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Robert Klose of Orono is a four-time winner of a Maine Press Association award for opinion writing.
What one thinks about Joe President Biden’s policies and initiatives is a matter of political taste. But what is beyond dispute is that Biden, unlike his predecessor, is not spending his days consuming Fox News and tweeting insults. He has been a busy bee. Not bad for 78.
This is the thing: The more Biden succeeds, the more grotesque Donald Trump appears. After Trump left office (under duress), the question was posed: Will Trumpism go away? I would like to suggest that the nightmarish fog of that era has already begun to lift, attributable to “steady as she goes” Joe. The citizenry has been given an opportunity to see how the government operates when the president appoints qualified people, acknowledges the powers and duties of Congress and the Supreme Court, and doesn’t interpret every criticism as a personal assault warranting a “nuclear” response.
Again, whatever one’s opinion of Biden, the government is now operating as intended. My eyes grew moist with nostalgia when, after the president produced his infrastructure package, the Republicans countered — in clear, measured tones — with a well-considered plan of their own. Yes, this is how it’s supposed to work. Now the two sides will hash out something both of them can live with, and both will claim victory. How nice.
When Biden took office, he held a wholesale Zoom meeting with hundreds of his appointees, laying out what he expected of them. Two of his statements were keepers: “People don’t work for us; we work for the people,” and “If … I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, [or] talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot.”
Let’s set these side-by-side with two of Donald Trump’s more diagnostic utterances: ” I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” and ” I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” How vulgar.
One of the seldom-referenced duties of the president is to set a good example. You want the people to be civil? Then you be civil. You want the people to respect the rule of law? Then adhere to the legal constraints placed upon you as well. You want the people to think in terms of “we” instead of “me”? Then say and believe things like, “The people don’t work for us; we work for the people.”
I have not been in sync with all of Biden’s moves (the immigration mess comes to mind, and I think his concept of “infrastructure” is too broad), but I see a man hard at work. As far as I know, he hasn’t yet gone golfing. (Donald Trump made 308 golf outings during his presidency. If each trip consumed a day, then he spent almost a year of his term in office on the links.) What’s more, in Biden I see earnest intent, respectful interactions with those both on and off his team, and basic competence arising from his long experience and the fact that he appears to have read the Constitution.
Before he took office, there were those who predicted that Biden would do little more than display the halting behavior of an addled old fool. Lo and behold, this hasn’t come to pass. Instead, we have seen a systematic effort to govern well and there are those who feel we may be dealing with the most consequential presidential administration since Franklin Roosevelt.
Compare this to the Trump years, laden with misogyny, misanthropy, raw greed and the celebration of ignorance as a virtue. It is sometimes hard to believe we actually lived through it. If there is one triumph that will, in the end, mark the Biden years, it will be a sense of shame that we ever allowed the Trump presidency to happen in the first place.