Blessed with the insight of a soothsayer and the power of a kingmaker, I have many times selected the best stars for classic roles. I said cast Humphrey Bogart instead of Ronald Reagan in Casablanca. I picked John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon. I decreed that Reagan replace Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton topple George Bush. I insisted Barack Obama would be a better leading man than John McCain and Mitt Romney. I’m no idealist. I’m a ratings guy always searching for stars who bring box office clout. Admittedly, I said go ahead and cast Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton because The Donald puts more fannies in seats. Now, however, I realize we need a more talented actor in the White House. I didn’t see any likely replacements in the first Democratic debate so, like a hungry talent scout, I focused on the second cattle call.
I like Bernie Sanders but politics has been Hollywood since the televised days of young JFK, and Bernie at almost seventy-eight looked old, and his demands for universal Medicare and free college tuition and housing for the homeless, though admirable, have become repetitive and many citizens wonder how we’d pay for his dreams. I can’t select Bernie for any roles other than someone’s cantankerous uncle or a senator from Vermont.
Joe Biden’s only a year younger than Bernie and even in his prime was never a serious presidential contender. So why is he leading in these early polls? He’s riding the lengthy coattails of Barack Obama who a majority of Americans still wish resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Joe never will. He’ll be perfect as a retired elder statesman, and there’ll be less talk about which women he made uncomfortable and the segregationist senators he’s proud to have worked with in collegial fashion.
Kamala Harris threw a headlock on Biden, telling him his remarks were hurtful since the long-dead senators opposed busing and Harris was herself bused to school during the early days of integration in Berkeley. It mattered not that Biden has a strong positive record on civil rights. The Miami audience was applauding his critic. And split screen images of proactive Harris and passive Joe were unkind to the former vice president, who appeared elderly compared to a woman, age fifty-four, who’s a relative youngster. Let us remember, as well, that The Donald recently turned seventy-three.
Her path to the presidency obstructed by powerful but slowing septuagenarians, Harris has clearly decided to attack. She quipped that Americans don’t want to watch a food fight; they want to know who’s going to put food on the table. She earned another big hand when she assailed the existence of private detention facilities for undocumented immigrants and promised on day one as president she’ll reinstitute DACA for the dreamers, review asylum cases, get rid of private facilities, and empathize with mothers who take these risks. She roused the audience again, noting that climate change is an existential crisis, and the greatest threat to the world is Donald Trump.
Democratic opponents better keep their guard up when former prosecutor Kamala Harris is on stage. Her star-making barrage against Joe Biden wasn’t in response to anything Biden said tonight. Instead, waiting for the chance, she pivoted after Pete Buttigieg had responded to criticism he mishandled race relations in South Bend where blacks comprise twenty-six percent of the population, but only six percent of the police force, and another unarmed man of color was shot dead by a white officer. He admitted he didn’t get it done. There should’ve been more “bias training.” Youthful Pete is usually bright but brains aren’t the primary component of stardom. I’ll still give him a role somewhere, perhaps as mayor of South Bend.
As a supporter of participatory democracy, I thanked the other six contestants and offered unwanted advice. To John Hickenlooper, perhaps a new surname would help. To Andrew Yang, please stick to business. For Michael Bennet and Kirsten Gillibrand, why not continue being a senators. Eric Swalwell, you’re a fine young congressman. And to Marianne Williams, you’re a groovy chick from the sixties and I’m going to read some of your popular books about love and inner peace.
Kamala Harris, you still haven’t proved you’re a national star but you may be the Democrat with the best chance to beat Donald Trump if he ever loses his immunity to being a racist, rabble-rouser, warmonger, nepotist, and more.
Note: A day after the second debate, Ivanka Trump sat at the table near her father and President Xi Jinping of China during G-20 trade talks in Osaka, Japan.