Bernie Sanders bows out of the presidential race, so now we’re getting somewhere. It looks like it’ll be Joe Biden against Donald Trump. But why wait until next November for the official face-off?
In the midst of this coronavirus, President Trump’s on television every day now. He does an hour, he does two hours. Sometimes he talks about the virus, and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he tells the truth, and sometimes he doesn’t.
This isn’t exactly news to anyone. The official, validated count of this president’s lies and misstatements has slipped well into the thousands. But it goes on, in the current pandemic, on a daily basis in front of millions of viewers. And Trump doesn’t care. It’s all a performance on a television program, and all free publicity.
The press conferences are a concoction of self-congratulation, deceptions, distractions, denial of responsibility for any personal missteps, unseemly bragging about ratings, and attacks on Trump’s perceived enemies, including reporters, Democrats, governors who fail to praise him sufficiently, Barack Obama — hell, it’s a wonder he hasn’t brought up Hillary Clinton’s emails in the midst of it all.
Joe Biden, are you listening to the stuff this president’s been saying?
Trump was asked this week about a new report indicating many hospitals are still grappling with testing delays. The report was issued by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Did I hear the word ‘inspector general’? Really?” Trump hollered, as if he’d stumbled onto some grand revelation.
Yes, he was informed, it was an official who’s served in government for the past two decades — under Democrats and Republicans. Trump turned on the reporter, the respected veteran Jonathan Karl of ABC News, as though he’d caught Karl in some kind of conspiracy.
“You’re a third-rate reporter, and what you just said is a disgrace!” Trump hollered. “You will never make it!”
Joe Biden, were you watching this?
The other day Trump talked about a couple of governors who hadn’t been what he felt was appropriately laudatory of his alleged triumphs.
“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said. Governors are trying to save lives, and he’s throwing a hissy fit?
When confronted with this remark the next day, Trump said, “I didn’t say that.”
Yeah, he did.
And you can bet Joe Biden was watching, along with the rest of America. And now’s the time for Biden to prove it. As these daily press conferences go on, and Trump gets exposure without giving us real, factual information, there are numerous cries that the cable news stations shouldn’t give him this much air time and so much free campaign publicity.
This is exactly backwards.
Give him his air time — but give Biden equal time.
Biden’s the only other candidate in the race now, and voters should be just as interested in his views as Trump’s — and so should the cable news stations who are giving Trump all this exposure.
So let Trump get his press conferences every day — and let Biden come on afterwards to tell us where he thinks Trump got it right, and where he got it wrong, and what Biden would do if he were running things.
You know what will happen? Trump will be a lot more careful with the facts — or find himself undressed on national TV every day.
Or he’ll start handing the coronavirus discussion to the health professionals, whom we can actually trust that they know what they’re talking about.
The other day, Trump said voters were “starting to find out” what a great job he was doing. “One of the reasons I do these news conferences,” he said, “because if I didn’t, they would believe Fake News. And we can’t let them believe Fake News.”
Well, let’s see if voters will believe Joe Biden. He’s the only other candidate in the race now. It’s the right time for some equal time on TV.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” has just been reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.