If you travel in predominantly Democratic circles and want to have a really hard day, write or publicly say something unflattering but true about President Biden, a lament that can be read or heard by people who can be safely counted on to vote for him. Then prepare yourself for the frenzies.
Observe that it is one thing — a noble, beautiful thing — for him to give steadfast support and unconditional love to his deeply troubled son, but that it is another for that son. attend a state dinner days after he had cut a deal with federal prosecutors on tax and gun charges. Many of your liberal acquaintances will shut up and shame you: don’t talk bad about Joe Biden! That is an unattainable luxury. You are playing into the hands of his MAGA opponents.
Note that Biden seems less physically alert and verbally precise than in years past and suggest that it might be best, for him and for continued Democratic control of the White House, if he lets Democrats choose another candidate in 2024. You will be compared to anchor for Fox News. You will be reprimanded for age discrimination. It doesn’t matter that you examine his behavior, not the year on his birth certificate. You are counterproductive.
You will be asked: What does Hunter Biden and a diminished vim matter next to the threat of Donald Trump and the Republican Party in its lawless, nihilistic support? That’s a fair question — up to a point. But beyond that point, it is dishonest and dangerous.
Dishonest because it’s often directed at Biden critics, who have lavished, oh, 100 times more words on Trump’s epic moral corruption than on Biden’s blind spots and missteps, creating zero impression of any equivalence.
Dangerous because it suggests that Americans can’t be trusted to look at politicians in their full complexity — and reality in all its messiness — and distinguish malideology from unwarranted, scattered flaws of through-and-through fraud. I do not see how this is consistent with the promotion and preservation of democracy, in which it exhibits little faith.
It also plays into the portrayal of Democrats as elitists who decide what people should and shouldn’t be exposed to – what they can and can’t deal with. How is that a winning look?
I believe that a Trump victory in 2024 would be immeasurably devastating for America. I believe that victory of any A Republican who indulged, parroted or promoted Trump’s fictions and attacks on democratic standards would also be a disaster. His aides showed their colors and disqualified themselves. And I have said it – and will continue to say it – several times.
I also believe that Biden was a good president at a very difficult time, and that even if he is nowhere near peak vigor, we would be much, much better served by the renewal of his White House tenancy than by a new tenant in the form of Trump or one of his de facto accomplices. Biden’s second term, like his first, would be about more than the man himself. It would be about a whole team, a set of principles, a fundamental decency, a thread of continuity, an investment in important institutions.
And I believe there’s more than ample room in all of the above to talk about whether Biden is the strongest of the potential Democratic contenders to take on Trump, Ron DeSantis or whoever — though that particular conversation may soon be moot, given the ever decreasing. amount of time for those contenders to put together campaigns and for Democratic voters to evaluate them.
Likewise, it is possible — no, necessary — to have nuanced conversations about the mix of virtues and vices of Biden and his administration. If a large part of Trump’s terror is his alienation and perversion of the truth, how is the appropriate or even strategic response to a gold or cloak of truth and declaring it to be subservient to a desired political end?
The intensity of many House Republicans’ fixation on Hunter Biden is bewildering, and journalists would be wrong to chronicle every breathless inch of their descent down that rabbit hole. But we would also be wrong to ignore Hunter Biden entirely, and Democratic partisans who encourage this are not realistic and do as much to fuel suspicions as to extinguish them.
As Peter Baker wrote in The Times last month, “In modern times, the harsh focus of media scrutiny has been on Donald Nixon’s financial dealings with Howard Hughes, Billy Carter’s work as an agent for Libya, Neil Bush’s service in the board of a failed savings and loan, Roger Clinton’s drug convictions and of course the various financial and security issues surrounding Mr. Trump’s children and son-in-law.”
Baker later added: “Even some of the president’s Democratic allies have said privately that there are legitimate questions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China, which appeared to be doing business in his name.”
This is a strange, scary time. The leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is an impeached, twice-impeached former president who cares only about his own prominence and survival and does not allow an iota of civic concern, genuine patriotism or recognizable scruples to dilute his solipsism. He could well settle in the White House again.
So the temptation, given the stakes, is to bathe any Democrat who gets in the way of that in a beatific light, to sing that person’s praises as loud and unbridled as vocal chords allow. That feels like the sensible answer. It feels like the ethical.
It is neither, certainly not for those of us in the news media. It would put us in the business of creating results, not chronicling events that would be obvious to voters in addition to being wrong. It will further erode our credibility, which has already suffered a lot of erosion. It would betray the fundamental purpose and real power of journalism.
We do best as a profession – and we all do best as a democracy and a society – when we hold everyone accountable, regardless of the particular circumstances, and when we are honest in everyone. To act otherwise is to send the message that everything is game skill and that integrity is for the gullible. That is likely no how do we defeat trump It is more likely how he defeats us, long before and long after whatever happens in November 2024.
