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When he stumbled badly on June 27 at the start of the so-called presidential debate, 81-year-old President Joe Biden sent supporters and media observers into a panic. Response was over-the-top, such as a comment from 81-year-old investigative journalist, Bob Woodward, who called Biden's performance "a political hydrogen bomb" (which, taken out of context, could be interpreted as praise, not criticism).

Several have called for Biden to step aside and pass the torch to another Democrat. Among those making that suggestion are members of the New York Times editorial board.

This may be a sound suggestion. Then, again, the debate performance may have been a glitch that will not be repeated. I suggest Democrats pray that is the case because I seriously doubt Biden will quit the race. People have a tendency to underestimate Biden and his ability to bounce back, even at his age (which is only a few months older than Woodward).

BIDEN also is stubborn. He certainly proved it four years ago when many said he already was too old to be president. Even when he chose to run, it was widely rumored he would yield to Vice President Kamala Harris shortly after the election. Biden stayed the course and here he is running again, and this time his stubbornness might cost him and the Democrats big time.

But we must admit this: Biden is qualified to remain president; his opponent is grossly unqualified for the job. Joe Biden is the wisest among us, a veritable Yoda (sometimes the president even talks like him). Outwardly, Biden remained cool after the debate, while those around him ran around shouting, "The sky is falling!"

There is no doubt he has been successful as president — hailed by a panel of historians as the best in this century and one of the best of all-time. This is a tribute to the man's ability to work with an increasingly hostile opposition more interested in revenge than confronting issues that affect the people they represent.

MAYBE the New York Times editorial board will prove to be correct, but methinks their words were wasted. However, what strikes me most about the New York Times editorial board is why they haven't lambasted the Republican party for supporting a presidential candidate who has proven he can't do the job. (That was written before July 11 when the Times' editorial board declared Donald J. Trump unfit to lead the country. Amen to that.)

It shames the United States that one of our two major political parties will nominate a convicted felon, rapist, liar, con man, and traitor who attempted to overturn our last presidential election. Trump also frequently has brain farts even while using a teleprompter, and what finally comes out of his mouth makes no sense. The last time the man completed a sentence was the last time he said, "You're fired!"

Contrary to what Trump and his supporters claim, the mainstream or "legacy media" (who comes up with these stupid labels?) is soft on Republicans, especially Trump. I suspect there are several reasons for this. The one that bothers me most is the way the media dismisses the man's ravings with, "Oh, that's only Trump being Trump." Journalists seem to think Trump is stupid, but not crazy enough to believe his lies and outrageous suggestions, such as eliminating our income tax and making up the difference through high tariffs. Economists estimate this would send prices through the roof and spike inflation beyond anything we've experienced in recent years. I suggest Trump is that crazy. Remember his suggestions on how to treat the coronavirus.

What would likely save us is the intelligence of people around Trump and the man's inability to remember — or admit — what he said yesterday.

Yet it's time newspapers took a serious look at Trump's craziness, and his lies. I refer to the June 27 event as "the so-called presidential debate" because these question-and-answer matches — now popular at every political level, even dogcatcher — almost always disintegrate into unchecked name-calling. We need strong moderators and fact-checkers on the scene.

BACK to newspapers. Granted, they now have little influence, but I'd like more effort on their part to go beyond speculation that is so rampant these days. I'd like more attention on the abysmal record of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but less attention on the nincompoops, such as Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Before retiring in 2002, I was a newspaper writer and editor 41 years at the since-departed Syracuse Herald-Journal, the Akron Beacon Journal and most of that time at the Providence Journal (and the Evening Bulletin. which was executed in the same manner as the Herald Journal, another afternoon newspaper).

Most of that time I was in the features department, dealing with what then was referred to as "soft news." Those involved in "hard news" tended to look down upon those who covered entertainment, food, fashion, travel and other things hardly ever mentioned on page one. Even the sports department was given more respect. (That's not true today because sports reporters have been reduced to writing about teenage athletes who announce the names of the colleges they may attend when they graduate from high school — two years from now. Unless they change their minds.)

WHAT revolutionized journalism, obviously, was the internet (as you can see, my preference is for the lower case i), which inflicted perhaps fatal injury upon newspapers now belatedly struggling to get subscribers for their electronic versions. In general, newspaper websites are shamelessly embarrassing. Items that years ago would have been relegated to page 27 now share space on home pages with news of great importance. Today's newspapers — at least, on line — focus as much on Taylor Swift as they do Vladimir Putin.

Newspapers have always borrowed ideas from each other. I'm amused that so many of their websites have stories headlined "How to watch (some sports event or television show)." My advice: just turn on the TV and switch to the appropriate channel. Works every time.

Also, every newspaper website seems to offer three or five "takeaways" from all kinds of events. One takeaway from Biden's June 27 performance is he needs a script to talk effectively. Which probably is true about almost everyone, certainly about Trump; that is, if he would just stick to a script.

MEDIA response to criticism about its priorities is the same as it ever was: we give the public what it wants. You'll get no argument from me. People can't be forced to be interested in what someone else believes to be important. However, as a nation, we pay a price. I'm even older than Joe Biden, but it's not age that has me thinking today's electorate is our least informed. It's disheartening to watch videos of Trump supporters. You could package these in a series called "Stupidity on Parade."

Admittedly, life may be more stressful than in the past. There's truth to the saying, "Be careful what you wish for." We wanted more choices, more diversity, instant gratification, and now have more than we can handle. We get our news by watching and listening rather than reading, and can access our versions of truth whenever we want. Few seek both sides of a story.

It doesn't help our dispositions that technological changes occur so rapidly it's difficult to keep up. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of having to create new accounts and passwords, and being instructed to enter electronic portals where even a "strong" password won't allow entry until you provide a one-time security number that is phoned or texted on one device while you simultaneously use another.

NO DOUBT, one result is rage. division and far too much name-calling, which gets me back to Trump, who thinks it's clever to insult those with whom he disagrees. Worldwide, Donald Trump is seen as the ugliest American, based on a term made popular fifty years ago. "The ugly American" describes someone who flaunts his ignorance and judges everything by what he perceives as the American standard. The term was the title of a book by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. The book was turned into a movie starring Marlon Brando.

Trump's MAGA movement has emboldened ugly Americans who, in cult-like fashion, accept his lies without question and, for whatever reason, believe a lot of batshit crazy conspiracy theories.

What we need is someone to bring us together — not all of us, of course; that's impossible. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt had enemies — but someone who can convince a vast majority of Americans to converse quietly and respectfully, then compromise and cooperate to solve our problems rather than argue about them. It also would be great if both parties had several well-qualified contenders for nomination as president.

Meanwhile, let's get real. When November arrives, and still we must vote for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump, there is no choice ... because even a sometimes bumbling wise man is better than a constantly raving mad man.

 
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