America’s difficult choice between loose cannon and establishment wallflower

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS -- It’s hard not to feel sorry for American voters, whose choice in the current presidential race is either an ignorant, self-dealing showman or an establishment wallflower. Based on their respective track records, neither is capable of getting America any further ahead with necessary reforms.

The first question to ask is, “Why?” With hundreds of millions of highly capable individuals in America, why is it that these two — Donald Trump and Joe Biden — have been put forth as the best possible options to lead the country?

It should be a clue that there’s something deeply, systemically wrong when both sides spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince the electorate that the other is senile or somehow slow on the uptake — or that in each case the argument can plausibly resonate. How did things go so wrong that the two candidates to lead the world’s top superpower have jousted over a cognitive assessment test that requires the test-taker to identify a lion, camel and rhinoceros?

How and when did the bar end up being set so low? If this isn’t rock bottom, it’s hard to imagine what is. Trump was supposed to be the U-turn on a downward slide.

Trump’s appeal in 2016 was that he was supposed to reform the establishment. He has failed spectacularly. Instead, he flooded the upper reaches of the establishment with his own sycophantic cronies. Plucked from the bowels of obscurity (or straight from the airwaves at Fox News) and grateful for it, their ideology is primarily Trumpism — slavish loyalty to the person who appointed them. They shamelessly kiss up to Trump, hoping to keep their jobs under a boss whose revolving door of appointees spins like an industrial fan.

What Trump needed was a group of moderate, pragmatic, non-interventionist conservatives who knew the lay of the land well enough to reform it according to Trump’s vision. But we didn’t even get a vision. We got a day-to-day splattering of undisciplined presidential tweets reacting to everything from sporting events to TV talk shows. Trump’s broad-spectrum rhetorical hyperactivity left the false impression that progress was being made, when in reality there was very little action taking place behind all the carnival barking.

Trump hasn’t been able to make the transition from candidate to statesman. Instead, he hijacked the White House and its infrastructure of governance, using it as a partisan hammer. Even official White House newsletters primarily rail against Democrats rather than explaining policies to Americans. Trump’s presidency has been like a scratchy record that catches America’s needle in its ruts, repeating the same old tunes.

Contrary to the hysteria being peddled by his critics, Trump isn’t dangerous; he’s mostly just useless.

And speaking of old tunes, Biden isn’t going to bowl anyone over with his energy. The best thing he has going for him is that he’s predictable. But predictability is also his biggest flaw. Biden won’t be the one to reform a system that has vaulted him and his mediocre track record to the doorstep of the presidency. On the contrary, he’s going to perpetuate it.

Biden’s recent CNN op-ed about how he’d deal with Iran in the wake of Trump’s petulant withdrawal from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal provides a glimpse of what we can expect.

Biden says he would have America rejoin the agreement, but only as a “starting point for follow-on negotiations.” This ignores the fact that every other country that ratified the deal had done so because negotiations were over.

Biden’s op-ed is infused with one-way rhetoric that accuses Iran of “destabilizing activities” in its region — as if Iran has acted in a vacuum rather than in reaction to endless provocation by the U.S. and its Persian Gulf allies. Biden arrogantly concludes: “With the world back at America’s side, a Biden administration will make it a priority to set Iran policy.”

Oh, yes, the entire world is just waiting for Americans to drop-kick Trump into the dustbin of history so it can forget all the war, sanctions and general mayhem perpetuated by the Washington establishment for decades — mayhem that Biden himself has helped instigate since he was first elected as a U.S. senator in 1973.

It’s hard to get excited about this election. No matter which candidate wins, America loses.