How Trump endangered democracy, and how Biden hopes to repair it https://t.co/FdiCyBCv9v
— Post Outlook (@PostOutlook) September 18, 2021
I *still* don’t trust any otherwise unverified information from Troutmouth Bob Woodward, but this is an interesting Peril review. Eric Rauchway, professor of history:
… [T]he danger Trump posed during the waning months of his presidency is only half the story of “Peril.” Even if you already know the outlines, the details — many of which have already found their way into the press — deepen one’s sense of how serious, even global, that danger was and how thoroughly Republicans enabled it.
The other half of the book is an account of Joe Biden’s campaign and early presidency, and as the authors shift between narratives, the reader must reckon with wildly differing realities. In one, Trump is the center of gravity; everyone works toward him; nothing matters except insofar as it fulfills his psychological needs. In the other, Biden is an ambitious politician leading a team of dedicated public servants trying to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic and its economic effects, endeavoring by sheer competence and energy to move the nation beyond Trumpism…
For Biden, his mission became clear after Trump’s 2017 defense of the Nazi- and Confederate-flag-carrying protesters chanting anti-Semitic slogans in Charlottesville. He said Trump was promoting “the darkest, worst impulses in the country.” Biden believed that the nation was in a struggle for its “soul” — a theme he repeated thereafter. “Who thinks democracy is a given?” he asked at a private event. “If you do, think again.”
Over a long campaign to the nomination, Biden wooed supporters. He stumbled, gaffed; recovered. Woodward and Costa show him responding to criticism — about, for example, his retrograde and unacceptable attitudes toward women — and changing, without altering his core conviction that the nation must transcend Trumpism.
And here the book is most illuminating: Biden regards the -ism, not the man, as the real threat; Trump put the nation in peril because he evoked and organized a darkness that was already there. And his behavior is more shocking because it serves no purpose greater than salving his own obscure hurts; he is no historic visionary but simply someone who wants the perks of the presidency. Biden observes, on surveying the golf toys that Trump assembled in the White House, including a wall-size video screen so he could play virtual courses, “What a f—ing —hole.”
Biden, by contrast, has an understanding of history born of his half-century in public life as well as from his consultations with historian Jon Meacham. Belief in the better angels of our nature implies an understanding that we have worse. He has convictions about politics: Meetings, especially long ones, can change people’s minds; small, graceful gestures can earn great good will. He knows, as the book’s sections on his consultations with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) show, how much he owes Black voters and how much they expect of him. He calls out “systemic racism . . . economic inequality . . . the denial of the promise of this nation to so many.”…
Biden’s team did learn from Franklin Roosevelt, who also faced an intransigent predecessor, albeit not one who sought to overturn an election. Herbert Hoover was more like Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), who here tells Biden to discard his hopes for transformative legislation and advises him to say: “It’s our campaign agenda. We believe in it. But . . . we’re going to stop.” Roosevelt didn’t stop, no matter how much Hoover tried to make him, and so far, Biden hasn’t either, pushing his one-vote majority in the Senate to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and using existing federal power to acquire and roll out coronavirus vaccines with alacrity…
At Biden’s inauguration, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, thought to himself with satisfaction, “It looked like another peaceful transfer of power.” However peaceful it looked in the end, it was not. Blood was shed to support the belief that retaining power by mob rule against the law would be almost cool.