September 13th 2019
I didn’t bother watching the debate last night because I’m thoroughly fed up with the ‘loaves and fishes’ approach in which each candidate gets fifteen minutes to discuss eight or nine separate items in answer to questions the moderators pose, not to shed light, but to to show ‘impartiality’ by being the sort of assholes who put bugs in jars to ‘make them fight.’
But I’ve been hearing plenty about one incident; Joe Biden was hit with a gotcha question and fumbled the response. Perhaps not a ‘hold the presses!’ moment, but once the uproar died down, it lay bare a problem Joe, along with all the other major candidates for president this year, share.
One of the moderators asked Joe about an intemperate remark he made in 1975. Now, I’m sure you all remember 1975: disco, Whip Inflation Now buttons, endless rumors that the Beatles were getting back together, and Jaws. Cassette players were the hot new thing, and people speculated that it may cut into the popularity of vinyl LPs and turntables.
Joe’s remark, made a mere 44 years ago, was pretty vile. He was asked then about reparations, and said he would “be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” The moderator, who apparently had never read a news story since then, wanted to know what Biden had to say about that now. Biden decided to deflect, admitting that “…there is institutional segregation in this country.”
So far, so-so. He wasn’t going to address reparations, but he was at least willing to admit that race remained a central problem in the country.
I sure wouldn’t want to be held to account for some of the stupid stuff I said in 1975. Or even stuff that wasn’t particularly stupid at the time, but was just the sort of crap people said back then. So I understand how Joe handled it, am even a bit sympathetic.
But then, Joe got more tangential, arguing that black kids should have better educational opportunities, and saying that parents needed to play a bigger role in home instruction. To that end, he said, “Play the radio, make sure the television… make sure you have the record player on at night.”
OK, some people are saying that the deflection and trivialization of the issue was racist, but I don’t think that’s the case here: it was just Joe running his mouth and being a numbnuts. The answer was facile, and would have been condescending if Joe were able to understand he was talking down to people.
Well, Joe is the safe and uninspiring candidate. If you want to be safe and uninspired next year, he’s your man.
But his answer, aside from being tone-deaf and simplistic, revealed a bigger problem that Joe shares with Trump, Warren, and Sanders: they’re all codgers.
They’re all older than Reagan was when he first ran for president, and Reagan’s age was an issue—as was the fact that he had pretty severe dementia going on in his second term. More and more people are arguing that in addition to being a narcissist and a sociopath, Trump is also suffering from dementia, an argument that get more persuasive every time the man opens his mouth (or taps his phone) and utter nonsense spews out. Bernie obviously had a bad case of laryngitis going on last night, leaving me to wonder what kind of voice he would have by the end of the primaries. Warren was the only one of the four who appeared vigorous and up-to-date.
Joe’s codgerhood really came to the fore with the ‘record player’ remark.
First off, how many households with young children even HAVE a record player? Could a typical five year old know how to operate a record player, or would he be trying to jam the disk in a slot in the side, because he remembers seeing an old movie where people did that with their “CD players”?
For those of you born after 1968 who bother reading a codger like me, you played a record by dragging a needle along grooves in the disk. This created vibrations in the needle, which were converted to electrical impulses. It was all very 19th century. The sound quality was actually pretty good, and you could tell the gender of “Bing”, “Doris” and “Frank” if the record wasn’t warped.
Even “radio” is dated. It’s what my grandfather used to call “the wireless” (nothing to do with the internet or computers) and your grandpappy called “the ray-dee-oh”. It’s still around, and you can buy radios that pick up signals right out of the air broadcast mostly by religious nuts, scammers and neo-nazis.
Well, at least Joe knows they play music on the television, but then, MTV has been around since the early 80s. I’m not sure what Joe would make of a Roku player; I have a vision of that one ancient Star Trek movie, the one with the whales, where Scotty is trying to talk to a computer mouse.
The incident is trivial. I’ll talk about “winding a clock” or “looking at the road map”. I’m a codger myself. ‘Course, I’m not running for president, and compared to any of the three Democrats running, I would be a shit choice. (Compared to the incumbent, well let’s just say I’ve dropped turds that would make a better president than him).
My own speech is peppered with anachronisms. Hell, I still wear a wrist watch. (I took Douglas Adams’ hint and got a digital watch. It’s pretty cool.) This doesn’t mean I’m ready for ‘assisted living.’
Nor does it mean any of the Democratic frontrunners are ready for what we used to call “the old folks’ home”. Joe might be a numbnuts, but he was a numbnuts in 1975, too, and if he isn’t showing much in the way of progression, at least he isn’t showing signs of mental decline.
So don’t read too much into the ‘record player’ thing. It isn’t a red alert; it’s just a reminder that all these guys are within hailing distance of their 80th birthdays, and it’s gonna catch up to them, sooner rather than later.
It’s time for us baby boomers to let loose of the reins (a dated reference to a type of self-driving device before Tesla) and pass the torch (which was not carbon-friendly or LED) to the next generation, who by now have to be feeling a bit like Prince Charles, late middle-aged with nothing to do except wait for us to kick off.
It’s not like we did such a wonderful job of running things.
There’s a lot of potentially great leaders in their 50s and even 40s out there. The Constitution thinks the right persons would be ready to be president by age 35.
A codger will probably win the presidency next year. But hopefully, he or she will be the last of the codgers, and we’ll then start considering candidates born after the rise of the cassette tape.