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Coincidence and condolence: Dying together in politics – National Post

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Others are schoolkid legends or viral factoids that are not quite true, like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who did technically both die on April 23, 1616, but in different countries, Spain and England, which were using different calendars, so in fact they died 10 days apart.

Some simultaneous exits are curious coincidences, like Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner who both died on Jan. 28, 2016, 50 years after she left the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, which they co-founded.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause

Others seem not to be coincidences at all, but somehow causally related as expressions of intense emotional intimacy, as in the occasional married couple who make headlines for dying sweetly together in ripe old age, or the parents of former star CFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Dick and Joan, who had heart attacks in short sequence on Nov. 18, 2015.

Some just seem ominous. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died of ill health in Oxford, and Aldous Huxley died of cancer in Los Angeles, tripping on LSD.

Few such death partnerships carry the political heft of the latest one between Bader Ginsburg and Turner.

The main contrast is how differently they matter to the wider public. Turner’s death casts the mind back to the past. Bader Ginsburg’s death does the same, but it also inspires urgent thoughts of the future.

Turner’s death has been treated in Canada as an opportunity to reflect on history, on the Liberal Party’s changing fortunes. Former prime ministers are under a newly critical eye. No one gets the saintly treatment any more, even in death. But Turner is someone who can be mourned at ease. He was not prime minister very long, less than three months in 1984. He had not been in the news lately, and had seemed frail in public appearances.

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A longtime fixture in U.S. politics, Biden seeks to win elusive prize – Reuters Canada

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joe Biden, a fixture in U.S. politics for a half century as a senator and vice president, is seeking to complete a long climb to the political mountaintop that includes two previous failed presidential bids by defeating President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden during an appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

If Biden beats the Republican president, a fellow septuagenarian, the 77-year-old Democrat from Delaware would become the oldest person ever elected to the White House.

Biden has sought to portray his political experience as a benefit, casting himself as a tested leader up to the tasks of healing a nation battered by the coronavirus pandemic and providing steadiness after the turbulence of Trump’s presidency.

Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Biden stressed compassion and decency, seeking to draw a contrast with the pugnacious Trump.

“I’ll be an ally of the light,” Biden said, “not the darkness.”

Trump has derided him as “Sleepy Joe” and said his mental capacity was “shot” as the president’s allies sought to portray Biden as senile.

If elected, Biden would be 78 years old upon inauguration on Jan. 20. Trump, 74, was the oldest person to assume the presidency when he was sworn in at age 70 in 2017.

Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008 before finally securing his party’s blessing this year with strong support among Black voters.

He brings to his political career a mix of blue-collar credentials, foreign policy experience and a compelling life story marked by family tragedy – the loss of his first wife and a daughter in a car crash, and a son to cancer.

Biden arrived in Washington as a young upstart. He was elected in 1972 at age 29 to the U.S. Senate from Delaware and remained there for 36 years before serving from 2009 to 2017 as vice president under Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president.

Trump has sought to turn Biden’s experience into a liability, denouncing him as a career politician. Trump has said Biden would become a puppet of the Democratic Party’s “radical left.”

The coronavirus pandemic has been front and center in the presidential race. Biden accuses Trump of surrendering in the face of the public health crisis, saying the president panicked and tried to wish away the virus rather than do the hard work needed to get it under control, leaving the economy in shambles and millions of people jobless.

Trump, who was hospitalized for three days after contracting COVID-19, has mocked Biden for regularly wearing a face mask to guard against the pathogen’s spread.

‘THE SOUL OF THIS NATION’

After serving as vice president, Biden opted not to run for president in 2016, only to watch Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. When Biden announced his 2020 candidacy in April 2019, he took aim at Trump.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said, adding that if re-elected Trump would “forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation – who we are – and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris – whose father is an immigrant from Jamaica and whose mother is an immigrant from India – as his running mate, making her the first Black woman and first person of Asian descent on a major-party U.S. ticket. At 56, Harris is a generation younger than Biden.

An effort by Trump to dig up dirt on Biden resulted in the president’s impeachment in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in December 2019. The two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – stemmed from Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter on unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

In February, the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, acquitted him of the charges after refusing to call any witnesses.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI director this year concluded that Russia, after interfering in the 2016 election to harm Trump’s opponent Clinton, was engaging in a campaign to denigrate Biden and boost Trump’s re-election chances while promoting discord in the United States.

