PART I: AMERICA, ENOUGH WITH YOUR MOMMY ISSUES
“So listen, people: I’ve heard you all complaining about Hillary, how she asks you to talk about your hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt in terms of emojis (because yewth speakz lyk thesss LOL), and how she’s not charismatic and she just won’t love you in the way you really know down deep you deserve to be loved. I’ve seen you tweeting all your snarky comments and rushing off to see that hippy Bernie Sanders who you and I both know is way too old to be the president of anything except maybe Middlebury or Hufflepuff.
And I’ve scoffed at you. I admit it, I have scoffed. Because kids, we’ve done this dance already. Eight years ago, Hillary was going to be President (or so everybody told us), and then she was too stiff and way crotchedy and super desperate and there was that other guy with the sunrise in his voice and hope in his heart.
But it turned out, electing an idealist didn’t mean the country would become idealistic. If anything politics got more awful, and most of it less interested in actually helping people than scorching the earth of one’s enemies. (In this analogy, btw, we are the earth.)
A few things got done – like health care. And a lot of others didn’t. And our idealist also capitulated on horrible things like drone strikes and Guantanamo Bay and wire tapping of American citizens and international leaders. And for some reason he largely stopped speaking to the pieces of ourselves that had gotten him elected, to our belief in the possibility of something better.
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton was out there in the trenches Secretary of Statin’ with the leaders of the world, doing a competent job in a very non-flashy way.
So, I’m sorry America, but spare me. Yes, she doesn’t campaign well. But the actual job of President? Um, she’s got that handled. No one on either side of the bench has her level of experience, or her range of experience, or her savvy. And seriously y’all, if the Republicans are going to keep on being bullies and arsonists, we need someone who can actually get up into that.
So enough already with your whining and the hysteria. Donald Trump is not going to be president. We’re going to be fine. Stay the course.”
Since Hillary announced, that’s what I've been saying to people. Hillary has been lackluster, but who cares? I’m not electing her to run for president, but to be president. And that's a job she can do.
PART II: IN WHICH THE AUTHOR HAS A STRANGE AND UNEXPECTED CONVERSION EXPERIENCE
Then on Thursday night, Stephen Colbert—or as I like to call him, America’s Resident Late Night Talk Show Host—had Vice President Joe Biden on “The Late Show.” I don’t know if you’ve seen Colbert’s new show yet; it’s definitely a work in progress. To its credit, it has none of the needy-to-please, but-is-it-tweetable ingratitatio of some of his competition. (Why must late night be one long celebrity game show? How is that better than its previous endless series of lame jokes?)
But interviews with people like Jeb Bush and Elon Musk have been flat. And the fact that the show begins with the standard (stale) format of the middle aged white guy doing topical one liners is literally every kind of depressing. It made me so sad I started to wonder whether the network late night format will force Colbert once again to not be himself. Which I don’t know about you, but I don’t want.
So Biden comes on Thursday, teeth white as spun floss, and the script is clear: Dark horse candidate playing coy, new talk show host trying to flirt-tease something out of him to stir up some attention. Given that Biden is the V.P. it’s probably also going to be lots of Obama cheering and political blah blah and who the hell cares. That’s what that is.
Except these two guys decided not to follow that script. And instead of slightly enjoyable fluffery, we got 20 minutes of Colbert delicately inviting Biden into a discussion of one of the rawest and most intimate experiences of his life—the death in May of his son Beau. Colbert is certainly someone who can relate to the level of loss that Biden has known in his life, and he let the conversation be a meditation on faith and loss and hope.
Eventually they did get to the question of candidacy; but even that ended up falling back into talk about Beau and loss, with Biden talking about speaking to a group of soldiers and having one of them who had served with Beau shout out his name. Biden explains that he got very emotional, which he takes to mean he may not be right for the job of president. He doesn’t have the proper dispassion.
PART III: CRAZY IDEA THE FIRST
The thing is, we’ve done dispassion—oh honey, like Vulcan-human-hybrid levels of dispassion. And that approach has had its strengths, most notably its stability and lack of drama. But at times it’s also been so detached.
So here’s my weird thought for the week: What if Biden’s connection to his own grief and loss actually make him an intriguing candidate for the presidency?
I know, it sounds like I’m saying wouldn’t be a great to have a president that gets all weepy. Which I’m not – although I would probably watch that TV show. (Full Disclosure: I also watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” #BringBackDerek)
What I mean is, wouldn’t it be great to have a president who is connected enough to his own human experience that he’s able to appreciate ours? That rather than political calculation or dangerous ideology, our real human struggles and concerns might sit at the center of how he leads and makes decisions.
Last week I came upon this comment that Pope Francis made at Lampedusa Island, his first pastoral visit outside Rome: “We are a society,” he said, “which has forgotten how to weep.” It strikes me that a major part of what the pope tries to do, especially on his visits abroad, is to draw local and world attention to people and situations that are broken and forgotten. He does this in large part to offer those groups the care that Christ promises, the knowledge they are not forgotten or lost in the eyes of God.
But in doing so he also challenges the rest of us to get beyond the indifference that we all struggle with. To call us out of ourselves. Our first step: to weep.
Obviously we want a president who has an agenda for the country and appreciates its relationships with different parts of the world, someone who understands the political, economic and social realities of our times (which is frankly why most of the Republican candidates should pack up and go home).
But maybe at this point in our history we’re also longing for someone who has ready access to the full extent of his own humanity, someone with evident compassion and the capacity to stir up the same in others. Someone... a little more like us?
I don’t think there’s any part of Biden that went on “The Late Show” Thursday trying to feed the buzz about candidacy. And unlike my fellow America blogger Robert David Sullivan, I’m also not sure he could win either the primary or the general—though I sure do like the way he's thinking.
(And for the record, I'm also not saying there aren't some interesting Republicans to consider—though let's be honest, the press isn't covering any of them. Donald Trump, the Sideshow Bob of the GOP, has sucked all the attention and all the oxygen out of the room for the moment. Meanwhile John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, consistently offers thoughtful comments and policies that stand out for their unwillingness to get sucked into posturing or polarizing. His performance at the first debate was so striking that Time Magazine, among others, wondered if he wasn't the Pope Francis candidate.
Trump is the human train wreck no one can seem to look away from. But you can't rubberneck forever, you know? Hopefully once we all drive away from that bizarre scene voters will be able to see the possibilities that Kasich and perhaps a few of the other GOP candidates actually have on offer.)
But whether Biden can win or not (or should win or not), watch this interview and tell me that’s not a guy you want in the race.
PART IV: CRAZY IDEA THE SECOND
Just thinking out loud here....
Pope Francis will be in New York in a little over a week.
I bet he would make an excellent talk show guest.
Perhaps something could be arranged?