For the Love of Phrases
In recognition of a time of year with many wanting long-haul air travel, David Mack reflected on baggage-related issues in The Times: “I’m terrible at packing. Ridiculously terrible. About as much. On a recent trip to Las Vegas with my boyfriend (I’m gay) and both our mothers (again, we’re extremely gay) to see Adele (you get the idea), we both packed so much you’d be forgiven for thinking we were moving there.” (Thanks to Conrad Macina of Landing, NJ, and Jean Dunn of Southbury, Connecticut, for pointing this out.)
Also in The Times, Jane Margolies described a growing trend of corporate office buildings trimmed with greenery that requires less maintenance: “As manicured lawns give way to meadows and borders of annuals are replaced by wild and woolly native plants, looser, some might say. messier, aesthetics take hold. Call it the horticultural equivalent of a bedhead.” (Sally Hinson, Greer, SC)
And Michael Kimmelman bemoaned the Sisyphean efforts to make Penn Station in Manhattan bearable: “The only thing everyone seems to know for sure is that nothing meaningful ever really happens to improve North America’s busiest and most miserable train station, despite decades of demands and promises. Hope was long dead at 6:50 to Secaucus.” (Guy Heston, Las Vegas, and David Ballard, Asbury Park, NJ)
In The Globe and Mail of Toronto, Cathal Kelly thought about the frustrating trajectory of tennis star Andy Murray: “In his frustration, Murray has become the guy who visibly counts what you put down in the ‘eight items or less’.” (Hamish Cameron, Toronto)
In The Guardian, Stuart Heritage reflected at the end of the Sussexes’ deal with Spotify, for which Meghan Markle hosted “Archetypes”, a short-lived, inspirational-minded podcast in which she interviewed other prominent women: “As an entity, Harry and Meghan are only interesting for that. as long as they can destabilize the monarchy. Their Oprah interview did that. Their documentary did that. Harry’s book ‘Spare’ did that. “Archetypes” didn’t do that, and as such was about as interesting as listening to locker room chatter in the most excruciating yoga studio of the world.” (John Donaldson, Carlsbad, California)
In The Boston Globe, Scot Lehigh thought about a popular current riddle: “DeSantis must have some political skills. Saddled with qualities that evolution traditionally rewards in porcupines but not politicians, he still managed to succeed at the state level.” (Kathie Lynch Nutting, Mashpee, Mass.)
In The New Yorker, Julian Lucas profiled the pioneering and visionary science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, now 81: “With long white hair, heavy eyebrows and a toast-length beard that starts halfway down his lightly tanned cheeks, Delany has the look of an Eastern Orthodox monk who has left his; cloister for a biker gang .” (Max Sinclair, DeKalb, Ill.)
And in a letter to the editor in The Washington Post, a reader named Michael D. Schattman mocked at the quirks of a now-famous plaintiff: “A fair reading of the Supreme Court’s opinion in 303 Creative v. Elenis is that the Colorado anti-discrimination law is in fact constitutional, except when applied to a business that does not wish to provide a product that it does not offers a non-existent gay couple who is not looking for a website for an imaginary wedding of which the merchant does not approve.” (Lee Hudson, Gilboa, NY)
To nominate favorite excerpts from recent Times writing or other publications to be featured in “For the Love of Sentences,” please email me here and include your name and place of residence.
Not all seasons are created equal. If you live in a place with true autumn — with that football weather nick in the air, those leaves going out in a blaze of glory — you know it has no equal. And if you live in a place with real spring – with that sudden return of birdsong, those pink and red and purple flowers – you know it’s coming close.
But how to align summer and winter? Most of the people I know leave winter behind, and many of them mistakenly wrap summer to the top. For me, summer is the bottom, and TS Eliot’s view of the calendar was completely wrong. August is the cruelest month, barely edging out July.
In the great outdoors, it’s harder to keep cool in the summer than it is to keep warm in the winter, when layers do the trick. And it’s getting harder and harder. Earth experienced what scientists said was likely its hottest day in modern history a week ago on Monday. Then it hit that – twice – in the days right after that.
The languid summer air is drowsy. And summer comes wrapped in the oppressive insistence that it is the season of release, of abandonment, of funny: no school, less clothes, holidays, the beach, the beach, the hellish beach. Summer is so like New Year’s Eve. A feast is decreed. I like my fun spontaneous, casual and in soft, long-sleeved, flab-hiding flannel shirts.
I like seasons with less ticks, less mosquitoes, less sunburn. Summer is dangerous. I’m surprised they don’t make everyone sign some sort of waiver.
Maybe you disagree? me hope you disagree Because if you do, I invite you to send me, at this address, anywhere from one to four sentences arguing summer’s case. If I get enough smart, brave responses, compelling in their humor or eloquence, I’ll compile and share some of them in a newsletter between now and the end of this over-baked stretch of the calendar.
Meanwhile? Apply your sunscreen. Trim your toenails (all those damned sandals and flip-flops). HAVE FUN! Summer will tolerate nothing less.