Biden’s previous two presidential runs did not go well. He dropped out of the 1988 race after allegations that he had plagiarized some speech lines from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. In 2008, Biden won little support and withdrew, only to be selected later as Obama’s running mate.

The folksy Biden, known for blunt talk and occasional verbal gaffes, has often referenced his working-class roots to connect with ordinary Americans. Biden also was the first Roman Catholic U.S. vice president.

Under Obama, Biden served as a troubleshooter on matters of war and foreign affairs and on domestic issues such as gun control and fiscal policy.

Obama did not always heed Biden’s advice. Obama gave the go-ahead for the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden despite Biden’s warning that it was too risky.

Biden speaks openly about his family’s tragedies including the 1972 car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, weeks after his election to the Senate.

He almost abandoned his political career to care for his two young sons who survived the accident but stayed on, commuting by train from Delaware to Washington to avoid uprooting them.

In 2015, his son Joseph “Beau” Biden III, an Iraq war veteran who had served as Delaware’s attorney general, died from brain cancer at age 46. Biden’s son Hunter struggled with drug issues as an adult.

Biden himself had a health scare in 1988 when he suffered two brain aneurysms.

BLUE-COLLAR BACKGROUND

Biden was born in the blue-collar city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four siblings. His family later moved to Delaware. Biden overcame stuttering as a boy by reciting passages of poetry to a mirror.

He was practically a political novice – having served two years on a county board in Delaware – when in 1972 he became the fifth-youngest elected senator in U.S. history.

Despite years of partisan hostilities in Washington, Biden remained a believer in bipartisanship. During his time in the Senate, Biden was known for his close working relationships with some of his Republican colleagues. In addition, a number of disaffected Republicans, including former government officials and former lawmakers, alarmed at Trump’s presidency have endorsed Biden.

Biden also advocated for America’s role as a leader on the world stage at a time when Trump was abandoning international agreements and alienating longtime foreign allies.

One of Biden’s accomplishments as a senator was helping to secure passage in 1994 of a law called the Violence Against Women Act to protect victims of domestic crimes.

While in the Senate, Biden built up a specialty in foreign affairs and at one time headed the Foreign Relations Committee. He voted in favor of authorizing the 2003 Iraq invasion before becoming a critic of Republican President George W. Bush’s handling of the war.

Biden was criticized as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 for his handling of sexual harassment accusations against Republican President George H.W. Bush’s conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas by former aide Anita Hill. Liberals criticized him for doing too little to defend Hill’s allegations, which Thomas had denied.

The committee held explosive televised hearings prior to Thomas’s eventual Senate confirmation. Thomas accused Biden’s committee of conducting “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.”

In May of this year, Biden denied a former Senate aide’s accusation that he had sexually assaulted her in 1993, calling the claim “not true” and saying “unequivocally it never, never happened.” The allegation was made by a California woman named Tara Reade who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office for about 10 months.

Reade was one of eight women who in 2019 came forward to say Biden had hugged, kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, though none accused him of sexual assault. Reade publicly accused him of the assault months later.

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller

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Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve a honeymoon from cynicism – USA TODAY

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Presidents over the decades have tried to preach against cynicism in the citizenry, but cynicism is a natural blowback to deceit and corruption.

James Bovard
 |  Opinion columnist

“The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism,” declared former president Barack Obama two years ago. But as we enter the final days of another demagoguery-drenched presidential campaign, it is time to give cynicism the credit it deserves. In an era of clueless voters, conniving candidates and media bias, cynicism can be one of the most effective checks and balances on political power run amok.

In modern American history, the most audacious liars have been the greatest self-proclaimed enemies of cynicism. “The only deadly sin I know is cynicism,” declared President Lyndon Johnson in a 1967 press conference on how the Vietnam War was going great. In a 1973 nationally-televised speech, President Richard Nixon declared, “I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitably, or even usually, a dirty business” prior to deluging viewers with false claims on the burgeoning Watergate scandal.

In 1994, President Clinton derided citizens who “indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism” for betraying the American soldiers who died on D-Day in 1944. In 1997, Clinton declared that people can make America “better if we will suspend our cynicism.” This is the Peter Pan theory of public service: if only people believed government has magical powers, politicians could achieve miracles. After his impeachment, Clinton castigated “fashionable cynicism” as “self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America.” But it wasn’t cynics’ fault that Clinton helped make presidential candor an endangered species.

