Continental Divides

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Seriously? This is the best America has to offer?

By John McCaslin

Every four years around this time, sadly with few exceptions, the disillusioned lyrics of Peggy Lee’s chart topper, “Is That All There Is?” come to mind.

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is my friends

Then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze …

Here we are again, albeit confronted this go-round with the most unconventional of presidential election cycles in modern history: Joe Biden and Donald Trump, for now all there is, the combined cream of the crop dispensed unabashedly to the American electorate by their respective political parties.

Seriously? This is the best America has to offer?

Amid widespread concerns about his age (he turned 81 earlier this week) and electability, President Biden could take the hint from a growing number of influential Democrats and bow out of his bid for a second term. Or he can risk voters – or a third party election spoiler like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – doing it for him.

“If they don’t, if the people across this nation are willing to put somebody with the advance onset of dementia back into the White House, this world is more dangerous than any of us realize,” an undiplomatically blunt Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale told me recently.

For the record, the president hasn’t been diagnosed with any stage of dementia. On the other hand, the field of neuropsychology affirms that both Biden and Trump, who is creeping towards 78, have reached the elderly life span when one processes information 25 to 35 percent slower than someone in their early 60s. The data gets worse in the category of memory retention.

Coinciding with the president’s age dilemma is his plummeting popularity numbers, most significantly this month’s series of New York Times/Siena College polls giving Trump a 48 percent to 44 percent advantage across five of six crucial battleground states, all of which Biden won in 2020.

But here’s the most telling finding from the same set of national surveys: If an unnamed generic Democrat, it doesn’t matter who, were to replace Biden at this stage of the 2024 presidential contest they would lead Trump by eight points. Hello!

The former president, meanwhile, continues to wait impatiently in the wings and witness stands, indifferent to 91 criminal charges across four separate indictments in courtrooms up and down the East Coast.

Which, by the way, is the only reason the remainder of the Republican pack, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley,  former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, still bother to appear on the GOP debate stage sans Trump, banking on some degree of justice prevailing before Election Day.

But would that even matter?

Those inking the Constitution in 1787, while moving to “establish Justice” in the very opening sentence, had no reason to contemplate a colonial leader’s criminal record or pending prison sentence (punishments in those days were prompt, public and physical, and included lashings, forehead brandings, ears sliced off, you get the idea).

Thus, if Trump were indeed convicted of one or more felonies prior to or after Nov. 5, 2024, he could conceivably carry on with his campaigning (when not burdened with additional court appearances), and if eventually elected the nation’s 47th president preside over national affairs potentially from behind bars—a stiffer sentence certainly, but one he’d spend his second term appealing from the most secure and guarded fortress in the world, the Oval Office.

John McCaslin is a longtime print and broadcast journalist and author.

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