Tonight is the first debate of the presidential showdown. Typically, debates don’t mean much and infrequently move the needle—with some exceptions. In the 1960 presidential race of Vice President Richard Nixon vs. Senator John Kennedy, the Republicans had pounded away on Kennedy’s youth, his inexperience, his lack of gravitas and created an expectation that Nixon would wipe the floor with him. The TV cameras turned on and there was Nixon, sweating, tense, pale looking and appearing tired and Kennedy calm, tanned, relaxed and articulate. It didn’t matter what either of them said; the impression was made. The Republicans had over-promised and Kennedy had over-performed just by being who he was. For the last week or so, Trump has been pounding away on Biden, claiming he’s old—essentially decrepit—and using drugs to keep his energy up, and the effect is that Trump has lowered expectations. If Biden walks in rested, tanned and manages to make it across the stage without using a walker, Trump may have fallen into the Nixon trap of creating an expectation divorced from the reality. If I was giving Biden advice, I’d tell him this:
1. Stay cool no matter what.
2. When he attacks, just remember: Facts really don’t matter anymore, so don’t try to answer his attacks with facts.
3. Attack back. Accuse him of being a crook, a failed businessman who is deeply in debt to the tune of $300 million or so, purely a reality TV personality playing a tycoon on the TV, a $750 tax scofflaw and an idiot (but in nicer language), corrupt, ripping off the taxpayer to put income into his failing hotels and golf courses and leading the world’s first nation into a second-world status. Ask him why everyone who leaves, like Mattis, McMasters, Kelly and Bolton, have all said that he’s a roaring idiot (I’ve cleaned that up some). Let him explain how he was surrounded by disloyal associates. Just let him talk.
4. When the moderator tries to get you back on track, just ignore him. He’s not running; he doesn’t matter. Just show a little backbone. Even allow yourself to get a little angry when he tries to go after Hunter and compare him to Trump’s semi-smart playboy sons and you’ll do fine.
Follow my advice and you’ll be President Biden.
We’ve got a city council election coming up in November with three seats up for grabs and eight candidates. It’s almost impossible to campaign for local office when you can’t go out and meet people, shake hands, go to coffees, stand outside the markets or walk door-to-door. Normally, I have some sense of how it’s going, but this is sort of a stealth campaign and hard to predict. In the next week or two, we are going to early endorse because we expect many of you will be receiving your vote by mail ballots by then and probably want to mail them back early.
We are headed for a heat wave this week, perhaps with the Santa Ana winds blowing. Karen and I have friends in Sonoma, which is already half evacuated in parts, and half-packed and waiting in the other parts. There have been some rain predictions but not right away, and not soon enough to do any good. I believe in climate change and there is every evidence that it’s accelerating. We used to talk about bad fire seasons. Now, it has become an annual affair and they’re all bad fire seasons, starting earlier and lasting longer. The problem is that finding solutions means surrendering some of the old paradigm. I don’t know whether we are now in a warm century or maybe last century was a moderate weather century and that has changed. I don’t know how much of this is due to our industrial activity, the use of hydrocarbons and how much due to larger long-term weather cycle. We have had cold centuries, mini ice ages and hot centuries with soaring temperatures. Probably upping the human population to 7 billion on this planet has changed lots of things, just as now having 40 million people in California has changed just about everything. So, what does that mean, day to day? For one thing, we must reduce our fuel loads. That means thinning our forests. That means controlled burns. That means we need more water, pipelines, more reservoirs, perhaps even more dams. Does that clash with environmental goals? Absolutely. But the easy choices are gone. The coming environmental battles are going to be monumental. We can’t look at air and water and land and fire as if they were disconnected and don’t impact each other. We also have to look at how our environmental policies affect all of our populations, not just us elites living along the coast.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there is a full-page advertisement in the LA Times today from a political group called United Latinos Vote (unitedlatinosvote.org) and it’s an open letter addressed to the Sierra Club taking the club to task for what the political group characterized as an “offensive and manipulative” open letter from the Sierra Club. That letter, they said, advocated a number of things that hurt the Latino community. They all involve environmental goals, which are expensive and unaffordable and tend to marginalize the Latino community because of the costs. For example:
– They want to phase out those polluting cars and requiring workers to buy new, expensive EV cars.
– They want to phase out dirty stoves, water heaters and furnaces, which requires the purchase of new, expensive appliances.
– Et cetera, et cetera.
There are a number of other things that will be the subject of later columns, but to put it simply, the thrust of their argument is that it appears they believe those lifestyle adjustments being pushed by the Sierra Club are “lifestyles only a few can afford, are more important than people who work hard, pay taxes, build small businesses, school their children and make hard choices about whether their kids can afford to go to college.”
Apparently, they don’t seem to believe that the Sierra Club are the good guys. I wonder if the Republicans are listening.