Cynicism is a natural blowback to deceit 

George W. Bush exploited the revulsion against Clinton, promising America “a fresh start after a season of cynicism” when he launched his presidential campaign in 1999. In his first inaugural address, President Bush touted positive thinking about politicians as civic duty, lecturing Americans of their “calling” to make a “determined choice of trust over cynicism.” In the same 2002 State of the Union where he uncorked “the Axis of Evil” to pave the way to war with Iraq, Bush declared, “Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism.” Bush repeatedly rebuked the cynicism of anyone who refused to cheer his invasion of Iraq

Barack Obama exploited the revulsion against Bush, proclaiming in 2007 that “my rival in this [presidential] race is not other candidates. It’s cynicism.” Six years later, President Obama exhorted college graduates to beware of the “creeping cynicism” and people who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” He did not seize that opportunity to how he acquired the prerogative to order drone killings of American citizens on his own decree.

Politicians denouncing cynicism are akin to used car salesmen telling customers to ignore the clunking sound from the engine during a test drive. Cynicism is blowback from decades of deceit. Most of the major political power grabs in modern history have been propelled by official falsehoods, as have all the major wars since 1950. Perpetual bipartisan chicanery explains why only 20% of Americans trust the federal government nowadays. 

Cynicism often arises because politicians judge themselves by their rhetoric while citizens judge them by their (mis)deeds. The alternative to cynicism is pretending that politicians are more honest than they sound. Are politicians, like underage delinquents, entitled to have all their prior offenses expunged? 

Memo to Trump, Biden and political pundits: Texas is not all about oil and gas anymore

Cynicism is necessary because the political playing field is often tilted in favor of servility. Politicians are almost never held personally responsible for their falsehoods, follies and fiascos. Thanks to pervasive federal secrecy and surveillance, rulers hold far more cards than citizens. People have been schooled and hectored to submit, to believe and to reflexively defer to officialdom. Scores of millions of people will unquestioningly obey no matter what Washington commands.

Cynicism is a form of political damage control. An ounce of cynicism can save a pound of repenting. Cynicism functions as a brake on political steamrollers. Timely doubts loudly expressed can stop presidents from driving a nation over a cliff or into a foreign quagmire.

Don’t intellectually disarm yourself for political aggressors

Politicians seek to banish cynicism without repenting their rascally ways. Why should citizens intellectually disarm themselves in the face of political aggressors? Why should they accept the passive obedience that was preached for centuries to the politically downtrodden? Are citizens obliged to continually cast their common sense and memories overboard as if they were seeking to placate an angry pagan god? 

The derision of cynicism goes to heart of citizens’ role in a democracy. If citizens have a duty to believe, then politicians are entitled to deceive. If citizens are obliged to trust, they become sacrificial offerings for the next political con job. A cynic is often merely someone who trusts politicians as little as politicians trust each other.

Abortion in America: Roe v. Wade ruling matters, but mostly as a symbol. It has not protected abortion rights.

Cynicism is simply a discount rate for political honesty. Even cynics should not presume that all politicians are perfidious all the time. There are decent folks in every profession. Instead, citizens should judge politicians like federal judges treat accused criminals — 97% of whom are convicted.    

Cynicism can be pro-freedom, spurring resistance rather than resignation. Stalwart citizens should be cynical when politicians concoct new pretexts to subvert freedom of speech and press, cynical when politicians conspire to violate the Constitution, cynical when politicians seek to drag America into new foreign conflicts, and cynical when politicians propose sweeping new federal programs to replace disgraced boondoggles. Most importantly, citizens should be cynical when politicians absolve themselves for all the damage they have inflicted on this nation.

Winning politicians often enjoy a honeymoon after Election Day, but neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve any honeymoon from cynicism. “Think well of your masters” will be the death of democracy. The more cynical Americans become, the less power politicians can seize. 

James Bovard, author of “Attention Deficit Democracy,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JimBovard

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Politics Podcast: There Just Isn’t Good Evidence That ‘Shy’ Trump Voters Exist – FiveThirtyEight

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This is the final(!) preelection installment of Model Talk on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast. Galen Druke talks to editor-in-chief Nate Silver about the latest polling shifts in key battleground states and whether there is any reason to believe that “shy Trump voters” will deliver an upset win for the president on Election Day. (The evidence suggests there isn’t.)

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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