Columnist James Cahillane: Joe Biden: Meeting the moment

  • President Joe Biden walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on his way to his Rehoboth Beach, Del., home after his most recent COVID-19 isolation, Sunday, Aug. 7. AP

Published: 8/16/2022 5:59:15 PM

In the 1960s Broadway hit, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off,” an iconic Littlechap tries hard, but the system keeps knocking him down. Time and again he gets up, only to be outwitted by inescapable fate. Take heart, it’s 2022 and the times are changing for the better.

Democrats were the architects of Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, and now, finally, the Inflation Reduction Act, which will move America forward on climate, clean energy, electric cars, lowering drug and health care costs and addressing income inequality by implementing a 15% corporate minimum tax.

The GOP disposes by opposing all of the above. Hello Mitch!

I was making a list of worries for older Americans. There was growing COVID-19 and its variants, a jumpy stock market, gas prices, war abroad, years of congressional inaction, Sen. Joe Manchin’s many no’s before a surprise yes, climate change, the world our grandkids will inherit, gun safety, mass shootings, and increasingly feeling out of touch in a 24/7 connected environment. I’m anxious for the Jan. 6 committee to nail those guilty of treason, whether they be high or low.

The “fight-or-flight” instinct, demonstrated by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley on the fateful day, and revealed via video during the Jan. 6 hearings, brought scornful laughter to a solomn proceeding. Hawley’s legs-flying flight through the Capitol were put to music across the internet, giving lie to his cowardly closed fist salute behind the barriers.

The Show Me State should show me some gumption by recalling Hawley back to the South. Maybe his alma maters, Yale or Stanford, could find a place for him in academia, or running coach?

Record high temperatures have cut back daily activities, as if seniors needed a reminder. We’re already pushing whatever number’s coming up on our next birthday. Late night comedian Stephen Colbert made a joke about Joe Biden slowing down. I don’t know, he’s only 79, rides a fast bike, and walks without assistance. He also smiles easily, making a healthy change from his “Big Mac, Diet Coke-lying, I was robbed” predecessor.

I read The New York Times and Boston Globe on the internet. The Globe’s on shaky ground because it keeps reporting Red Sox scores! Sunday brings the New York Times, featuring The Magazine, Arts, Style, International news, business, and its latest iteration Sunday Opinion. The old News of the Week had deep articles on national and world happenings, plus a lead editorial, enhanced by columnists like Maureen Dowd, David Brooks and Bret Stephens to engage and enlarge reader views.

The July 24 edition asked famous Times’ columnists to own up to past errors and wrong predictions. Gulp!

An early goof of mine comes to mind. I wrote that the internet was a waste of time. That was before cellphones and iPads became ubiquitous. Brains and memory unnecessary, just “Google” it. I was wrong about the upside of the internet, ignorant about its downside. I have a crystal ball on my desk but, like me, it’s imperfect.

In his errors column (“I was wrong about capitalism”), David Brooks compares his ideas in college and how they matured. “In 2003 I was having qualms about the free-market education I’d received. A highly unequal caste system was forming. Bit by bit it dawned on me that the government would have to get much more active if every child was going to have an open field and a fair chance.”

Mindful growth means bravely tossing aside past beliefs based on new information or understanding.

That same week conservative columnist Bret Stephens contended, (“I Was Wrong About Trump Voters”). He opened with what he called the “worse line I ever wrote as a pundit.” “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.” Stephens went on to admit writing column after column about Trump’s ignorance and danger to American democracy. His error was describing Trump’s minions in a “broad swipe at his voters caricatured them and blinkered me.” The famous line about people in glass houses applies here. Hillary’s “deplorables” was a 5-gallon bucket of a word that should never have seen the light of day.

Bret Stephen’s: “Their neighborhoods weren’t so safe and pleasant. Their schools weren’t so excellent. Their livelihoods weren’t so secure. Their America was often one of cultural and economic decline, sometimes felt in the most personal of ways.” History’s forgotten voters rose up to bite blind privilege in its posterior.

Columnist Maureen Dowd’s always before the court of public opinion. Ms. Dowd and I share the joys of a large Irish family. Being opinionated is a given; so is keeping it to ourselves. Maureen’s latest gaffe is writing to push President Biden off the stage for 2024.That’s too hasty a call given Joe’s expansion of NATO, passing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Chips and Science Act, Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act, curtailing insulin costs for seniors, and passing the Inflation Reduction Act. Tired of winning yet?

Biden and the Democrats are delivering long-promised needs for America, and doing it with one hand tied behind their back.

That we vote and how we vote matters!

Jim Cahillane’s opinion column began in 1993. He lives in Williamsburg. Kudos to Tiffany B. for delivery of The Sunday Times, and USPS for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Happy Birthday to our NH son, Matt, 61 today.
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