.En Garde: Bully pulpits face off

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It’s the morning after the so-called first “debate” between a frail-appearing, stuttering President Biden and a railing, ranting former President Trump.

I shudder to think that the oft-cited “American people” might decide the future of our democracy on theater and showmanship?! How can a respectable, dedicated, trustworthy public servant of the U.S.—hailed internationally for his decency and character—come to be pitted against a corrupted, heartless, self-aggrandizing, truth-evading, delusional demagogue and convicted criminal in the first place? How is American mainstream media buying into, promoting, dignifying and normalizing a false equivalency between two fundamentally different candidates?

And talk about bully pulpits: Trump uses his pulpit literally to bully, harass, divide, lie and cheat with impunity. Biden uses his pulpit to promote a vision and policies aimed at protecting and evolving our democracy. Without real-time fact-checking (disastrous) and Biden’s mic under CNN’s control, he had too short a time to address complex questions, so the network helped elevate the bully’s pulpit.

Besides enabling false equivalencies, ageism reigns as daily gossip and conjecture about age as being essentially detrimental. Little illumination is given to its gifts of experience, competence, resilience and wisdom.

Yes, 81-year-old Biden showed up taxed to the max: sick, unrested—cold meds? He seemed to grapple with details and rehearsed arguments, including his administration’s policy achievements and goals, facts and accurate numbers. He was not grounded. He was in his foggy head. It took him a while to settle in, to respond instead of react.

Meanwhile, DJT was in his 24/7 singular reality tunnel, spewing his toxic mix of exaggeration, fabrication, angry epithets, denials, delusions and fascistic aspirations. Sadly, Biden, champion of democracy, wasn’t up to countering the sheer audacity and insanity of Trump.

Millions of “fellow” Americans think a louder, bombastic, bullying, “confident” Trump won a debate. Biden was physically down, softer spoken, stumbling to establish a foothold in the swamp. However, a debate is meant to be a respectful, civil presentation of divergent ideas and factual information. We witnessed an altercation between a legitimate debater and a schoolyard bully.

Will we, “the American people,” reduce the seriousness of what these two men represent for our nation’s future to a performance contest? Which bully pulpit will win?

Marcia Singer, MSW is a mindful living coach and columnist in Santa Rosa.

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