comes to feigned heroism, Booker is no match for Ronald Reagan, who spent World War II stateside but claimed he helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp. Gillibrand’s about-face on guns when she moved from the House to the Senate parallels George H.W. Bush’s somersaults on abortion and supply-side economics.
Klobuchar is reported to erupt in screaming rage at subordinates, just as Bill Clinton did. Clinton, whom African-American novelist Toni Morrison celebrated as “our first black president,” pushed “tough-on-crime” policies long before Harris notched her first conviction.
But whether any of their faults are too much to bear is not the important thing. The important thing is that they have perfectly normal shortcomings. That makes a vivid contrast with the incumbent president, who is not so much a person with flaws as an agglomeration of gross flaws shaped like a person.
Donald Trump’s chief talent has been his ability to overcome words and deeds that individually would have been enough to destroy any other candidate. He mocked a former POW, John McCain, attacked a gold star family, slandered Hispanics and Mexican immigrants, bragged about sexually assaulting women, owned a share in a casino that featured a strip club, ran a charitable foundation that used its funds to pay off his legal settlements, and issued a nonstop torrent of falsehoods.
In the White House, he has done things that would have been shocking from any previous president — praising white nationalists, falling in love with the dictator of North Korea, spewing insults via Twitter, trusting the Kremlin and the Saudi regime over U.S. intelligence officials, and wasting hours every day watching cable news while shirking real work. Not to mention firing the FBI director in an admitted attempt to kill an investigation of his possible collusion with the Russian government.
Next to this Denali of defects, the alleged imperfections of his potential Democratic challengers, even if they were all put in one pile, would barely make a speed bump.
Warren lied about her ancestry? Trump claimed his grandfather emigrated from Sweden; it was Germany. “Likable” is the last word anyone would apply to Trump. Booker’s self-promotion pales next to the habitual bankrupt who peddled himself as a business wizard.
Gillibrand changed her stripes on guns; Trump used to support abortion rights, a ban on assault weapons and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Klobuchar loses a lot of staffers? Senior figures in this administration have the shelf life of a banana.
Harris put a lot of criminals away, but Trump campaigned for the execution of five black and Latino teens accused of raping and beating a Central Park jogger in 1989 — and asserted their guilt even after they were exonerated.
Anyone inclined to shrug off Trump’s gross character defects as old news while obsessing about those of his likely opponents might ponder the advice of Jesus of Nazareth. Before trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye, he suggested, remove the log from your own.